November 21, 2017 | Arts / Entertainment

New biopic to explore tragic life of closeted boxer

Emile GriffithDirector Lenny Abrahamson and producer Ed Guiney have announced they are working on a new film about professional boxer Emile Griffith.
 
Griffith is best known for literally beating to death Benny “The Kid” Paret in the ring during a live TV broadcast in 1962. Apparently, Griffith was enraged after Paret grabbed his ass and called him a homosexual at the weigh-in.
 
The biopic will be based on the book A Man’s World: The Double Life Of Emile Griffith
 
“It is so rich that it’s hard to know where to start,” Abrahamson explained. “As a character study, Griffith is incredibly compelling. There was a gentleness and innocence about him, and he never seemed conflicted about his sexuality; indeed he found joy in it. He inhabited two worlds -- the underground gay scene in New York in the ’60s and the macho world of boxing. The societal stigma at that time was dreadful and created a crushing pressure on him.”
 
Before the terrible incident, Griffith had become a Golden Gloves and earned enough money to bring his siblings to the US from the Virgin Islands. But his life came crashing down after Patel, from Cuba, referred to Griffith as “Maricon” or faggot.  
 
By the 12th round of the fight, Griffith had Paret against the ropes, and rained down 24 consecutive blows. Paret was left unconscious and died after 10 days in a coma.
 
Griffith continued to fight, though, only retired from the sport in 1977. However, he never got over killing another man.
 
"He'd wake up at night and see Benny Paret at the foot of his bed," his friend Ron Ross said.
 
Griffith died when he was 75 following a battle with dementia.
 
“You look at how closely his two worlds intersected,” Abrahamson said. “Just how different are they, when the sport is such a celebration of the male body and the beauty of its athleticism. Go one step further, and inject the tiniest sense of sexuality, and people are up in arms. Griffith himself once said a quote that just floored me. ‘They forgave me for killing a man, but they couldn’t forgive me for loving a man.’ That to me was so powerful and such a crazy contradiction. And it is still relevant today.”
 
A production start date has yet to be announced, so it will be some time before a release date is revealed.

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