"If it's not his ankle, it's his knee. If it's not his knee, it's his back," says Clancy. "Mainly it's his head. It's psychosomatic."
As far back as 1960, before the 23rd bout of his 58-bout career and two fights before he kayoed Paret for the title the first time, Griffith complained to Albert that he had torn his Achilles' tendon. "The fight went on as scheduled," says Clancy, "and I literally, I mean literally, carried him into the ring. All he did was knock out Willie Toweel in the eighth round."
In the ring, far from quitting, Griffith punches hardest and fastest after he has been hit and hurt. If he is hurt, he never confesses it between rounds. "It's like a business conference in the corner," says Clancy. As one friend explains him, Griffith wears his emotions as close to his skin as the swollen-bellied Buddha of gold-and-green jade that hangs around his neck. Beneath the skin is a muscled body that appears to have been sculptured from ebony. He has a 17-inch neck, 44-inch shoulders, a 42�-inch chest that tapers down to a 26-inch waist, tiny hands and small feet.
If Emile Griffith seems flighty or flouncy to outsiders, he is a bedrock of solidity for a fatherless family—a family that plagues him and bleeds him with demands that would crush almost any other man. They call him Junior, Sonny, Uncle and Poppy, and he embodies all these relationships for his mother, three brothers, four sisters, five nieces, in-laws and "loving cousins." for whom he is the sole support. At one time he has fed, clothed, housed and educated as many as 17 people while trying to create an identity of his own.
In addition, he is the godfather to several children who he estimates are not being given proper parental care in the rundown Chelsea section of Manhattan. It is there that the park department gym, at which he started and for sentiment's sake still trains, is located. The gym is run as an adjunct to the public baths, and Griffith himself functions as another public service to the neighborhood. Between fights, when he is not at his Weehawken pad watching TV or playing violent poker games with a few close friends, Griffith usually can be found playing handball, Softball or basketball in the outdoor playground across from the gym. He is the manager of two Little League teams, for which he supplies uniforms and equipment. He is a familiar face in the local candy stores, where he'll usually treat for an ice cream or soda. He is a kind of Pied Piper who keeps neighborhood kids from going on dope or to jail.
Recently he heard of a set of twins, a boy and girl 8 months old, who were being neglected by their white parents. Griffith knew the young couple were in difficulty and suggested he would watch out for the twins. He took them to the Hollis, N.Y. home where his family lives and had his mother care for them with her own children for four months. In early June the twins were returned to their parents. The next day Mrs. Griffith arrived at the slum apartment, picked up the children and took them back to live with her.
"She was lonely for the twins," said Griffith.
On that particular day, besides the twins, there were no fewer than 12 people and a large, loud German shepherd dog living in the 10�-room corner house Griffith bought for $40,000 in 1961.
Heading the clan is Emelda, the buxom mother, who is the wolf-howling cheerleader at all of her son's fights. She has a heart condition and at least twice has required medical attention at ringside. Gloria is the housekeeper, who cooks for the family. She came to visit for a weekend from the Bronx apartment Griffith had rented for her and is still there—with her five daughters. Griffith calls them "my babies."
Also still living at home are Joyce, 21; Antonio, 18; Guillermo, 15; and Karen, 13. Griffith's sister, Eleanor, 22, was married on July 25. "I got her an apartment in the Bronx, so she's gone," said Griffith. But if she's like the others, she'll be back. A cousin, Winston Wheatley, came from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands once for a weekend and stayed three years.