SI Vault
 
SPIRITUALLY SET FOR A NEW GO
Gilbert Rogin
September 25, 1967
Middleweight Champion Nino Benvenuti has his Beethoven, Challenger Emile Griffith his apples-peaches-pumpkin-pie mother. In a close matchup, the heavier Italian should win
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 25, 1967

Spiritually Set For A New Go

Middleweight Champion Nino Benvenuti has his Beethoven, Challenger Emile Griffith his apples-peaches-pumpkin-pie mother. In a close matchup, the heavier Italian should win

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

Griffith gets his uplift by watching the cartoons on TV, playing gin rummy, going to Monticello Raceway and frugging in front of the juke box in the Concord's Nite Owl Lounge. "I'm not used to isolation," he says. "The way I go is ridiculous."

But the major spiritual experience of Griffith's stay at the Concord was the foot race (frontward) between Clancy and Mr. Forbes of Forbes Industries. Mr. Forbes is more widely known as Griffith's cousin Bernard, the character who intemperately leads the cheering section when Griffith fights in the Garden. The transformation of Bernard into Mr. Forbes of Forbes Industries, a wealthy eccentric—in fact, the black Howard Hughes—whose hobby is prize-fighting, was Clancy's doing. Now, whenever Bernard, smelling very sweet from after-shave, strolls into the Nite Owl, the bartenders sing out: "Long-distance telephone call for Mr. Forbes. Phoenix calling, Mr. Forbes. Your call from Detroit, Mr. Forbes." Clancy has inquired of a number of the guests whether they happened to recall the article in LIFE on Mr. Forbes. "I remember it," one old lady told Clancy. "You know, he's made millions."

"I believe it myself," Bernard says. "Everybody looking at me. I'm scared to walk around."

Griffith was the starter for the Clancy-Mr. Forbes race, which took place in the Concord's indoor tennis courts.

"On your mark," he said.

"Hold everything," Bernard said. "Suppose he beats me."

Which Clancy did, and Forbes Industries went down 10 points.

Spiritually, then, Griffith and Benvenuti seem to be equally well prepared, although Griffith might be more determined. Physically, he is possibly stronger, but his true fighting weight is 152, no matter what he weighs in at, while Benvenuti is a proper middleweight, and the eight-pound drag has got to tell. Benvenuti is the more various fighter; Griffith may be a harder hitter but he has not been knocking anyone out lately. Dreamwise, they look pretty even. During the past few weeks Griffith has had a recurrent dream in which he is fighting Benvenuti, cutting him up so severely that his face is streaming with blood. The bell rings—but concluding what round?—and Benvenuti turns his back, presumably heading for his corner. "I always wake up then," Griffith says. "I sit up in bed, and I'm in a cold sweat. I'm dripping wet." For his part, Benvenuti says he has often dreamed of seeing himself and Griffith separately in a great crowd, perhaps on a street. "I observe both our faces," he says. "Griffith has a sad expression. Myself, I am looking happy."

The odds for the first fight were 13 to 5 Griffith; they are now 6 to 5 pick 'em, which may well be a reflection of the wagering, but having beaten Griffith once Benvenuti should logically be a slight favorite. So, at the price Benvenuti is the pick. Of course, as apples-peaches-pumpkin pie Chubby Checker mother says, "No Griffith ever lost twice," and there is the indelible memory of Benvenuti doing the dipsy-doo along the ropes in the fourth. But he got up. And there is the Ninth.

1 2 3