RIP Emile Griffith

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griffithemileEmile Griffith, a first-rate pugilist who held the welterweight and middleweight championships in the 1960s, has died, the International Boxing Hall of Fame said Tuesday.

The fighter, born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was 75.

He passed away at the Nassau Extended care facility in Hempstead, Long Island.

Griffith was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Hall director Ed Brophy confirmed the news of the passing to ESPNNewYork.com of the fighter, who lived in Upper Harlem with his mom as a child, and also spent time living in Queens, New Jersey and Long Island.

Griffith likely best be remembered for the tragic death of foe Benny Paret, who died from brain injuries after taking vicious punishment in their third clash in 1962. Also, Griffith drew attention for his sexual orientation, which the fighter danced around expertly for most of his life. He acknowledged he was bisexual in 2005.

Author Ron Ross wrote a book, “Nine, Ten and Out! The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith” on 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 Griffith brought joy to the Hall in Canastota, N.Y., 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.”

SOURCE: Michael Woods, ESPN