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Emile Griffith

Emile Griffith Profile Image
  • Nickname: None
  • Date of Birth: 3rd February 1938
  • Died: 22nd July 2013 (75 years old)
  • Career length: 19 years 1 months
  • Status: Deceased
  • Nationality: Virgin Islands Flag Virgin Islands
  • Birthplace: Solberg, Virgin Islands Flag Solberg, Virgin Islands
  • Residence: New York, New York, USA Flag New York, New York, USA
  • Division: Middleweight
  • Height: 171cm
  • Reach: 183cm
  • Stance: Orthodox
  • BoxRec: Emile Griffith
  • Debut: 2nd June 1958

Biography

Emile Griffith was a professional boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands who competed from 1958 to 1977. He was a world champion in three weight classes: welterweight, junior middleweight, and middleweight. Griffith is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters of his era and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Griffith's amateur career was brief but successful. He won the 1958 New York Golden Gloves 147-pound Open Championship before turning professional later that year. As a pro, Griffith quickly established himself as a top contender, winning the welterweight title from Benny "The Kid" Paret in 1961.

Griffith's most famous bout was his third fight against Paret in 1962. During the weigh-in, Paret directed an anti-gay slur at Griffith, which incensed the champion. In the fight, Griffith knocked out Paret in the 12th round, and the Cuban challenger never regained consciousness, dying ten days later. The tragedy deeply affected Griffith, who later admitted to being more cautious in the ring to avoid seriously injuring his opponents.

Despite the Paret incident, Griffith remained a top fighter throughout the 1960s. He engaged in notable rivalries with fighters such as Luis Rodríguez, Nino Benvenuti, and Dick Tiger, winning and losing titles in the welterweight and middleweight divisions. Griffith was named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1963 and 1964.

After retiring from boxing in 1977 with a record of 85 wins, 24 losses, and 2 draws, Griffith worked as a trainer, guiding fellow Virgin Islanders Wilfred Benítez and Juan Laporte to world championships. He also briefly coached the Danish Olympic boxing team in 1979-80.

Griffith's personal life was marked by struggles with his sexual identity. He was bisexual and faced discrimination and violence as a result, including a brutal beating outside a gay bar in 1992 that left him hospitalized for four months.

In his later years, Griffith suffered from dementia pugilistica, a condition caused by the repeated blows to the head he endured during his boxing career. He died on July 23, 2013, at the age of 75, in a care facility in Hempstead, New York.

Emile Griffith's legacy in boxing is that of a skilled, determined fighter who faced adversity both in and out of the ring. His battles with Paret, Rodríguez, Benvenuti, and others are remembered as classics of the era. At the same time, his struggles have made him a symbolic figure in the fight against discrimination and intolerance in sports and society.