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Emile Griffith

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Emile Griffith
© Stephen Lovekin/Getty
Emile Griffith (born February 3, 1938) was destined to become a boxing icon until his collision with Benny "the Kid" Paret on March 24, 1962. The wreck was thought to be a clean match-up. Instead it faired more like a SUV-compact head on. This time, however, it wasn't size that made the difference; it was the Rockylike circumstances.

Griffith had "the Kid" against the ropes revving away, when unbeknown to Griffith (or the judge), an impact spun the Kid into 360 degrees of unconsciousness. Griffith continued to power his guns with a multi-punch combination. Paret never regained consciousness and died 9 days later.

Griffith went on to win several more bouts, but it's said that he never recovered from the death of Paret. Decades later, Sports Illustrated found an angle that might have explained the fatal drag race. In 2005, the macho rag reported that Griffith's uncharacteristic hitspree was instigated by an anti-gay slur the Kid had slung towards him before the match. Apparently, Paret called Griffith a maricón (Spanish for the F-word). There was continued speculation over Griffith's sexuality— a kernel that loosely grew into more solid proof after Griffith was badly beaten on a New York City street, allegedly after leaving a gay bar.

Did Paret's F-slinging cost him his life? Is Emile Griffith gay? Sadly, the boxing hall-of-famer suffers from pugilistic dementia, an Alzheimer-esque condition that, as Sports Illustrated reported, makes him sometimes identify as gay, sometimes straight and at times bisexual.

Emile Griffith was the first boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands ever to become a world champion. He was named Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year in 1964 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in its initial year (1990) and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Boxing fans remember him as one of the greats, but a steam cloud of speculation over his sexuality and his fatal-famous fight with Benny Paret will forever loom over the legend of his career.

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