Ring of Fire—The Emile Griffith Story (2005)

Documentary directed by Ron Berger and Dan Klores

Born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Griffith was athletic from the start. (New York Times)

“Ring of Fire” tells the harrowing story of former welterweight, junior middleweight, and middleweight champion Emile Griffith. He 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 several years ago. “I was a catcher. 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. But I never wanted to be a fighter, to tell you the truth.” Destiny had other things in mind. “I was working for Howard Albert in designer ladies hats,” said Griffith. “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. Every day after work he would take me there. And that was it. Gil took it from there.” Griffith turned pro on June 2, 1958, at the age of 20. He had six fights that year, nine in 1959, and nine in 1960, including a big win over Luis Rodriguez. On April 1, 1961, Griffith knocked out Benny (Kid) Paret at the Convention Center in Miami to win the welterweight title. They fought a rematch six months later at Madison Square Garden and Griffith lost the split decision and his crown. Many thought he was robbed. Griffith and Paret met for a rubber match at the Garden on March 24, 1962. It was a night to remember, an impossible fight to forget, and in the end changed both men’s lives more than it changed boxing.