Emile Griffith: Boxing Great Dead at 75
Born Emile Alphonse Griffith, February 3, 1938, Griffith died Tuesday in New York as a result of recent health issues.
Originally from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Griffith moved to New York City where he discovered boxing. Griffith won the Golden Gloves in New York and turned pro in 1958.
After turning pro, he quickly climbed the ranks winning the welterweight championship of the world, the junior middleweight championship of the world and the middleweight championship of the world.
And keep in mind, Griffith fought at a time when there was only one champion.
A pugilistic powerhouse, Emile Griffith defeated other legends, world champions and world class contenders such as Nino Benvenuti, Joey Archer, Benny "Kid" Paret, Luis Rodriguez and Holly Mims.
RING Magazine's Fighter of the Year in 1964, Griffith was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in its initial year (1990) and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
His career spawned nearly 20 years, from 1958 to 1977, and he engaged in over 20 world championship fights. Griffith was a popular boxer who possessed excellent fighting instincts and good speed.
Griffith vs Paret Fight Saga
Griffith captured the welterweight title from Cuban Benny "The Kid" Paret on April 1, 1961 via a 13th Round knockout. Six months later, Griffith lost the title to Paret in a narrow split decision setting up their third and final bout on March 24, 1962.
Sadly, their third meeting would have tragic consequences.
In the sixth round of their rubber match, Paret nearly ended matters with a multi punch combination that appeared to put the challenger in a stupor but Griffith was saved by the bell. After the round his trainer, Gil Clancy, implored Emile "when you go inside I want you to keep punching until Paret holds you or the referee breaks you! But you keep punching until he does that!"
Pictured: Emile Griffith , right, lands fatal blows on Benny Paret in their third bout.
Fueled by his mentor's emotion and perhaps rage from Paret's alleged insult during a pre-fight event, Griffith trapped Paret on the ropes in the 12th Round, knocking his foe unconscious . Unfortunately, there was no where for Paret to fall. He was literally 'out on his feet.'
While Paret stood helpless against the roles, Griffith unleashed wicked headshots, one after another, until Ruby Goldstein, one of the best referees at the time, finally stopped the fight.
Paret never regained consciousness and died a week and a half later.
Many years after the bout, Griffith would tell Sports Illustrated Paret called him a maricón, the Spanish equivalent of "f*gg*t, in the pre-fight presser or weigh-in. Inflamed, Griffith went after him and immediately had to be restrained.
Griffith, who retired with a record of 85-24-2 with 23 KO's, fought 10 world champions and boxed 339 title fight rounds – more than any other fighter in history.
Although his great career was at times overshadowed by the fatal beating he gave Paret, many forget he was the first boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands to become a world champion.
The boxing great died at an extended care facility in Hempstead, N.Y.
Griffith vs Paret Facts
- New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller created a seven man commission to investigate the death of Paret and the sport.
- ABC, which televised the tragedy live, ended its boxing broadcasts and other U.S. networks followed; The sport would not return to free television until the 1970s.
- Referee Rudy Goldstein, the 'Mills Lane' or 'Steve Smoger' of the day, would never again referee a fight.