In Memoriam – Emile Griffith
by Derek Miller © Derek Miller (July 25th 2013)
Emile Griffith, Ring Fighter of Year 1964, and first time inductee to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, in 1990, passed away peacefully in a New York care Facility, aged 75, this week.
A former multiple World Champion, Griffith was originally from the US Virgin Islands. He fought a total of 112 fights, winning 85,( 23 by KO), together with 24 losses, two draws and one no contest.
He won the Golden Gloves in 1958, then turned professional, winning the World welterweight title from Benny ‘The Kid’ Paret on April 1st, 1961. He lost the title on a split decision, back to Paret six months later.
Griffith won the title back in 1962 in one of boxing’s darkest hours. When in a nationally televised championship bout, Paret was controversially knocked out, when the referee failed to stop the fight after a prolonged attack. The Cuban pugilist died a few days later in hospital.
Rumour has it, a gay slur, from Paret, during the weigh in, angered Griffith. However, a brutal beating inflicted by the Mormon boxer Gene Fullmer in December 1961 took a lot out of Paret before his tragic third bout against Griffith as had the previous bouts with Griffith.
Paret’s son embraced Griffith in the 2005 film Ring of Fire – The Emile Griffith Story and told Griffith, still racked with guilt over Paret’s death, that he forgave him. That fight ended the career of the respected referee Ruby Goldstein a fellow Hall of Fame member.
Other notable opponents included Dick Tiger, Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, and Britain’s Alan Minter, at the tail end of a glittering career.
Thirty years after the third Paret fight, Griffith himself, was the victim of a brutal near fatal assault by five attackers outside a New York gay bar. He spent four months in hospital.
In his final years he required full time care and suffered dementia. His adopted son Luis Rodrigo Griffith, was his long term care-giver and companion. They only recently attended the opera entitled Champion, a collaboration by trumpeter Terence Blanchard, and playwright Michael Cristofer, directed by James Robinson, which was based on Griffith’s own story.