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Virgin Island-born and former welterweight champion Emile Griffith, who was best known for his 1962 world title fight that resulted in the death of his bitter rival Cuban boxer Benny Paret, died on Tuesday. Griffith died Tuesday morning at the Nassau Extended Care Facility in Hempstead, New York. He was 75 and suffered from dementia.
Boxing hall of fame's executive director Edward Brophy said. "Emile Griffith was a gifted athlete and a truly great boxer...Outside of the ring, he was as great a gentleman as he was a fighter."
Griffith was born on Feb. 3, 1938, one of eight children, on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and was 19 when he moved to New York to join his mother. His father abandoned the family during Griffith'schildwood, and his mother went to New York to work after sending the children to live with relatives in the Virgin Islands. In 1957 he had his first big breakthrough -- a Golden Gloves title -- and went pro the following year.
According to a 2005 documentary, Paret allegedly enraged Griffith prior to the fight by taunting him in Spanish with the deeply offensive homophobic slur "maricon" (faggot).
Griffith pummeled Paret with a vicious assault and claimed victory with a 12th-round knockout. According to Griffith’s trainer, Gil Clancy, Griffith delivered 17 punches in five seconds with no response from Paret. As Griffith rained blows on him for several seconds, Paret appeared unconscious and finally slumped to the canvas. Paret did not regain consciousness and died in hospital 10 days later.
The fight had lasting implications for US boxing. Referee Ruby Goldstein was criticised for not intervening to stop Griffith's assault, never officiated again.
Griffith would go on to win several other titles before retiring in 1977, but many boxing fans said he was never the same after the bout with Paret.
Griffith would marry dancer Mercedes Donastrog in 1971 but would later admit to being bisexual.
He was hospitalised for four months after being attacked as he left a gay bar in New York in 1992.
Griffith who had been ambiguous about his sexuality told Sports Illustrated in 2005 he was bisexual.
"I like men and women both ... 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," he said.
Griffith retired with a record of 85 wins (including 23 knockouts), 24 losses and two draws, according to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which inducted him into its ranks in 1990.