The gifted pugilist from the US Virgin Islands died at a nursing home on Long Island on Tuesday, after a professional record of 85-24-2-1 (23 KOs) between 1959 and 1977.
His most infamous fight was his third, a rubber bout, against Benny Paret on March 24, 1962 at Madison Square Garden where Griffith – reportedly seething over homophobic slurs made by his opponent – brutally beat the Cuban unconscious for a TKO in round 12 of 15.
Paret would never wake up from the fight, dying 10 days later.
Gilbert Rogin of Sports Illustrated wrote of the incident: “As before, Paret called Griffith 'maricon', gutter Spanish for homosexual.
“It is the most vulgar epithet in that violent idiom and is particularly galling to Griffith, who has a piping voice, wears extravagantly tight clothes, has designed women's hats and is, ordinarily, a charming, affectionate kid.
“Griffith told Benny to 'shut up'. Paret laid a gratuitous, slighting hand on Emile's back. "Keep your hands off me, Paret," snarled Griffith.
“The fires Paret had lit in Griffith were banked as he entered the ring Saturday night, but they were not banked very deep.”
Griffith struggled to come out publicly and openly admit he was gay, denying it as recently as 2005 in an interview with New York Times columnist Bob Herbert.
He suffered from dementia, and was viciously attacked by a gang after leaving a gay bar in New York in 1992.
Two years prior to that, he was inducted into the New York Hall of Fame.
- Benny Paret