Saturday, July 27, 2013

Boxing: Emile Griffith, R.I.P.

Text and photo by George Molé

Former boxing champion Emile Griffith in December, 2010
Emile Griffith, a former welterweight and middleweight boxing champion, and a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, passed away in a Long Island nursing home on Tuesday, July 23, at age 75.

Griffith may be best known for a tragic 1962 fight in which his opponent, Benny Paret, died after being pummeled by Griffith--an incident that is said to have haunted Griffith ever since.  He was also known for his openly gay lifestyle, a rarity in boxing.  In his later years, the boxer suffered from pugilistic dementia--a neurological problem, sometimes called being "punch-drunk," caused by blows to the head.

I had the opportunity to meet Griffith briefly in December of 2010, at the holiday party of Ring 8, one of two Veteran Boxers Associations in New York that help support retired fighters and other members of the boxing community who are experiencing medical and financial problems (the other is Ring 10, of which I'm a member).  At the event, it was clear that Griffith suffered from memory issues--for example, he did not appear to recognize a friend of mine who greeted him, although he had known her well in better days.  And he had obvious difficulty in chatting and signing autographs, although his painful struggle to do both for each person who approached was an indication of what was, by all accounts, his warm and generous nature.

Rest in peace, Mr. Griffith.

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At July 27, 2013 at 8:57 PM , Anonymous Sharon - Boxing 101 said...

A truly great champion who was loved by everyone throughout the boxing community. RIP, Champ!

At July 28, 2013 at 1:50 AM , Blogger Barry Reitman said...

Thanks, George. He was a good man.


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