THE BBC’s understandable decision to pull a planned recording of the ill-fated bout between welterweight champion Benny “Kid” Paret and Emile Griffith on March 24, 1962 meant the shockwaves – felt so strongly in America where the fight was televised live – didn’t impact to the same degree here.
At the weigh-in Paret enraged Griffith, labelling him a “Maricon” – Spanish for homosexual.
Our fight report (BN March 30, 1962) made for grim reading: “In the 12th round Paret was tagged with a right to the jaw, driven into a neutral corner and pummelled with right after right to the head. The Cuban’s head was outside the ring, between the top and second ropes, and he was trapped while Griffith still punched away with both hands.
Benny’s nose bled and there was a cut under his right eye as Griffith delivered right uppercuts from way back. Such was the ferocity of his attack that referee Ruby Goldstein found difficulty in forcing himself between the two boxers when he stopped it after two minutes nine seconds of the round.
Ruby Goldstein stopped the bout with Griffith raining numerous blows on Paret in a neutral corner. The Cuban then sank to the canvas, and when he failed to regain consciousness was taken to hospital, where he was operated on for removal of two blood clots. At the time of writing he was still in a coma.”
Paret never regained consciousness and died on April 3. It was the first time on record a world champion had been fatally injured in a title defence.
The tragedy spurred renewed demands for boxing’s abolition and also led to a Joint Legislative Investigation, prompting several states to introduce a range of new safety measures.