By James Slater
Emile Griffith, one of the finest welterweights and middleweights in boxing history, passed away in New York today at age 75.
Boxing as a pro from his 1958 debut to his final fight in 1977, a points loss to Britain’s Alan Minter, Griffith of The Virgin Islands was probably best known for his three-fight series with Benny “Kid” Paret. It was during the third savage encounter between the two, contesting the world welterweight title Griffith had won from Paret in their first fight (via KO 13) that Paret took a terrible beating, later falling into a coma and dying.
Paret had called Griffith a homosexual, and the nasty grudge-match reached way beyond mere sport. Peret, having won the second fight (SD15) lost his life in March of 1962, while Griffith never fully recovered himself. Haunted by the 12th-round KO that took Paret’s life, Griffith – though he went on to win many more welterweight title bouts and the WBC and WBA middleweight belts – was never quite the same fighter after the Paret tragedy.
In later years, Griffith suffered from dementia, and in retirement he also “came out” and announced he was indeed gay. A number of fine documentaries were made on Griffith, 2005’s “Ring of Fire” earning rave reviews.
Griffith, who fought such notable fighters as Paret (three times), Don Fullmer, Luis Rodriguez, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Dick Tiger, Joey Archer, Nino Benvenuti, Jose Napoles and Carlos Monzon retired with a 85-24-2(23) record. He was inducted into The Hall of Fame in 1990.