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July 23, 2013

EMILE GRIFFITH, 1938-2013

 




Today I lost a man who really taught me how to box. He helped me in so many ways about the art of hit and not getting hit. I will surely miss the man who took his time and  molded me into the champion I became... so to my mentor Emile Alphonse Griffith RIP my coach, I will miss you.-- Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, former WBA light heavyweight champion 


Today, the boxing world mourns the loss of Hall of Famer Emile Griffith, who passed away at the age of 75. One of the sport's greatest warriors, Grffith turned pro in 1958. In an era of fewer weight classes and one champion per weight class (compared to four so-called champions per weight class today), Griffith won the world welterweight championship in 1961 against Benny Paret. Griffith had a legendary trilogy with Paret, losing a rematch by split decision to Paret later in 1961 and then winning it back in 1962. At the weigh-in for their third fight, Paret called Griffith a "maricon" (a Spanish slur roughly translating to faggot), and Griffith responded with a savage twelfth-round knockout of Paret in which referee Ruby Goldstein failed to intervene. Paret wound up comatose and dead ten days later from the head injuries he sustained. In 1966, Griffith became the world middleweight champion by defeating Dick Tiger. In 1967-68, Griffith lost, won and then lost the world championship in a trilogy with another all-time great, Nino Benvenuti. Griffith hung on too long, boxing way past his prime, and he retired in 1977 with a record of 85-24-2. Those late-career losses in no way diminish his greatness. Later in life, Griffith showed great courage by admitting he was gay, something that the closeted times of the 1960s did not allow a professional athlete to do. In later years, despite suffering from dementia, Griffith was a charming and beloved presence at New York City boxing events. A 2005 documentary about Griffith and Paret, Ring of Fire, is essential viewing for any boxing fan. But today, we send our sorrows the family and friends of the great Emile Griffith. The entire sport is poorer for his absence--Scott Shaffer





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