The CBZ Newswire

A Boxing Icon Passes: Former Welterweight and Middleweight Champ Emile Griffith is Dead

by on Jul.26, 2013, under Boxing News, Obituaries

By Juan C. Ayllon

 

Emile Griffith at his peak (photo courtesy of boxrec.com)

Emile Griffith at his peak (photo courtesy of boxrec.com)

It is a sad day when yet another vestige of a glorious bygone era passes. So many have gone in recent days. Our Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Gordon, says it best: “I can’t convey how much this saddens me. Another piece of my youth dissipates into the ether.  Emile, Jofre, Luis Rodriguez, Dick Tiger, Davey Moore, Carlos Ortiz, Jose Becerra and, of course, Cassius Clay — where are the god–like heroes of my long gone youth? We are losing them one by one, and with each passing, a piece of myself goes also.”

Born Emile Alphonse Griffith in the Virgin Islands on February 3, 1938, he resided in New York City for years and passed away on July 23, 2013. In between, he reached the pinnacle of Sport and fame, yet he also suffered a troubled personal life.

Kicking off with a points win over Joe Parham on June 6, 1958 and terminating with a points loss to Alan Minter in July 30, 1977, he amassed a record of 85-24-2 with 23 knockouts in a career that spanned nearly two decades. And what a run it was.

Like Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Jr., Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. later on, Griffith transcended the boundaries of sport. His mass appeal was exemplified in this excerpt of jazz artist Al Jarreau’s song, Better Than Anything (written by David “Buck” Wheat and Bill Loughborough):

Better than Lucy and Desi,

Better than Route 66

Better than Kildare and Casey,

Better than quiz shows all fixed

Better than Huntley and Brinkley,

Better than Singing with Mitch

Better than Hitchcock and Karloff,

Better than clicking the switch

Better than movies late at night, or watching Emile Griffith fight

Better than anything, ‘cept being in Love…”

A muscular and handsome mixture of dancer and boxer with sharp, punishing blows, it has been said elsewhere that he adapted a more conservative boxing style after he killed Benny “Kid” Paret (who’d ridiculed him for being a homosexual) in a heated match in March 1962. Nevertheless, his style captured the imagination of many like a prime Muhammad Ali or Roy Jones Jr. would later.

He was that good.

Ron Lipton, who served as a sparring partner for Ruben “Hurricane” Carter and Muhammad Ali and had also sparred with and gotten to know Griffith personally, says this about him:

“In Championship country rounds 10 through 15 is where the Iron Man shined. His title is what he fought to keep and no one was going to take it without a war they would never forget. His physical conditioning and training preparation produced a fighter who was nonpareil in appearance, consistency of excellence and showmanship.”

 

Ron Lipton, at left, with Emile Griffith

Ron Lipton, at left, with Emile Griffith

Continuing, Lipton says, “His fights with Dick Tiger, Bennie Briscoe, Joey Archer, Harry Scott, Benny Paret, Luis Rodriguez, Stan “Kitten” Hayward, Jose Stable, Gypsy Joe Harris, Florentino Fernandez, Jose Monon Gonzalez and so many others are a monument to his championship power and skill. He even held the immortal middleweight champion Carlos Monzon to a hairline decision loss when Emile was well past his prime.”

Summing up, Gordon writes, “R.I P. Emile. It’s well-deserved after such an arduous life. He was a real man and one of the greatest champions in the long history of boxing.”

Rest in Peace, our dear departed friend.

 

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