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Emile Griffith

From Academic Kids

Emile Griffith (born February 3, 1938) is a former boxer from the US Virgin Islands who became the first World Boxing Champion by winning the World Welterweight and Junior Middleweight titles. While Griffith is recognized in some boxing books as being a three division world champion, he was only recognized as champion of the Middleweight division in England.

Griffith, who turned professional in 1958 and campaigned heavily in New York, is best remembered for a televised third fight on March 24, 1962 versus Benny the "Kid" Paret. Fighting for the Welterweight title, Paret and Griffith boxed a close fight until round twelve, when Griffith knocked Paret unconscious, yet propped up against the ropes. The referee failed to stop the fight, and Griffith struck Paret 23 more times. Paret never regained consciousness and died nine days later.

This incident, and the publicity and criticism of boxing which accompanied it became the basis of the documentary Ring of Fire. NBC, which televised the fatal bout, ended its boxing broadcasts and other U.S. networks followed; the sport would not return to free television until the 1970s.

Griffith was traumatized by Paret's death. Ironically, even before the fight Griffith had never been known as a hard puncher.

Sports Illustrated reported in its April 18, 2005 edition that Griffith, a homosexual, may have been fueled by rage over an anti-gay slur directed at him by Paret during the weigh-in. Paret reportedly called his opponent a maricon, the Spanish equivalent of "faggot"; Griffith nearly went after him on the spot and had to be restrained. The slur was ignored by the media at the time.

Although Griffith later beat Nino Benvenuti for the Junior Middleweight title, many boxing fans believed he was never quite the same fighter after Paret's death. For the rest of his career, he was known as a sharp technical boxer who lacked the instinct to finish off opponents quickly, even punching away from fighters' cuts rather than at them.

Other boxers he fought in his career were the world champions Denny Moyer, Luis Rodriguez, Carlos Monzon, Dick Tiger, and in his last title try, Edgard Dagge. After 18 years as a professional boxer, Griffith retired with a record of 85 wins (25 by knockout), 24 losses and 2 draws.

He has trained other boxers during his retirement, including Wilfredo Benitez and Juan Laporte, of Puerto Rico. Both have won world championships.

Griffith, Monzon, Benvenuti, Rodriguez, Tiger and Benitez are members of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.

Sadly, Griffith is still haunted by nightmares about the death of Benny Paret. In 1992 he was viciously beaten and almost killed on a New York street. Today, Griffith requires full time care and suffers from pugilisitica dementia.

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