When Emile Griffith won six titles across three weight classes over the course of a career that spanned nearly two decades before retiring in 1977 at the age of 39, the sport of boxing had just one champion per weight class.
Known for his steel-hard chin, marathon runner endurance, and a gloriously chisled upper torsoe comprised of a 44-inch chest and a 26-inch waist, Griffith fought 112 times from 147-to-160 pounds — nearly three times more than Sugar Ray Leonard – on the way to compiling an exemplary record of 85-24-2.
"I view Emile Griffith as one of the greatest middleweight champions in the history of boxing," said New York-based promoter Lou DiBella of Griffith, a native of the Virgin Islands who lived in New Jersey, Queens and Long Island.
"Emile was one of the greatest fighters that New York City every produced, period. If you're going to make a list of fighters who are the greatest in the history of boxing, Emile Griffith is on any list."
Griffith, an International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee in 1990, died on Tuesday at the age of 75 at Nassau Extended care facility in Hempstead, Long Island.
Griffith's legacy, which includes an admission of his bisexuality in 2005, also includes his tragic, nationally-televised 12th-round knockout of Benny "Kid" Paret at Madison Square Garden in 1962 in the final bout of their welterweight trilogy.
After being pinned on the ropes and absorbing 27 unanswered blows from Griffith, the Cuban-born Paret lapsed into a coma and died 10 days later, an event that was the subject of the 90-minute documentary, "Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story," which was directed by New York publicist Dan Klores.
Griffith's victory over Paret, which led to a near decade-long television blackout or prohibition of boxing, even as the native of the Virgin Islands fought 80 more times despite often pulling his punches after having lost much of his "killer instinct."
DiBella's publishing company later supported a book entitled "Nine, Ten and Out! The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith," by Ron Ross.
"The Benny Paret fight was a horrible tragedy, with its entire back story, and I think that it was well-told in 'Ring of Fire' the Dan Klores documentary, but there was much more to Emile Griffith than the Benny Paret story," said DiBella.
"I really knew Emile for many, many years, and that's one of the reasons that when Ron Ross needed a publisher for that biography, 'Nine, Ten and Out!' we published it, because I thought that it needed to be published. I thought that Emile's life was so much more interesting and important."