Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Monday, February 22, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 22 - The Reluctant Fighter: Emile Griffith


Emile Griffith once said, “I kill a man and most people understand and forgive me.  However, I love a man, and to so many people this is an unforgiveable sin; this makes me an evil person.” Griffith was one of the greatest fighters to ever step foot in the ring.  He would become the World Champion in the welterweight class, the junior middleweight class, and the middleweight class. In spite of these significant accomplishments, he is most remembered for the one fight that defined his legacy.

In 1962, Emile would fight Benny Paret.  At the weight in of these two, Paret would mocked Emile and called him a “maracon” which is a homophobic slur.  This fight which happened at Madison Square garden was the third fight between the two.  It was aired nationally on ABC.  At one point in the fight, Emile pinned Paret against the ropes and landed numerous punches to his head.  He continued to hitting even after Paret seemed to have collapsed while standing up.  The punches would continue until the referee intervened and separated the two.

Emile won by way of a technical knockout.  Paret eventually slid to the floor and he was carried out of the ring on a stretcher.  He would never again regain consciousness.  He died in the hospital ten days later.  Because of the violence in the match, boxing would not air on television again for several years.

Emile however did not define himself as gay.  In an interview with Sports Illustrated he said, “I like men and women both.  But I don’t like that word: homosexual, gay or faggot. 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.”

The documentary Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith story is currently available on YouTube.  Please get into it below:

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