Emile Griffith (1938 - 2013)
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Emile Alphonse Griffith was born in 1938 in St. Thomas, one of the US Virgin Islands. He was one of eight children. His father left the family when Griffith was a child, and his mother moved to New York to work after sending the children to live with relatives. When Griffith was a teenager, hejoin
I met the boxer Emile Griffith in November 2008, when he was a guest at Memorabilia held at the NEC in Birmingham.
He signed a photo for me of his infamous fight with Benny Paret, who died as a result of Griffith's punches. I then had my photo taken with him and his world championship belt.
he joined his mother in New York, and worked as a stock boy in a Manhattan factory
Emile Griffith signing my photo
factory which manufactured women’s hats. The factory's owner was Howie Albert, a former amateur boxer, noticed that his physique was perfect for a boxer. He sent Griffith to Gil Clancy, a Hall of Fame boxing trainer, who agreed to take him on and teach himhow
Emile Griffith at work in Howie Albert's hat factory
him how to box. Griffiths learnt quickly, and within the space of a couple of years, Clancy had developed him into a national Golden Gloves (competitions for amateur boxers) champion.
With Clancy continuing as his trainer, Griffith turned pro in 1958, and fought frequently in New York City. He fought asawel
as a welterweight, a weight class midway between lightweight and middleweight.
On 1st April 1961, with 16 professional fights behind him, Griffith fought Benny 'Kid' Paret from Cuba, for the World Welterwight title, which he won by knocking Paret out in round 13. Six months later Griffith lost the title to Paret in a narrow split decision.
Benny 'Kid' Paret
The stage was set for their third bout, at Madison Square Garden on 24th March 1962. Before the fight Griffith, who had been rumoured to be gay, was incensed when Paret insulted him with a gay remark. Gil Clancy had to take Griffith for a walk around New York after the weigh-in
Emile Griffith has signed my photo of him knocking out Benny Paret in March 1962
weigh-in to help him cool off. 7,500 fans turned up for the fight which was also being televised. In the sixth round, Paret nearly knocked out Griffith with a succession of punches,but
punches, but Griffith was saved by the bell. In round 12 Griffith knocked Paret unconscious, yet Paret stood, still propped up against the ropes. Griffith then let fly a whirlwind of blows to the head before referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight. Griffith had delivered 17 punches in five seconds with no response from Paret, according to Griffith’s trainer, Gil Clancy, who counted them from the television replays. Paret never regained consciousness, and he died 10 days later at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.
Gil Clancy & Emile Griffith
Much later in 2005, a Sports Illustrated article revealed that after the sixth round, Griffiths' trainer Gil Clancy got into his face and told him, "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!”
Griffith lost his welterweight title to another Cuban, Luis Rodriguez, in March 1963, then regained it in a rematch less than three months later. Ring
later. Ring Magazine named him 'Fighter of the Year' in 1964.
Griffith defeating Luis Rodriguez in 1963
Griffith successfully defended his title six times before moving up to middleweight. He then went on to become world middleweight champion in April 1966 after beating Dick Tiger on points, but it required him to give up his welterweight crown. That
The following year he lost the middleweight title to Nino Benvenuti of Italy, won it back from him, then lost it again in their third bout in March 1968. Griffith also lost two title bouts (in 1971 & 1973) against the great Argentinian middleweight Carlos Monzon. Griffith finally retired in 1977 after after 3 consecutive losses. The last of these was a defeat by the British boxer Alan Minter.
Emile Griffith in training
In a professional career of 111 fights, Griffith won 85 (23 knockouts), lost 24 and drew 2. His worst defeat was against Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, who knocked Griffith out in the first round of their fight in 1963.
Later in life, Griffith acknowledged that he was never the same boxer, after his fatal fight with Paret. "After that fight, I did enough to win. I would use my jab all the time.I
time. I never wanted to hurt the other guy. I would have quit boxing, but I didn't know how to do anything else but fight."
Poster for Joey Archer v. Emile Griffith in 1966
After retiring, Griffith worked as a corrections officer at the Secaucus Juvenile Detention Facility in New Jersey. He also used his experience to train other boxers. Two of these, Wilfred Benitez and Juan Laporte were from Puerto Rica, and both became world champions. In 1979, he also became the coach of the
In 1992, Griffith was viciously beaten by at least five men who mugged him with bats and chains, after he had left a gay bar in the Times Square area of New York. His kidneys were damaged so badly that he was near death. His assailants were never caught.
Emile Griffith was inducted into the International
International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Emile Griffith in 2005
The Benny Paret fight became the basis for the documentary Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story which was released in 2005. It combinesarchive
of the Danish Olympic boxing team.
combines archive footage along with interviews by those who knew him well, to tell the story of Griffith's life and career. One of the final scenes shows Griffith
Emile Griffith & Benny Paret Jnr. in Ring of Fire
Emile Griffith interviewed for Ring of Fire
Griffith embracing Paret's son, Benny Jnr., after the two met
met for the first time, 43 years after Benny 'Kid' Paret's death.
In 2008, a biography of Emile Griffith was published. Nine...Ten...and Out!, written by Ron Ross, not only covers Griffith's boxing career, but also his lifelong battles with his mental demons as well as his complex sexuality...............
Emile Griffith & Joe Frazier at the premiere of
Ring of Fire
In 1971, Griffith married dancer Mercedes Donastorg, and adopted her daughter, but the marriage later ended in divorce.
Griffith's ex-wife Mercedes
Emile Griffith in 2005
Emil Griffith died on July 23, 2013, in a nursing home in Hempstead, New York.Du
York. During his later years, he suffered from dementia pugilistica, a condition brought on by repeated blows to the head, and sometimes known as punch-drunk syndrome. “Emile Griffith was a gifted athlete and a truly great boxer,” said Edward Brophy, The Hall of Fame's Executive Director. “Outside of the ring, he was as great a gentleman as he was a fighter. The Hall of Fame joins the boxing world in mourning his passing.”
Emile Griffith R.I.P.