Legendary Bisexual Boxer Emile Griffith Dead At 75

Emile_GriffithEmile Griffith, a tragic figure in the world of boxing, has passed away at the age of 75. The embattled athlete, whose sexuality has always caused speculation, suffered from kidney troubles and dementia pugilistica, a degenerative brain disease often contracted by boxers and other athletes due to repeated injuries.

Griffith, probably best known for being the first world champion from the U.S. Virgin Islands and for his legendary match against Benny Paret, had always been tight-lipped about his sexual proclivities, but was long rumored to be gay in boxing circles. His fury during the bout with Paret, which resulted in the latter’s death, was allegedly fueled by Paret’s hurling of the gay slur “maricón,” which roughly translates to faggot.

Griffith’s trainer, Gil Clancy, insisted in interviews that the slur had nothing to do with the fight. On the night of March 24, 1962, Griffith delivered a devastating 17 punches in five seconds. Paret died 10 days later.

“I didn’t want to kill no one,” Griffith said in the documentary, Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story. “But things happen.” Griffith’s unease with the sport grew substantially after these events, as he became scared of injuring his opponents.

After being assaulted outside a gay bar in 1992, Griffith ultimately met his end caused by kidney injuries from the attack.  While Griffith never actually “came out,” he had stated in a 2005 interview with Sports Illustrated, “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.”

Griffith’s marriage to Mercedes Donastorg eventually ended in divorce. While we will never know the whole truth, Griffith surely felt societal pressure, especially as an athlete in the 1960’s, to remain as straight as possible to the outside world. Griffith is survived by his three brothers, Franklin, Tony and Guillermo; four sisters, Eleanor, Joyce, Karen and Gloria; and his longtime companion and adopted son, Luis Griffith.

Photo: Wikipedia

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  • Mr. E. Jones

    Griffith delivered a devastating 17 punches in five seconds.

    Holy shit.

  • StephK

    OF course Paret’s comment ..maricon.. had everthing to do with the pummeling he took. But 17 hits to the head?!?? Part of me says he deserved it, although I feel terrible about writing that.

  • Scribe38

    I am no where near a professional boxer but the hardest I have ever hit someone was because he called me a faggot in a crowded R.O.T.C. class. I hit my classmate until someone pulled me off of him. I was in the closet, more afraid of myself than anyone else. Some words have more power over us than they should. At the time I just wanted him to feel my life time of pain. The day after the kid had a huge black eye and I began to feel like crap. He took the beating for every other person who had ever called me gay. Word got around and I mostly left alone for the rest of high school.

  • StephK

    @Scribe38: No reason to feel like crap.I am sure that example shut the mouths of many who had witnessed or heard about it. Words can be
    wielded like lethal weapons,and you rightfully defended yourself.Props to you!

  • openguy

    Maybe Paret didn’t deserve to die but it is a good example for others to think before talking that kind of shit

  • Dr. Dick

    Now, if only we could all legally kill asshats like Paret…..

  • Kangol

    Very sad to hear Emile Griffith has passed, and the death of Paret was a tragedy as well.

  • neostud

    @Dr. Dick: Harsh.

  • neostud

    @Kangol: Well said.

  • balehead

    Don’t mess with masculine gays….they’ll bring it!!

  • EllynRuth

    While I am thankful that you used the correct word “bisexual” in your headline, I find your disrespect for Griffith’s right to define himself, even in his obituary, very sad. To say, “While we will never know the whole truth” after you quote his own words that say he loves men and women is incredibly biphobic.

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