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THE SHADOW BOXER
GARY SMITH
April 18, 2005
Emile Griffith beat Benny (Kid) Paret to death in the ring after Paret called him queer. That was 43 years ago. He's still struggling to come to grips with it. So are we.
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April 18, 2005

The Shadow Boxer

Emile Griffith beat Benny (Kid) Paret to death in the ring after Paret called him queer. That was 43 years ago. He's still struggling to come to grips with it. So are we.

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It was silent in the backseat of the car. The old boxer had just left the gay bar outside of which a gang of men had beaten him to the edge of death on a summer night 13 years ago. He couldn't remember how or why it happened. He had given up trying. ¶ The traffic light on Eighth Avenue turned red. His head turned toward the passenger window. ¶ "Look!" he cried. "There I am!" ¶ There he was, five-time world champion Emile Griffith, 12 inches from his nose, on a poster plastered across the side of a bus that had just stopped beside his window. ¶ He stared at himself. It was him, wrapped in anguish and shadows, on a spring night 43 years ago when he beat a man who had called him a maricón--a faggot--to the edge of death ... then beyond it.

"I don't have any clothes on!" he cried.

"No, Champ, you've got your black boxing shorts on," assured his adopted son.

"But you can't see any shorts!"

"That's because you're in shadows."

"No! I'm naked!"

"But you used to be naked in the locker room."

"But ... but I should have clothes on!"

The bus belched exhaust and pulled away. The old boxer kept staring out the window, but there was only smoke.

******

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