Emile Alphonse Griffith is a former boxer who was the first fighter from the U.S. Virgin Islands to become a world champion. He is best known for his controversial third fight with Benny Paret in 1962 for the welterweight world championship. Griffith later won the world middleweight title and claimed an early version of the junior middleweight world championship, a claim that has not been universally recognized, although some consider Griffith a three-division champion fighter. Griffith captured the Welterweight title from Cuban Benny “The Kid” Paret by knocking him out in the 13th round on April 1, 1961. Six months later, Griffith lost the title to Paret in a narrow split decision. Griffith regained the title from Paret on March 24, 1962 in the controversial bout in which Paret died.
Griffith waged a classic three-fight series with Luis Rodriguez, losing the first and winning the other two. He defeated middleweight contender Holly Mims, but was knocked out in one round by Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Three years later, on February 3, 1966, he faced middleweight champion Dick Tiger and won a ten-round decision and the middleweight title. He also lost, regained, and then lost the middleweight crown in three classic fights with Nino Benvenuti.
Many boxing fans believed he was never quite the same fighter after Paret’s death. From the Paret bout to his retirement in 1977, Griffith fought 80 bouts, but only scored twelve knockouts. He later admitted to being gentler with his opponents and relying on his superior boxing skills, because he was terrified of killing someone else in the ring. Like so many other fighters, Griffith fought well past his prime. He won only nine of his last twenty three fights.
Other boxers he fought in his career were the world champions American Denny Moyer, Cuban Luis Rodríguez; Argentinian Carlos Monzón; Nigerian Dick Tiger; Mexican José Nápoles, and in his last title try, German Eckhard Dagge.
After 18 years as a professional boxer, Griffith retired with a record of 85 wins (25 by knockout), 24 losses and 2 draws.
World Liberty TV interviewed Emile’s son Louis Rodrigo Griffith, who talked about his career as a fighter and trainer. Emile was also present, in a wheel chair, but due to declining health was not able to speak. He was inducted in the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame, an honor greatly deserved for his dedication and victories in the sport of boxing.