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10 Questions With 6x World Champion Emile Griffith

By David Selwyn

Griffith is one of the greatest welterweight and middleweight champions ever. He appeared in 23 title bouts. Emile held the welterweight title three times and the middleweight title twice and the Jr. Middleweight title once. His career spanned three decades. Griffith retired with a record of 85 wins and 24 losses and one no contest. He was inducted into the first class of the boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Griffith boxed 339 title-fight rounds. More than any other fighter in the history of boxing.

D.S.: How did you get involved with the sport of boxing?

E.G.: Thatís a funny story, Dave. I never wanted to become a boxer. I wanted to be a baseball player. Iím from the Virgin Islands. My mother moved to New York City and I followed. When I was a teenager, my cousin got me a job at a factory. One hot day, I took off my shirt. Howard Albert, the factory owner, stared at me and was impressed with my physique and asked if I ever boxed before. I thought he was crazy. He was a big boxing fan. He brought me over to a P.A.L. gym and introduced me to Gil Clancy. Gil and Howie were my Co-managers for the rest of my career and I still see them today.

D.S.: In your opinion, what were the key factors that turned you into a great champion?

E.G.: Thatís hard for me to say. Iíve been told that I have natural athletic ability. I will tell this, I always listened to my trainer Gil Clancy. If I didnít, Clancy would give it to me good. Gil didnít play.

D.S.: What was your most memorable moment in your boxing career?

E.G.: Winning my first belt on April fools day, when I beat the "The Kid" (Benny Paret). I did a flip. It was so exciting for me and my family. I fooled the world that day.

D.S.: Who was your toughest opponent?

E.G.: Dick Tiger was a very tough fighter. He was also a good friend and gentleman. He was a great body puncher.

D.S.: When you were not fighting, which boxers did you enjoy watching and are there any fighters you enjoy watching today?

E.G.: I enjoyed watching Ali and my friend Smokin Joe Frazier and any fighter that was a well skilled fighter. Gil and Howie would always show me films of my opponents. Gil would make points about the opponents strengths and weaknesses and I would take mental notes.

D.S.: Some athletes are very superstitious. Did you have any superstitions?

E.G.: Not really any superstitions. The only thing that I could think of is that I would always eat steak on the day of a fight.

D.S.: Emile, I have known you for a while and I have always seen you been very cordial and accommodating to your fans. Please, tell me what do your fans mean to you?

E.G.: I just like people and people like me. If I could give a fan an autograph and make them happy, then Iím happy. It makes me feel good that people still remember me.

D.S.: What keeps you active during your retirement?

E.G.:Iím resting, partying, and enjoying myself. I donít drive anymore, but send a car for me and Iím ready to go(laughs). I enjoy being with my son Luis. He is a great kid and is always looking out for his pops.

D.S.: What advice would you give to an aspiring boxer today?

E.G.: Train hard man. I always listened to my trainer Gil and worked hard. If you are not going to take boxing seriously, get out. This sport is no joke.

D.S.: Emile, is there anything you would like to say?

E.G.: Well I would like to thank you Dave for this chance to say a few words and I would like to say to anyone who reads this interview, if you see me anywhere just say hello, I donít bite(laughs).

D.S.: Thank you Emile.

E.G.: Thank you Dave.