Former Welterweight Champion Emile Griffith passed away on Tuesday at the age of 75. While current media mania will surely call attention to Griffith’s sexuality, he is best known for being a superb fighter who was a part of a ring tragedy.
On March 24th, 1962, Griffith fought Cuban Bennie “Kid”Paret for the third time, in Madison Square Garden on live television. The previous two fights had been split, with Griffith winning the Welterweight title, and then losing it again to Paret the following year.
At 2:27 of Round 12, Griffith stunned Paret with a short right hand. Taking advantage, Griffith moved Paret into the corner, and stunned him again at 2:20. What followed was seven seconds of absolute fury. With Paret defenseless, Griffith threw nineteen punches in those seven seconds, landing fourteen, all to Paret’s head, and all power shots, before the referee was able to stop the bout. Paret slumped in the corner, in a coma, and never regained consciousness. He died ten days later, on April 3rd, 1962
Having spent some time in the ring, I can tell you that a quality fighter has speed and power that is hard to describe. Punches that are almost impossible to see, let alone block, and when they connect feel like a Louisville Slugger to the ribs or head. Watching the video of Paret-Griffith III tonight on ESPN, I was struck again by the violence of those seven seconds. And the stunning power of punches thrown by a man who weighed just 144 pounds.