July 25, 2013
Inside the smaller theater at Madison Square Garden about five years ago, shortly before a world title fight, Emile Griffith was introduced one more time to the crowd. He rose shakily from his seat, waved ever so briefly and then sat down.
The applause kept going.
Revered in retirement perhaps more than during his fighting days, Griffith died Tuesday at 75 after a long battle with pugilistic dementia. The first fighter to be crowned world champion from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Griffith required full-time care late in life and died at an extended care facility in Hempstead, N.Y.
"Emile was a gifted athlete and truly a great boxer," Hall of Fame director Ed Brophy said. "Outside the ring he was as great a gentleman as he was a fighter."
An elegant fighter with a quick jab, Griffith's brilliant career was overshadowed by the fatal beating he gave Benny "The Kid" Paret in a 1962 title bout. The outcome darkened the world of boxing, even prompting some network television stations to stop showing live fights.
It also cast him as a pariah to many inside and outside the sport.
He went on to have a successful career after that fatal fight, but Griffith acknowledged later in life that he was never the same boxer. He would fight merely to win, piling up the kind of decisions that are praised by purists but usually jeered by fans hoping for a knockout.
Griffith often attended fights in his later years, especially at the Garden, where he headlined 28 times. He was also a frequent visitor to the boxing clubs around New York City, and made the pilgrimage most years to the sport's Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.
"He always had time for boxing fans when visiting the hall on an annual basis," Brophy said, "and was one of the most popular boxers to return year after year."
That outpouring of love that he received late in life stood in stark contrast to the way he was received after March 24, 1962, when he fought Paret before a national TV audience at the Garden. Griffith knocked out his bitter rival in the 12th round to regain his own welterweight title, and Paret went into a coma and died from his injuries 10 days later.
Sports Illustrated reported in 2005 that Griffith may have been fueled by an anti-gay slur directed at him by Paret during the weigh-in. Over the years, in books and interviews, Griffith described himself at various times as straight, gay and bisexual.
"People spit at me in the street," Griffith told The Associated Press in 1993, recalling the days after Paret's death. "We stayed in a hotel. Every time there was a knock on the door, I would run into the next room. I was so scared."
The Paret fight left a cloud over the sport for many years. NBC halted its live boxing broadcasts, and then-New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller created a commission to investigate the bout and the sport. The referee that night, Ruby Goldstein, never worked another fight.
The fight became the basis for the 2005 documentary "Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story." One of the final scenes shows Griffith embracing Paret's son.
"I was never the same fighter after that. After that fight, I did enough to win. I would use my jab all the time. I never wanted to hurt the other guy," Griffith said. "I would have quit, but I didn't know how to do anything else but fight."
And fight he could.
Known for his overwhelming speed and slick style — certainly not his punching power — Griffith was a prodigy from the moment he stepped in Hall of Fame trainer Gil Clancy's gym in Queens, N.Y. Griffith had been working in a hat factory when, as the story goes, he took off his shirt on a hot day and the factory owner noticed his muscles.
Under the watchful eye of Clancy, Griffith blossomed into a New York Golden Gloves champion and eventually turned professional. He easily defeated the likes of Florentino Fernandez and Luis Rodriguez during an era when it was common to fight every couple of weeks.
He quickly earned a title shot against Paret in 1961, winning the welterweight belt with a knockout in the 13th round. Griffith would lose it to Paret in a rematch five months later.
After winning back the title during their controversial third fight — many believe Paret never should have been allowed in the ring after a brutal loss to Gene Fullmer three months earlier — Griffith would eventually move up to middleweight. He knocked down Dick Tiger for the first time in his career and claimed the title with a narrow but unanimous decision.
Griffith would go on to lose twice during a thrilling trilogy with Nino Benvenuti, his lone victory coming at Shea Stadium in 1967, and lost two bouts against the great middleweight Carlos Monzon. Griffith would finally retire in 1977 after losing his last three fights.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 with a record of 85-24-2 and 23 knockouts.
Griffith would go on to train several champions over the years, including Wilfred Benitez and Juan Laporte, among the most popular boxers in Puerto Rican history.
His humor and generosity buoyed those close to him as his health deteriorated in later years. He would regale fans young and old with tales of his fights, even though details often became hazy, the result of the many blows during his career.
Griffith had four sisters — Eleanor, Gloria, Karen and Joyce — and three brothers — Franklin, Guillermo and Tony. He is also survived by his adopted son, Luis Griffith.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
"Emile was courageous in and out of the ring, a true champion and a legendary figure that fought an amazing 28 times at Madison Square Garden," said Joel Fisher, executive vice president of MSG Sports. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."
By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
The exploits of sprinters Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the London 2012 Summer Olympics helped to ensure that the yellow, green and black flag of the small Caribbean island of a mere 2.8 million flew high and proud, as the Jamaican team ran away with most of the key sprint prizes, including the coveted 4×100 sprint relay.
The Jamaicans had signaled their intention to the world that they would soon control all the important sprint events at international meetings in Beijing four years earlier, but in the past week, a series of doping scandals involving some of its top athletes have cast a long dark shadow over the national development program, which has produced superstars the likes of Bolt and Fraser-Pryce.
Top sprinters Asafa Powell who did not medal in London and Sherone Simpson who picked up a silver medal were both recently busted for allegedly using banned substances following tests of samples supplied to the world athletic body recently. Jamaican first won an Olympic medal way back in 1948.
Both have explained that they were given the ‘medicine’ by trainers and assistants even though they were well aware that the World Anti-Doping Agency has been keeping a special eye out for Jamaican runners given the fact their phenomenal performances across the globe have dwarfed that of traditional rivals, the U.S. to an embarrassing extent.
The incidents, coming on the backs of previous doping scandals involving Blake, Fraser-Pryce and other Jamaicans have not only embarrassed the island’s national program and the cabinet but will also now force critics and Jamaican bashers to question the integrity of some of the super performances team members have displayed at recent world events.
Police in Italy, where Powell has been training and preparing for the 2013 international season, said they raided both his hotel room and that of his Canadian trainer, Chris Xuereb, and carted away suspicious containers of medicines and supplements.
In the meantime, American sprinter Tyson Gay, the second fastest man in the history of short sprinting, was also ousted after testing positive for banned substances and, like the others, faces an extended ban that could effectively end his career and future Olympic chances.
As an indication of the pain, hurt and embarrassment Powell’s positive test has caused, his parents say that no one else on the planet is more flummoxed than they are because they have repeatedly told him to be vigilant and not to eat or drink anything that could harm his career. Both Gay and Powell have withdrawn from meets for the remainder of the season even before they are officially banned.
“Safa is not a fool,” the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper quoted his mother as saying this week. “He tries not to hurt us. I always say to him not to even trust yourself. Don’t take anything from anybody, don’t eat from anyone.
“Somebody must be responsible for giving him that. The person who gave it him must know that it is a banned substance,” a distraught Cislyn Powell said.
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
Titans linebacker Jonathan ''Tig'' Willard says he helped rescue a family from a burning vehicle on his way to Tennessee training camp.
The rookie was driving on Interstate 40 Tuesday near Oak Ridge when he noticed a sports utility vehicle smoking. He first told TigerNet.com that he flashed his lights and honked his horn to get the driver to pull over when he saw flames shoot out the back.
''As soon as I got to the car, I saw three small kids in the back seat and a dog,'' Willard said Wednesday at the Titans' headquarters. ''So for me, I'm thinking, 'Hurry up and get the kids. Hurry up and get everybody out and get them away from the car.' You could see probably up under the engine, all that was still on fire. So I'm thinking that the car might go up anytime.''
Willard said he handed an infant to the woman before pulling out another child. A second man who had stopped rescued a third child and the family's dog, and they were able to grab the woman's purse and a couple bags before the SUV exploded into flames a couple minutes later. He stayed long enough for firefighters to arrive and put out the fire.
''A lot of people passed by and didn't help, so she was just wanting to thank us and show us how thankful she was for us helping get the kids out and kind of grab some of the stuff,'' Willard said.
A Tennessee Highway Patrol report shows the SUV of Cheri Hubbard of South Daytona, Fla., caught fire and burned Tuesday afternoon near mile marker 340. The investigating trooper told Dalya Qualls, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, that the witnesses already had left before he arrived and that Hubbard did not get the names of the men who helped her.
Hubbard did not immediately return a voicemail left on her cellphone by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Willard certainly knows how to impress his new teammates. Clemson's leader in tackles last season, Willard is an undrafted free agent with Tennessee and was driving from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to report for training camp when he spotted the smoking vehicle.
Coach Mike Munchak said he had been looking forward to hearing Willard's version of the story.
''He got involved in something that could have been bad,'' Munchak said.
Cornerback Jason McCourty said it speaks highly of Willard to see something like that and put himself on the line to help save a family.
''That's pretty impressive that he was able to do that and still show up to camp on time,'' McCourty said.
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Kevin Durant shied away from swarming media after this week’s Team USA practice in UNLV's Mendenhall Center.
There is one thing he won't be able to escape.
"Kevin Durant is the face of USA basketball going forward," said Jerry Colangelo, managing director for the national team. "He loves to compete, he has a passion for the game, he's won a lot of gold medals, he's just going to win more - we hope."
Oklahoma City forward Durant and Minnesota Timberwolves center Kevin Love announced Wednesday they've committed to Team USA for next summer's 2014 World Cup in Spain. Durant said he made the commitment to Krzyzewski late Tuesday night, while Love officially made his announcement during the news conference.
"It's an opportunity to represent my country ... and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to playing against the best in the world and playing with the best in the world," said Durant, who set a record for most points scored in an Olympic basketball tournament with 156 at London.
The two NBA stars made the announcement in an impromptu news conference after Wednesday's practice, alongside Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"The fact (Durant has) committed as early as he has is a statement," Colangelo said. "We think there will be a few others that will come along, along with Kevin Love, who is a big part of our program. So we're excited about the early announcement."
Colangelo and Love both mentioned Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston shooting guard James Harden as potential targets for the 2014 team, while Love added Chicago Bulls star point guard Derrick Rose's name to the mix.
"Hopefully this will have a snowball effect to where other guys will then commit from previous years, guys who have experience with FIBA basketball," Love said.
And while Colangelo and Krzyzewski were excited about both players' return - and as the Team USA coaching staff remains in scouting mode - the 28 minicamp participants know this week has been nothing short of a tryout for next summer's squad.
"This is definitely an audition," Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. "Everybody is taking it seriously, it's really competitive and it's intense. That's the thing I love about it. You're learning from Hall of Fame coaches, there's everybody here who's everybody. The young talent in the league here is great, and it's going to help us improve for next year."
Added New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday: "This is a really good opportunity. You want to prove you can play on this team, but at the same time you want to have fun, you want to get better, become a better teammate and better player."
The minicamp concludes Thursday night with the USA Basketball Showcase, an intrasquad game at the Thomas and Mack Center. Krzyzewski said after running the players hard over the first two days, he treated this week like the day before a medals-round game so they wouldn't be burnt out Thursday.
"I think they'll be fresh, excited and it'll be an exciting game," Krzyzewski said. "We're not making any announcement right after this ... so we get a chance to watch these guys during at least half of the NBA season. I'm sure somewhere in January, or somewhere along the line, a pool will be announced.
"This week was huge for Kevin Durant and Kevin Love to announce their commitment going forward. The more we learn about who we might have helps us in making decisions about who we need to add."
July 18, 2013
By Kenneth Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
The start of the high school basketball season doesn’t tip off till four months from now, but gauntlet has already been dropped by Serra High School of Gardena, which recently defeated Mater Dei.
Although rules prohibit him from being on the sideline with his team, veteran coach Dwan Hurt has observed closely and he adores what he has seen so far.
Led by seniors Tavrion Dawson and Ron Freeman, the back-to-back CIF-SS champions have served notice of what is to come this fall by winning the prestigious St. John Bosco tournament.
Dawson, a growing 6’8 lefty has drawn scholarship offers from Tim Floyd’s University of Texas El Paso, Arizona State, Pepperdine, New Mexico, LMU, and Missouri.
Freeman, the most improved and talked about prospect on the summer circuit has been a beast. The 6’5 wing leaps out of the gym and is deadly from downtown.
He already has offers from UTEP, Northern Arizona and Utah State among others.
Rumors of the Cavs demise because of transfers of their starting backcourt Ellis Salahuddin and Ajon Efferson are greatly exaggerated.
“I think we are going to be just fine,” said Hurt who has been the head coach for the past 24 seasons. My philosophy is simple you coach the players that you have to become the best student/athletes possible and I believe that we’ve done a good job of that.”
Hurt entered Serra as a Freshman in the fall of l977 and graduated with the Championship Class of 1981 before he went onto Gonzaga University on a Basketball Scholarship.
He was instrumental in the career of teammate John Stockton, who went on to NBA Hall of Fame.
After being graduated from Gonzaga, he returned to Serra in 1986 as an assistant Basketball Coach and teacher.
Today he is also a Dean and the standard by which greatness is measured.
When the official basketball season begins in November he will be just eight wins shy of his landmark 500 victories.
Hurt has led the Cavs to 7 CIF-SS division titles, 2 Southern California Regional crowns, and 2 state titles and has placed more than 50 players at Division I colleges, three have gone on to play in the NBA.
“I am a coach who coaches to the talent that I have and our defense dictates our offense,” said Hurt.
He has coached twice in the Collision All Star Games and in 2012 was the recipient of the Jim Harrick Lifetime Achievement Award.
His record 492-174 has earned him the respect of his peers and college coaches throughout the country.
He was named to coach at the Nike Global Summit in Washington D.C. this week where he will coach the United States West squad that will feature Mater Dei’s Stanley Johnson and St. John Bosco’s Daniel Hamilton.
“It’s always a privilege to coach outstanding athletes and especially against players from all over the world,” he told the Sentinel.
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