2. Emile Griffith: 85-24-2 (23) with one no-contest – .205 knockout percentage
At his very best, Griffith had most of the tools a fighter could want: A ripped physique, a massive 72-inch reach on a 67 1/2-inch frame, excellent infighting talents, endless stamina and an above-average, though not impenetrable, chin. The only asset he lacked was a great punch but that didn’t stop Griffith from becoming a truly historic fighter.
KO magazine, THE RING’s onetime sister publication, had a category in its year-end awards that honored all-around fighters – the “Emile Griffith Steady But Unspectacular Trophy.” Yes, Griffith didn’t produce highlight reel knockouts but he still prospered because he listened to his trainer Gil Clancy and executed all the “little things” with absolute precision.
The results were beyond argument. Griffith logged 339 championship rounds, which remains the all-time record. He is one of a handful of fighters who won undisputed titles at welterweight and middleweight and he ruled both divisions on multiple occasions. Griffith duplicated fellow light puncher Jack Britton’s feat of three 147-pound title reigns and he twice won belts at 160.
The men he beat in title fights included Benny “Kid” Paret (twice), Gaspar Ortega, Ralph Dupas, Jorge Fernandez, Luis Rodriguez (twice), Dick Tiger, Joey Archer (twice) and Nino Benvenuti. He also achieved non-title victories over Tiger, Dupas, Fernandez (twice), Ortega, Denny Moyer (twice), Florentino Fernandez, Yama Bahama, Holly Mims, Andy Heilman, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, Gyspy Joe Harris, Tom Bogs, Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez (twice), Max Cohen, Armando Muniz, Bennie Briscoe, Donato Paduano and Christy Elliott.
Griffith’s attention to detail was such that he continued to push world-class opponents even deep into his 30s. In 1973, a 35-year-old Griffith nearly avenged a 14th round TKO loss by taking dominant middleweight champion Carlos Monzon to a close 15-round decision. At age 38, Griffith came within a whisper of dethroning WBC super welterweight titlist Eckhard Dagge in his native Germany.
Griffith’s honors were numerous. He won the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fighter of the year award in 1963 and the same honor from THE RING in 1964. He was the losing half of the magazine’s 1967 Fight of the Year when he dropped the belt to Benvenuti in fight one of their classic trilogy.
Perhaps one major cause for his lack of knockouts was the one fight everyone points to when discussing Griffith – the 12th round TKO over Benny “Kid” Paret that led to the Cuban’s death 10 days later. From that point forward, it appeared that Griffith gained enough satisfaction from defeating his opponents rather than punishing them. The proof: Following the Paret knockout, his 11th, Griffith scored only 12 more in his final 81 fights.
That didn’t stop anyone from appreciating Griffith’s accomplishments. He was elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1984 and in 1989 he was named one of the charter inductees at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.