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Emile Griffith, former boxing champ, dies aged 75

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   July 23, 2013 at 4:33 PM   |   Comments

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July 23 (UPI) -- Former welterweight and middleweight champion Emile Griffith died Tuesday at the age of 75, according to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which announced its flags will fly at half staff in Griffith's memory.

Griffith turned pro at age 20, and with a career record of 85-24-1, he spent the 1960s winning the welterweight title three times and the middleweight title twice.

Despite a 19-year career winning fights against Hall of Famers Luis Rodriguez, Nino Benvenuti and Dick Tiger, as well as numerous other big names in boxing, Griffith is best known for killing Benny Paret in the 1962 title bout.

The fatal flurry of punches was reportedly prompted when Paret called Griffith "maricón" -- a Spanish homophobic slur.

"After Paret," he said years later, "I never wanted to hurt a guy again. I was so scared to hit someone. I was always holding back."

Long chased by rumors of homosexuality, and addressing them ahead of the 2005 documentary about his life, "Ring of Fire," Griffith told Sports Illustrated, "I've chased men and women."

"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."

Later, Griffith came out as gay in the 2008 book "Nine, Ten, and Out! The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith."

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