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Articles of 2004

Emile Griffith Goes the Distance

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Former welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight champion Emile Griffith punched his way into the Boxing Hall of Fame.

Griffith was born on February 3, 1938 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and was athletic from the start. “I was a baseball player,” he told me. “I was a catcher.”

The fact that Griffith played ball was of some minor interest, but nothing compared to the fights.

“When I was in the Virgin Islands, I would fight when I had to fight. When they pick on me, you know, I had enough of it,” Griffith said. “But I never wanted to be a fighter, to tell you the truth.”

Emile Griffith moved to the New York when he was a teenager and “stayed with my grandmother in Harlem.” He also began working in midtown Manhattan.

“I was working for Howard Albert in designer ladies hats,” the champ said. “He was my boss at the job. It was a little hat factory. I was working for him and one day I asked him if I could remove my shirt because I was hot, and he told me yes and started questioning me. He asked if I ever play sports. I told him yes to all that. And then he asked if I ever boxed. I told him ‘no, I never boxed,’ which I didn’t. And then he took it from there.”

I spoke with Howie Albert and asked if he remembered that moment with Emile.

“He was a delivery boy at my millinery factory. It was hot in the factory. We didn’t have any air-conditioning. So he took his shirt off and he had the most amazing build of any person I ever saw. He had a 44 shoulder with a 26 waistline,” Albert said. “I was a frustrated boxer. I brought my boxing gloves and boxing shoes to the factory and, funny, they fit him, so I brought him to meet a guy named Gil Clancy. Gil had a great amateur team that had won awards everywhere and he was training fighters at a gym on 28th Street, the Department of Parks.”

Griffith said of Howie Albert: “He took me to Gil Clancy’s gym at 28th Street and Ninth Avenue and every day after work he would take me there. And that was it.”

Gil Clancy was one of the game’s great trainers. He worked with Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Quarry and De La Hoya, among others, but Emile Griffith was his pride and joy.

I asked Griffith what it was like when he first entered Clancy’s gym.

“When I started boxing and training, oh man, it was rough,” he recalled. “They all wanted to fight me and everything else. But that thing was okay after that.”

I asked Albert what Clancy first thought of Emile Griffith.

“When I brought him to Gil, he says ‘you know, Howard, I never put a guy in the Gloves the first year. I like to keep them in the gym for a whole year.’ But then what happened was he never saw improvement in a fighter like Griffith. He was amazing,” Albert said. “He not only could box, but he could punch. I mean he was beating up the pros he had there! ”

Clancy became Griffith’s co-trainer and co-manager. With his help, Emile won the New York Golden Gloves. “Gil Clancy kept me very busy,” Griffith said, “and I enjoyed it too.”

Griffith turned pro on June 2, 1958, at the age of twenty, with a win over Joe Parham at St. Nick’s Arena. He had six fights in ‘58, nine in ‘59, and nine in 1960, including a big win over Luis Rodriguez in New York City.

On April 1, 1961, Griffith kayoed Benny (Kid) Paret in Miami with a left hook followed by a straight right to win the welterweight title. “I got lucky,” Griffith said. After one defense of the crown against Gaspar Ortega, Griffith fought Paret a second time in September and lost the split decision and title. Most people, including Griffith, think he was robbed.

Griffith met Paret for the third time six months later in Madison Square Garden. Paret dropped Griffith early, but Emile controlled the action. In the twelfth round he caught Paret in the corner and landed eighteen punches in a row. The referee that night, Ruby Goldstein, seemed glued to the spot. When he finally stepped in to stop the action, it was too little too late. Benny (Kid) Paret slumped unconscious to the canvas.

One of America’s best writers, Norman Mailer, who is also one of boxing’s best friends, was at the fight and wrote about the bout:

“Paret lay on the ground, quivering gently, a small froth on his mouth. The house doctor jumped into the ring. He knelt. He pried Paret’s eyelid open. He looked at the eyeball staring out. He let the lid snap shut. He reached into his satchel, took out a needle, jabbed Paret with a stimulant. Paret’s back rose in a high arch. He writhed in real agony. They were calling him back from death. One wanted to cry out, ‘Leave the man alone. Let him die.’ But they saved Paret long enough to take him to the hospital where he lingered for days. He was in a coma. He never came out of it. If he lived, he would have been a vegetable. His brain was smashed.”

The death was blamed, at least in part, on Paret’s manager, who let his fighter fight too soon after a beating he got from Gene Fullmer three months earlier. But the way Griffith won the fight, and the tragedy that followed, wore heavily on his mind. “I would have quit,” Griffith said, “but I didn’t know how to do anything but fight.”

So fight he did. But after the Paret incident, Griffith “changed my style of fighting and everything else. I didn’t have to punch somebody. I didn’t have to knock no one out to win a fight,” he said. “I could go the fifteen rounds or ten rounds or how many rounds it was. I could do it just by boxing.”

Griffith defended his welterweight title one more time that year, before winning the junior middleweight belt from Teddy Wright in Austria by decision. Emile lost his welterweight title to Luis Rodriguez via decision in Los Angeles on March 21, 1963, only to regain the crown three months later from Rodriguez at the Garden.

“He was a very good boxer,” Griffith said about Rodriguez. “I learned a lot on how to box a little bit more from him, just by boxing him.”

The champ had six fights in ‘63, six fights in ‘64 and seven fights in ‘65. On April 25, 1966, Emile Griffith moved up in weight and decisioned Dick Tiger to win the middleweight title. “I did a little more boxing than he could have done,” Griffith said. Two successful defenses against Joey Archer in New York led to the first of three fights with Nino Benvenuti. Griffith lost the first in 1967, regained the crown five months later, before losing it for good in March 1968 at the opening of the new Madison Square Garden.

Griffith fought for nine more years, including bouts with Jose Napoles, Carlos Monzon, Benny Briscoe and Vito Antuofermo. Emile Griffith had his last fight on July 30, 1977 against Alan Minter in Monte Carlo. He retired with a record of 85-24-2 (23 KOs).

“I have a lotta fights and a long record. You name them and I think I fought them,” Griffith said with a laugh. “I really enjoyed what I used to do. But I still like boxing. Boxing helped me along in my life and I still like it. As a matter of fact, I love it now. I go to the fights every chance I get. I watch the fights on TV. And I train some of the guys I’m with right now. Boxing was very good for me, so I figure if there’s anything I can do to help any one of the kids out there, I try to help them with it – if they want to do it.”

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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