By Gregory Stangrit, Allboxing.ru
Emile Griffith, a former world champion in the welterweight and middleweight divisions, and a member of the Hall of Fame - passed away on Tuesday at the age of 75. He fought from 1958 to 1977 and had 112 matches. During his career, Griffith had 22 world title fights. One of the most high-profile and difficult moments in the career was his 3-part series with Cuban Benny Kid Paret.
In the first fight Griffith won by knockout, but in the second Paret took revenge with a split decision. In March 1962, the trilogy bout saw Paret take many punishing blows from Griffith in the twelfth round and the referee intervened too late. After the fight, Paret went into a coma and died 10 days later without ever regaining consciousness.
"People spit at me in the streets, - said Griffith. - "We were at the hotel, and every time someone knocked on the door, I ran into the other room. I was scared. After that I was a different fighter. After that, I was just doing only what was sufficient to get a victory. I always used a jab. I do not want to cause anyone harm. I would have given up boxing, but I did not know what else to do, but to fight."
The fight was the centerpiece of a 2005 documentary entitled Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story. At the end of the documentary Griffith who has harbored guilt over the incident over the years is introduced to Paret's son. The son embraced Griffith and told him he was forgiven.
In 1992, Griffith was viciously beaten and almost killed on a New York City street, after leaving a gay bar near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. He was in the hospital for four months after the assault. It was not clear if the violence was motivated by homophobia.
During his career, Griffith kept his sexual orientation a secret. Paret had called him a homosexual prior to their third meeting, which many believe was the reason for Griffith's anger and vicious aggression during the fight.
Griffith was quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying "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."
Two years ago, Griffith reflected on the sport with BoxingScene.com's Terence Dooley.