Originally published in Nude Bruce Review, Issue 11, April 2021
He was quite rich, but the big thing
he was rich in how
he treated people, rich in humanity.
His spacious apartment
was bright with white sofas, chairs,
lamps and a white carpet, bright
and nuanced with shadows
that sunny Sunday afternoon.
I thought, This is how rich people live,
this is what it’s like.
Also I thought
Whatever you do, don’t mention the fight.
Yet, around one corner, on a wall
hung his championship belt from that fight
that resulted in another boxer’s death.
Don’t mention the fight. One moment
he got up from a chair. As he
walked by, I got up and said, Junior,
the name he went by, please
oblige me. For twenty seconds
I sparred with the great Emile Griffith.
He smiled, Don’t go into boxing.
That was my moment of fame,
feigning punches with this man whose
life was boxing, a man I knew
well enough to be
in his aesthetically pleasing digs
in a high rise
not far from the Lincoln Tunnel,
on the Jersey side of the Hudson.
In his early teens
he didn’t want to box, but his handlers
knew how good he was.
Someone said he liked to be liked.
He liked to treat people well, for others
to treat him well, he liked giving
to his friends. He was, outside the ring,
easy going, gentle, and he liked
to laugh, and dance, and party.
He was gay. After the tragedy people
said he was fueled by anger because
Paret taunted him about being gay.
Paret’s death was an accident.
It had nothing to do with revenge.
Griffith was only doing what
he’d trained to do.
Don’t bring up the fight.
He never talked about it till they filmed
Ring of Fire. And he wept.
All those years it was eating him up
he’d taken a human life,
this kind and immensely talented man
who eventually lost the spacious digs,
the car and the friends.
Written by Peter G. Mladinic, Hobbs, New Mexico, U.S.
Feature photo by Jack Ward