Former world champion boxer Emile Griffith died on Tuesday at the age of 75. While Griffith’s career was filled with success, it was also filled with tragedy in the form of a fatal beating he delivered to Benny “Kid” Paret in a 1962 title bout.
Griffith was the first boxer from the US Virgin islands to hold the title of world champion. He was inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
While Emile Griffith had several noted achievements during his career, his title bout against Paret caused him an equal amount of criticism, reports ESPN.
On March 24, 1962, the rivals fought before a national TV audience at Madison Square Garden. Griffith knocked Paret out in the 12th round to claim the title. But Paret went into a coma and died of his injuries 10 days later.
The death was a blow to the sport and to Griffith, who was never the same afterward. He recalled of the days after the fatal fight:
“People spit at me in the street. We stayed in a hotel. Every time there was a knock on the door, I would run into the next room. I was so scared.”
Despite the black mark on his record, Emile Griffith was remembered by many fans after his death, according to USA Today. Hall of Fame director Ed Brophy recalled how the famed boxer brought joy to the Hall when he visited. Brophy recalled:
“He was a wonderful boxer and a gentleman outside the ring. He surely will be missed. He made many visits to the Hall since being inducted in 1990. He was a fun filled person and the flags here are being lowered now.”
After his career ended, Emile Griffith often attended fights in New York, especially at the Garden, where he boasted 23 headlining fights. But in his later years, Griffith struggled with pugilistic dementia and required full-time care, eventually including a feedin tube in his last two years.
The International Boxing Hall of Fame announced Emile Griffith’s death on Tuesday. There was no immediate word on survivors or funeral arrangements for the famed boxer.