Emile Griffith, the former welterweight and middleweight champion of the world and boxing Hall of Famer, passed away today in Hempstead, Long Island. He was 75 years old.
Griffith is unfortunately perhaps best known for his third fight in 1962 with Benny "Kid" Paret, which resulted in the death of Paret. But Griffith was a legitimate all-time great fighter whose career deserves to be remembered for much more than just that one tragic night.
Griffith debuted in the sport in 1958 in New York, where he fought his first 12 bouts at St. Nicholas Arena. He won his first championship in 1961, beating Paret via 13th round knockout in Miami. Paret won the rematch, and the rubber match in '62 changed Griffith's life and career forever.
He also won two of three fights in a rivalry with Luis Manuel Rodriguez in 1963-64, and in 1965 became the middleweight champion, giving up the welterweight crown he had won again in '64. He vacated the welterweight titles in 1966.
As a middleweight, he shared the ring with Dick Tiger, Joey Archer, and Nino Benvenuti (another trilogy), among others. He tried in 1969 to regain the welterweight belts, this time losing to Jose Napoles, and in 1971 he challenged Carlos Monzon for the middleweight championship, losing via TKO-14. He tried again with Monzon in 1973, losing once more via a competitive decision.
After the second loss to Monzon, Griffith went on the true decline, but still fought the likes of Bennie Briscoe, Vito Antuofermo, and in his final fight in 1977, Alan Minter.
In his later years, Griffith suffered from puglistic dementia, and author Ron Ross, who knew Griffith very well, said that the fighter had been "in a vegetative state the last couple years."
Griffith was also highly notable for his sexual preferences, which also played a part in the third Paret fight. In 1993, he took a terrible beating leaving a gay bar in New York. Later, he would tell Sports Illustrated, "I will dance with anybody. I've chased men and women. I like men and women both. But I don't like that word: homosexual, gay or faggot. I don't know what I am. I love men and women the same, but if you ask me which is better ... I like women."
BLH sends our condolences to the family and loved ones of Emile Griffith, may he rest in peace.