Benny "Kid" Paret: Lest We Forget
07.12.06 - Ted Sares: The bout had been televised live and I saw it. I was 25 at the time and had witnessed several previous fight that had ended in tragedy though I was by no means inured to such a grim thing. There had been bad blood between Emil Griffith and Benny "Kid" Paret prior to their third fight on March 24, 1962.
Article posted on 07.12.2006
The two had split their previous two meetings. During the weigh-in, Paret reportedly called his opponent a maricon, the Spanish equivalent of "faggot." Emile had to be restrained from going after "The Kid" right there and then.
There may have been some other variables leading to the outcome of this fateful fight. Referee Ruby Goldstein had recently suffered a heart attack and wasn't effective enough to keep his normal control over the fight. As well, in his previous bout, Paret had taken a terrible beating in a Middleweight Title fight with tough Gene Fullmer. He had been knocked down three times, finally getting knocked out in the tenth round.
As for the fight, Paret fought well and dropped the heavily favorite Griffith in the sixth round but eventually Emil was able to dictate the pace and was in control going into the 12th. Then it happened. Griffith (28-3 with only 10 ko's at the time), and never known for having a hard punch or being vicious towards his opponents, drove Paret back on to the ropes with a sharp right. Before not only a live crowd of 8,000 at Madison Square Garden, but a national television audience as well, Griffith unloaded on the the cornered "Kid" and fired away perhaps as many as eighteen vicious punches to the head.
Paret was tangled and pinned in the ropes and unable to fall. Griffith punched and punched, the blows landing with tremendous force, one after another. With no assistance from a seemingly transfixed referee, he was beaten into unconsciousness and his body went limp like a rag doll. It all occurred in a matter of seconds, though I do recall screaming at the referee via the television set to stop the fight. Sadly, it would not be the first time or last time I would so engage a television set.
The beating resulted in Paret being carried out on a stretcher. He underwent brain surgery that night at Roosevelt Hospital, fell into a coma and died of pneumonia ten days later.
Griffith, one of the sportís gentlemen, was traumatized by Paret's death and was never the same fighter, though he fought on for another 15 years. The Kid's final professional record was 35-12-3 (10 KOs). Emile would finish with a record of 85-24-2-1 with only 23 ko's. He was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1990 and remains a sensitive and popular personality among his fans and peers. As for Ruby Goldstein, the fight's outcome bothered him greatly and he retired after working just one more fight.
Wrote Norman Mailer, a ring-side fan and acclaimed author: "And Paret? Paret died on his feet."
"As he took those 18 punches something happened to everyone who was in psychic range of the event. Some part of his death reached out to us.
"As he went down, the sound of Griffith's punches echoed in the mind like a heavy axe in the distance chopping into a wet log."
It would be ten years before boxing appeared on television again. Ironically, on the Hall of Fame enshrinee page, the following appears: "EMILE GRIFFITH was a consummate fighter. The only thing he did not do well in the ring, was punch. Aside from that, Griffith did everything well."
There is much far more to this story, indeed, easily enough for a book, but I suggest you consider getting the video entitled, "Ring of Fire, The Emile Griffith Story," which is a great documentary that covers in great detail the circumstances surrounding the tragic incident and the aftermath right up to the present.
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