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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, April 20, 2005 - 10:52 pm:   

USA aired a documentary last night without commercial interruptions called Ring Of Fire, concerning Emille Griffith and Benny "Kid" Paret, two welterweight champions who fought in the 60's, a fight that resulted in the death of Paret. It was co-produced by Jack Newfield and is very affecting. The death was blamed mostly on Griffith, who is gay and was. at the time, a designer of women's hats--Paret called him a faggot immediately prior to the fight and Griffith purportedly set out to kill him. The blame actually belonged to the referee, who was slow to move, and to Paret's manager, who had seen his fighter take terrible beating in his previous five fights, and was forced to fight Griffith a mere three months afrer receiving a savage beating and KO loss to Gene Fullmer. Paret did not feel well on the day of the fight and tried to withdraw, but was coerced into going on.

It's an important social document, getting at the soul of a time when three gay men, as Jimmy Breslin says, walking down a street could be arrested for parading without a permit and lived in a state of shame. I remember seeing the fight when I was a kid--Paret was a favorite of mine--and how it affected me for years when I was fighting in the amateurs. One of the things sports tend to do is create events and figures that crystallize a moment in time, that give its human dimension visbility. The Griffith-Paret fight was such a fight, and Emille himself, visible through the lens of this film, is such a figure.
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Nels
Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 01:36 am:   

Thanks for bringing this up Lucius. Any idea if the doc's going out on DVD?

From your addendum about Fullmer and the ref I take it it wasn't as even-handed as it could (should?) have been? I'd still love to catch it, though.

Growing up, this fight cast a big shadow over me; Not only because of the tragic outcome, but because it challenged some preconceived notions I had about male sexuality that I kind of had handed down to me (thanks, Dad!).

Then, when I was an amateur, Gerald Mclellan fought Nigel Benn. I wonder who will look back in twenty-five years on that one.

All the best,

Nels.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 04:48 am:   

Nels, it will have a DVD, hopefullly sooner and later, and I seriously recommend it. It''s just a wonderful piece of work and, among other things, an excellent character study of Griffith, who's a very sympathetic character.

I think the Fullmer fight and Alfaro, the manager, were the real villains. Fullmer gave Paret a vicious beating and said of the fight, I won the damn fight and it took me six months before I fought again. As stated, they had Paret in against Griffith three months later. Ruby Goldstein the ref was horribly slow, Parets head was rolling loosely on his neck for long seconds before the stoppage. I've seen the fight several times. It's one-sided, exept in the sixth round, I believe, toward the end of the round, he caught Griffifth with a perfect hook and nearly KOed him. After that it was close, until the 12th, when Gil Clancy told Griffith to put Paret in a corner...

I saw Benn-Davenport. Waldemar Schimdt was the ref, I believe, who allowed Benn to punch repeatedly to the back of the head...though I'm not sure of that. But whoever it was, I hold the ref responsible. Really tragic. Davenport, as you probably know, is blind and is so brain damaged he denies the fact, claims he can see. I've seen three men apart from Paret die in the ring -- Mancini-Kim, the skinny irish guy killed by Lupe Pintor (i'm blanking), and Jimmy Garcia who was killed by Gabe Ruelas. Three could have been avoided. by having a competent ref.
I never watched any of them again, except for the Griffith fight. They replayed it endlessly immediately after the event, howling all the while for banning the sport. But it's really not the beatdown that those others were...and it has a weight, as mentioned, the others do not. A historicity. Anyway, yeah, you need to see this movie....

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Dave G.
Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 06:57 am:   

I think you refer to Johnny Owen, who was killed by Lupe Pintor, am I right?

What shocked me about the film was not how slow Goldstein was, although he could have stopped the final flurry a couple of seconds sooner, but the refereeing in the Fullmer fight. In the clip they showed, Fullmer laid on a beating of almost merciless brutality and, after the subsequent knockdown, the ref simply watches Paret rise and immediately waves Fullmer in, with no attempt to examine Paret or determine his condition. This clip really blew my mind. To an extent, Goldstein had to pay for his predecessor's incompetence.

All in all, a very good doc with a very moving conclusion. The forgotten victim in the whole mess was Lucy Paret, who was left with no husband, no father for her son, no money and the hostility of in-laws who should have been her support and comfort. She didn't even get the solace of reconciling with Emile. That woman's life must be hell. Anyone catch the fact that she hadn't visited her husband's grave for 43 years? That's what I call trauma...
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 09:01 am:   

Yeah, Johnny Owen. They didn't have a mandatory 8 count in those days, so your critique of the ref isn't altogether justified...but it was a bad job.
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Dave G.
Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 09:42 am:   

Even if today's ref's examination of a fighter usually takes place in the context of a mandatory standing eight count, was it completely unheard of for a ref pre-standing eight to look into a guy's eyes, ask him to take a step or two, or ask him where he was or if he was OK to determine his condition before giving the signal to resume action?

I am not an historian, but I had assumed that these techniques evolved out of traditional "best practices" and weren't stipulated as part of any formal rule change that brought in the standing eight.

Can you bring any historical perspective to bear on the evolution of current ref techniques?

At any rate, Paret was clearly a mess when he rose from that Fullmer knockdown. I think 8 of 10 refs would have halted it at that point if the fight took place today.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, April 21, 2005 - 10:47 am:   

Oh yeah, definitely, I said it was a bad job, but still it should be noted that there was no mandatory 8.

Frankly I think boxing refs are generally substandard -- this has been brought home to me after watching MMA refs, who are generally superb. Not one death has occurred in MMA, despite it being a far more vicious competition. Of course this has a great deal to do with their athletes being in shape, but the reffing is very good
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JV
Posted on Friday, April 22, 2005 - 08:11 am:   

I saw the documentary. Was just flipping channels and caught it. Even my wife watched it, and she hates boxing. I thought it was great, although I kind of rolled my eyes at the possible forced meeting between him and the son of the guy he killed. But even that somehow worked.

What a sad, complex story.

JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, April 22, 2005 - 08:29 am:   

Jeff, that meeting was something Griffith and the kid really wanted--it wasn't part of the plan, it just came up during the filming and they put it in. Griffith was afraid of Paret Jr; he kept asking throughout if he hated him, and when assured that wasn't the case, when told that Paret wanted to see him, he still had some trepidation, but he did want it--he needed it.

It's an important story. I hope it gets noticed.

One sidebar, did you or anyone notice the kind of shape Griffith was in? He looked like he had 2 percent bodyfat. Amazing, the way boxers used to keep themselves.

Anyway, Margarito-Cintron this weekend. Should be good.
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JV
Posted on Saturday, April 23, 2005 - 06:53 am:   

That makes it even better, then. And, yeah, it was amazing the shape Griffith was in.

And I'm looking forward to Margarito-Cintron, big-time.

JeffV
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, April 23, 2005 - 07:55 am:   

Too bad the one fight got cancelled. But still an interesting card with a potentially great main event.

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