10 Reasons why Emile Griffith is one of the best to ever lace gloves

Al Bello

Emile Griffith has passed at 75 years of age but his legacy will endure forevermore. Here's a relatively short list of facts that highlights why he was so great.

In the wake of the passing of the great Emile Griffith, our fearless leader Scott Christ thought it prudent for BLH to honor the man's significance to the sport. So naturally he asked me to do it, since I'm apparently "that guy" around here, which is cool. I like being the history guy. It beats being the rankings and results guy, whoever that sucker is.

Oh wait...

Moving on, I unfortunately don't have the time to do the feature that Emile deserves, but hopefully another installment of my "10 Reasons" series should suffice for now. So, without further ado, here are 10 reasons why Emile Griffith is a genuine all-time great:

  1. He's a 5-6 time world champion across 3 weight divisions: thrice at welterweight, once at junior middleweight, and twice at middleweight. The junior middleweight title wasn't universally recognized but I don't see how it's any worse than a WBO title today, not to mention a WBA "regular" title.
  2. All of his welterweight and middleweight title reigns, in golden eras for each division, were undisputed.
  3. He defeated at least 9 Hall of Famers.
    • WBHF: Gaspar Ortega, Denny Moyer, Ralph Dupas, Joey Archer, Armando Muniz, Bennie Briscoe
    • IBHOF & WBHF: Luis Manuel Rodriguez, Dick Tiger, Nino Benvenuti
  4. He defeated 6-7 world champions: Denny Moyer, Luis Manuel Rodriguez, Benny Kid Paret, Ralph Dupas, *Don Fullmer, Dick Tiger, and Nino Benvenuti. It's hard to take the claim of Fullmer's super middleweight (then called junior light heavyweight) world title seriously. None of the big 3 (WBA/WBC/IBF) recognized the division until 1984. Nonetheless 6 world champions is plenty in this era. Given all the titles floating around now, I'd say multiply by 2-3 for a modern comparison.
  5. He was only stopped twice in 112 bouts over 19 years (against a few dozen top 10 rated opponents, many multiple times, but I'm not counting). Those who pulled it off were power punching middleweights, both legends in their own right. One was great (Carlos Monzon) and the other was famous enough to get Denzel Washington to play him in a movie (Rubin Carter). Carter caught Griffith relatively cold in the 1st round while Monzon broke down an aging Griffith over 14. Ironically both men wound up in prison (one sentenced more justifiably than the other to say the least).
  6. Most of Emile's best accomplishments came after he killed a man (which forever changes a fighter, and not for the better). That man, Benny Kid Paret, was a 2 time world welterweight champion. I recommend the documentary "Ring of Fire" for anyone that would like to learn more about the events and people surrounding that tragedy. It was the first televised ring fatality in a championship bout and it was replayed over and over again. Subsequently TV networks mostly turned their back to boxing for about a decade.
  7. He was well known to make improvements in rematches. He bested Luis Manuel Rodriguez in a quadrilogy (although all bouts were debatable). He bested Denny Moyer, Jorge Jose Fernandez, Benny Kid Paret, and Manuel Gonzalez in trilogies. He actually won each fight against Fernandez but improved from unpopular split decision, to unanimous decision, to a technical knockout. He won double meetings with Gaspar Ortega, SD10 to TKO12, Ralph Dupas, UD15 to KO3, Dick Tiger, close UD15 to wide UD10, Joey Archer, MD15 to UD15, Andy Heilman, MD12 to UD10, and Joe DeNucci, close SD10 to wide SD12. The result of the 2nd DeNucci fight sounds weird but 2 of the 3 judges that voted for Griffith had it a shutout... Griffith additionally did much better in rematches with Stanley "Kitten" Hayward and Carlos Monzon.
  8. He gave Luis Manuel Rodriguez (35-0), Gypsy Joe Harris (24-0), Tom Bogs (53-0-1), Armando Muniz (16-0-1), and Renato Garcia (24-0) their first pro career defeats.
  9. He fought 4 of what I consider to be Cuba's 10 best pro fighters and beat 3 of them. The one he never beat (Jose Napoles) caught him past his prime and weight drained.
  10. He was arguably the best fighter of the entire 1960s, period. You can argue him over the only man to go 1-0 against him during the decade (Jose Napoles). You can obviously argue him over all the great fighters he beat (most notably Dick Tiger, Luis Manuel Rodriguez, and Nino Benvenuti). And you can argue him over the likes of those outside of his weight classes (Eder Jofre, Fighting Harada, Carlos Ortiz and more). You can even argue him over Muhammad Ali (who lacked a great resume in the 60s). Those are ALL great fighters. Yet as far as the 1960s went, Griffith was arguably the best. Now that's what I call an all-time great.

Extra Accomplishments:

  • 1964 RING Fighter of the Year
  • Involved in the 1967 RING Fight of the Year
  • Inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame (WBHF) in 1985
  • Inducted into the inaugural 1990 class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF)

@~@~@~@~@~@

Previous editions of 10 Reasons:

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Ryan Bivins is a staff writer for BadLeftHook. You can contact him on twitter (@sweetboxing) or through email (rgbivins@gmail.com).

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