Emile Griffith, a first-rate pugilist who held welterweight and middleweight championships in the 1960s, has died.
Griffith, 75, passed away at an extended care facility in Hempstead, N.Y.
Griffith was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he lived in Harlem with his mom as a child and also spent time living in Queens, Long Island and New Jersey.
Griffith likely will be best remembered for his clash with Benny Paret in 1962 at Madison Square Garden. The fight resulted in the tragic death of Paret, who died from brain injuries after taking a vicious punishment. Griffith also drew attention for his sexual orientation, which the fighter danced around expertly for most of his life. He acknowledged that he was bisexual in 2005.
Author Ron Ross wrote a book, "Nine, Ten and Out! The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith," and knew the fighter since 1963. "He was a tremendous boxer and person," Ross said. "It is almost a blessing that he passed away because he has been in a vegetative state the last couple years. To know him was a privilege, he transcended being a boxer, or being gay or straight. He lived life with the fullest joy. He passed that on to everyone he knew and not many have that as a legacy.
"Emile never felt like he was different, he lived his life openly. He'd go to a gay bar and he wouldn't go into a side entrance, he'd go in the front door. He never flaunted it, but it was natural to him to lead his life the way he wanted to."
Brophy said that Griffith brought joy to the Hall of Fame when he visited. "He was a wonderful boxer and a gentleman outside the ring," Brophy said. "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."