Congratulations to Orlando Cruz, the world’s fourth-ranked featherweight boxer, who came out this week. But is he the first openly gay boxer? In an article about Cruz I read the interesting story of welterweight champion Emile Griffith who was once sprung by a journalist in the 1960s making out with one of his cornermen after a fight.
According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald: “A recent documentary chronicled Griffith’s most notorious fight, a 1962 title bout against Benny Paret, a Cuban boxer who had, at the weigh-in, taunted Griffith as “maricon”, an insulting slang word for a gay person. An enraged Griffith unleashed such a brutal fight-winning volley of punches that Paret never regained consciousness. Griffith was wracked with remorse, saying: “I kill a man and most people forgive me. However, I love a man and many say this is unforgivable and this makes me an evil person.”
In a further sad twist, the 54 year old former boxing champion Griffith was himself attacked as he left a gay bar in New York in 1992. He was hospitalised for four months and currently suffers from “pugilistic dementia”.