Bisexual former World Champion middleweight boxer Emile Griffith, who famously caused the death of a fellow boxer, who had previously uttered to him a homophobic slur, has died aged 75.
Griffith, the first fighter from the US Virgin Islands ever to become a world champion, died yesterday after a long struggle with pugilistic dementia.
The middleweight boxer most famously became embroiled in controversy during 1962, when he knocked out his rival Benny Paret, who went into a coma and died from his injuries 10 days later.
In 2005, Sports Illustrated reported that Mr Griffith’s rage during the fight may have been caused by an anti-gay slur directed at him by Paret during their weigh-in.
Mr Paret called his opponent a “maricón”, which is Cuban slang for “faggot”. Mr Griffith attempted to go after him on the spot and had to be restrained.
At the time, the media either ignored the slur or used euphemisms such as “anti-man” instead. Sports Illustrated pointed out that it would have been the end of an athlete’s career during the 1960s to acknowledge that he was gay.
Over the years, in books and interviews, Mr Griffith described himself at various times as straight, gay and bisexual.
“People spit at me in the street,” Mr Griffith told the Associated Press in 1993, recalling the days after Benny Paret’s death. “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.”
In 1992, Mr Griffith was viciously beaten and almost killed on a New York City street after leaving a gay bar. He was in hospital for four months after the attack.
On his sexual identity, Mr Griffith was quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying: “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.”
Following Mr Griffith’s death, the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) director Ed Brophy said: “Emile was a gifted athlete and truly a great boxer. Outside the ring he was as great a gentleman as he was a fighter.”
He added: “He always had time for boxing fans when visiting the hall on an annual basis, and was one of the most popular boxers to return year after year.”