Benny was helpless, bleeding from his nose and a cut on his right cheek; his puffed eyes were closed. Still Griffith punched him, with mounting and maniacal rage, as though determined, literally, to wipe out both Paret and the memory of his taunt. There were, in all, about 15 uppercuts, followed by several hooks. Then Referee Goldstein was tugging at Griffith from behind, pulling him off. As Emile, berserk, struggling passionately in Goldstein's embrace, was dragged away, Paret, now obviously senseless, crumpled slowly and collapsed. The doctors fluttered into the ring and crouched about him like ravens.
"When I saw Paret hurt," Griffith said later, "I want him to be on the ground before the fight was stopped. I wanted to keep punching. I was still eager to put him down. I thought he [Goldstein] was just breaking us." Emile kept touching his temple with his small, slender hand and shaking his head in the confusion of seeking a logical explanation for what had been irrational, emotional behavior.
Later there was criticism of Referee Goldstein. Why hadn't he stopped the fight when it was obvious that Paret was unable to defend himself—was, indeed, absolutely beaten? But Paret had a history of enduring great punishment—as he did in the 10th round—and then, seemingly out, returning fire. "I felt I did the right thing last night," Goldstein said the next day, "and I feel the same way about it today. Sometimes things don't turn out right afterwards. I knew Paret as a tough fellow."
In the first fight between Griffith and Paret, last April in Miami Beach, Emile knocked Benny out in the 13th round, winning the title for the first time. Unlike the subsequent two bouts, it had a particularly appealing and gratifying ending. After Paret had taken the count, reclining moodily on his side as though he were a guest at a Roman dinner party, Griffith embraced the startled referee and turned exuberant somersaults. His mother, a hefty, emotional woman whom Emile kids behind her broad back by calling her Chubby Checker, danced intently about the ring. He is as ingenuous as a child; Co-manager Howard Albert has to take the chewing gum out of his mouth when he falls asleep, turn off the television and radio.
The conclusion of the second fight last September demonstrated the other half of the child-man that is Emile Griffith, 23 years of age. Although Managers Gil Clancy and Howard Albert ranted and fumed about the decision, Griffith took the bad news commendably. He went over to shake Benny's hand while Paret was sitting on his handlers' shoulders, and walked briskly, nifty as ever, to his dressing room, head high. What perturbed him most was that he had let his fans down and that so many had booed him. "As long as I can move these two hands," he said then, "I'll make them like me."
In his dressing room Griffith said to Manager Albert: " Howie, you know we win it. I know I win it. Come on, let's zoom out of here." And to Mrs. Griffith: "Ah, take it easy, Mommy. Don't make me feel like a heel." He looked at two little boys, twins, who had come to visit him and who were waiting politely on the bench beside the dressing room door. "Gentlemen, let's go," Griffith said. "Twins, lead the way!"
Before his September loss, Griffith was simply and keenly delighted to be champion. "I'm so glad I'm champion of the world," he said. "I can give Chubby Checker what my father couldn't give her." Emile's father died several years ago, and Emile has had to support his mother and seven younger brothers and sisters, whom, as the money earned in fights over five years came in, he brought one after another to New York from his native Virgin Islands. Emile recently bought a house for "his" family (his mother gave him a flashy bracelet in return), where, for the first time in his life, he had a room of his own. "My own room!" he exulted. "Boy, am I happy. But I bet my brother Guillermo—he's my favorite, he's 11—will sleep with me. He kisses me on the cheek when he thinks I'm sleeping, to make up for the bad things he does during the day. He's so funny."
Emile, whom his mother calls Junior (he calls himself Little Griff), was a bad boy in his day, too. When he was seven, Mrs. Griffith, who didn't think him very funny, tied him to the bedpost with her stockings so he couldn't swim out to dive for pennies, when the cruise ships came to St. Thomas. Emile speaks respectfully of her "heavy hand" and a miniature baseball bat she wielded "on the soft parts" when he fought with one of his brothers. In more considered moments, he is determined to send this brother through law school.
Emile has great style with children, who loyally and delightedly follow him about. He also calls himself The Pied Piper. One small fan, Alvin Senter, holds up signs reading " Emile Griffith for President" at his fights. "Senter's too bold at times," says Griffith. Another small, but slightly older, fan, a pretty singer named Ce'Vara, whom Emile fell shyly in love with when they did jigsaw puzzles together at his training camp, has an even higher opinion of Griffith. She has given him a picture of herself. It is inscribed: "1. God. 2. Earth. 3. Emile." "Did you ever meet anyone with size 2 shoes?" asks Emile, astonished.
Griffith's co-manager, Howard Albert, is a successful milliner and Griffith has, on occasion, designed hats for him. His most notable creation was a number decorated with 13 roses. "We had a whole season on it!" Howard says, proudly. Now Griffith works in the hat factory as a kind of foreman and troubleshooter.