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Emile Griffith DEAD: Death of Boxing World Champion at 75 – BOXING NEWS

By Geno McGahee

Emile Griffith, 85-24-2 (23 KO’s), has died at the age of 75. His in-ring accomplishments were amazing and he fought with a fire that has been rarely seen. He was a character, a hat designer and artist, and found success in the ring as well how money can bring forth the scum of the earth. He would capture the welterweight title in 1961 with a knockout of a man that he would be forever linked to, Benny “The Kid” Paret. He would rematch Paret and lost six months later by split decision, leading to the third and tragic encounter.

On March 24th, 1962, after a heated pre-fight build up, Griffith and Paret would meet up again. Aired on ABC, the two would pitch a heated battle with a late edge going to Griffith. As the rounds wound down, trainer Gil Clancy pushed his fighter to finish the match and to keep punching. Griffith, being so quick, was too fast for the referee and landed brutal punch after brutal punch, sending an exhausted Paret slumping to the floor. He died 10 days later and the life of Griffith was forever changed. He was never the same fighter.

Much emphasis over the years has been put on the sexual preference of Griffith and he never really tried to hide what he was. He was proud of who he was and often noted that he had affection for both men and women. Many point to the use of a gay slur by Paret as part of the reason why Griffith became so enraged in the ring during the third encounter and there may have been some truth to that, although killing him was certainly never the intention.

In 2005, RING OF FIRE: THE EMILE GRIFFITH STORY was released and it was a thing of beauty chronicling his life before, during, and after the controversy that would define him. He found closure with a meeting with the son of Paret and found forgiveness that he had hoped for. It was a touching moment and for being such a brutal fighter in the ring at times, the kindness of Griffith was the dominating trait in his personality.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Emile Griffith and took the opportunity to chronicle it with a photo. As I stood there, somewhat nervous as a new boxing writer and fan, he said: “Come on…be tough…put your fist up.” We spoke for a while after the picture and I’m happy that I had the chance to meet the all time great.

R.I.P. Emile Griffith.

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