Interview: Emile Griffith

Ike Enwereuzor

Emile Griffith began his professional debut June 2, 1958 as he won a fourth round decision over Joe Parham. He was first introduced to amateur boxing by his uncle in St Thomas, West Indies when he was 18 years old. Six time champion Emile Griffith was inducted into the International Hall of fame in 1990 and world hall of fame...

I'm here with 6 time champ..What are you doing these days?
I've been busy training fighters and attending special events

You're considered as one of the greatest middleweight of our time. What did
you think of Hopkins-Trinidad fight, if you watch it?

Yes, I watched the fight. Hopkins did well but I don't think I saw the same Trinidad I know. I think Trinidad fought good too but Hopkins was the better man that night. If they ever fight again I think Trinidad will get him this time. Maybe Trinidad underestimated Hopkins or he didn't train hard enough.

Why did you decide to box?
I wanted to play Baseball but I was small to play. Howard Albert asked if I ever boxed. He took me to the gym department parks on 28th Street, NY. After that, I would go over to the gym after work to workout with the guys and I get beat up but I stayed around to learn. I won the Golden Gloves in 1956 then turn pro in 1958.

What do you remember from your pro debut?
It's been a long time. It was at Old St Nicks in New York City and I beat the guy by decision.

Your toughtest professional fight?
My toughest fight was with Dick Tiger. Nino was tough too and Carlos Monzon was too. I was lucky to beat Tiger. I always say I was lucky to win all my fight but I trained very hard for all of them. Kids today don't train as hard as we did those days. They want it easy but it can't work if you don't prepare very hard. This is what I teach my fighters.

Where did you use to camp for your fights?
We use to go Upstate New York, called Concord Hotel in Caskills. We took training very serious, I would be practizing moves, body punches, right hand and throwing left hooks. My trainer Gill Chancy was a good trainer and one of the best in the business.

How would you compare the fight to your fights with Dick Tiger?
Tiger was my good friend, we use to spar together at Gleason gym in Bronx, NY then. Few years later I got a chance to fight him, I guess that help me to beat him because I knew his style. I learn a lot from Tiger and learn from me too. When we sparred together I was like 147 and he was a full middleweight. We use to go to central park together to do our road walk too. My two fights with Dick Tiger was a heal of a fight. I think we had a tougher fight than Hopkins-Trinidad.

Your thoughts on Tyson-Nelsen bout?
Are you making jokes, Ike? Tyson fought a white guy who was strong but can't fight, Tyson should have stopped him earilier. He kept holding Tyson but Ref. Steve Smoger just kept breaking them up. Mike needs more work before he fights for any title.

What else can you tell me about your meetings with Dick Tiger?
I was like a boxer, he was a puncher and boy, Dick Tiger can hit. I was fast and my trainer Gill Chancy use to tell me not to let my opponent throw shots first at me, I should be the one throwing first. I was the better man that night.

Which fight of your career was your highest payday?
It was my fight with Nino Benvenuti
(Poster: PeltzBoxing). I made almost quarter of a million.

Can you compare you fights with Nino Benvenuti
We had three good fights. He was tough on all 3 fights, 2 in 1967 & third one in the garden took place in 1968 but I was a little tougher. I think I won all our fights but they gave me only the second one. One of the fight with him I slipped but they called it a knock down and we protected.

How would you compare the old Madison Square Garden to the new? The old Garden was good but now we have something better and larger. Now, they have various major events there like Music, basketball, Hockey, Boxing and more.

How did you feel to capture your first title against Benny Paret on April 1. 1961?
It was a great fight for me and I was a happy man. I knocked him out in 13th round and I did a back flip in the ring after I won the title. I felt like I owned the whole world. It was definitely a great feeling to win the title. I received a lot of congratulation from my sparring partnerss, many fans, my baseball team (The Griffs) family & friends.

Tell us about "The Griffs" ?
It was a baseball team I formed to teach kids how to play. I started it after I turned professional in earily 1960's.

What was it like to be inducted into International Hall of Fame in 1990?
It was fun. A lot of my friends, New York Comissioners were ther. It was very exciting moment for me and my family.

Your most memorable moment of your career would be...?
My third fight with Benny Paret....... Oh my God, it was a disater I almost lost my career. Benny passed away, may his soul R.I.P after that fight, I didn't want to fight any more. My mind can't get me to fight. I was getting hate mails from Cubans calling me a murderer but I also got positive mails from fans who cared about me. The fans wrote to me saying it wasn't my fault, that was boxing. I even received a mail from a fan who's a truck driver he told me how a little boy ran in front of his truck and he couldn't save the kid's life. He said, that never made him to quit his job. It was an accident after receiving a lot of mail as such my trainer encouraged me to get back in the ring so I tried to go back. The advise and support from fans made me get back into it. They said, we love you and want to see you fight again champ. I didn't know I was much appreciated till then.

Can you please describe your fights with Carlos Monzon?
He was taller and had a longer reach than so it was hard to get into him but I do get in, I made him feel my punches.

Tell us about your Fight with Hurrcane Carter?
They did a movie on him. I lost to him but it's time for Emile. I trained Wesley Snappes for a movie "Street of Gold" and I was show a little in that movie too. Wesley knows his stuff and I think he could play my role very well.

Your favorite fighters during your era would be ....?
I like "Sugar" Ray Robinson, I use to do road walks with him and I sparred with him one at Gleason Gym in the Bronx. Joe Louis, I met him few times in Las Vegas and New York. Archie Moore was a very good man, he showed me a lot in the gym too. One thing I liked about him was that he never show off.

What's your impression of Jose Torres?
Another friend, he was the captain of the Golden Gloves and we sparred a lot then. I learn a lot from him though we always tried to out run each other.

Your advise to those who may be interested in becoming a boxer?
Firstly, start with running, get in shape but they should leave me alone if they are not doing well in school. I was lucky to make it it's not going to be easy for anyone who decides to box. If they find someone who cares they must constantly listen to trainer and do what they ask you to do.

Where are you training fighters?
I've my gym at gleason gym and I go to other gyms too.


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