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5-time world boxing champ Emile Griffith dies at 75

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 10:00 AM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
Click through to see<a href='http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/world/obituaries-2013'> people who passed away</a> in 2013. Click through to see people who passed away in 2013.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Emile Griffith won welterweight and middleweight titles during his boxing career
  • Benny Paret died days after being pummeled in the ring by Griffith in 1962
  • Griffith was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990
  • "He was as great a gentleman as he was a fighter," the hall's director says

(CNN) -- Former world-class boxer Emile Griffith, who won five titles during the 1960s, died Tuesday just east of New York City, the International Boxing Hall of Fame announced.

He was 75.

Griffith died Tuesday morning at the Nassau Extended Care Facility in Hempstead, New York.

Former boxer Emile Griffith attends a show at The Apollo Theater in 2008 in New York City.
Former boxer Emile Griffith attends a show at The Apollo Theater in 2008 in New York City.

"Emile Griffith was a gifted athlete and a truly great boxer," Edward Brophy, the hall of fame's executive director, said. "Outside of the ring, he was as great a gentleman as he was a fighter."

Born in the Virgin Islands, Griffith was 19 when he moved to New York. His had his first big breakthrough -- a Golden Gloves title -- a few years later in 1957. He went pro the following year.

Griffith scored his first of three welterweight titles in 1961.

He made headlines the next year for his pummeling of Benny Paret after the latter had called him a maricon, a derogatory Spanish term for homosexual, according to Sports Illustrated and other news reports. Paret died of his injuries 10 days later.

A 2005 documentary, "Ring of Fire," recalled that bout and how it haunted Griffith for years. Yet he kept on fighting.

By the end of the 1960s -- a decade highlighted by his being named the Boxing Writers Association of America's Fighter of the Year in 1963 -- Griffith had won two middleweight championships in addition to his titles in lighter welterweight division.

He retired with a record of 85 wins (including 23 knockouts), 24 losses and two draws, according to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which inducted him into its ranks in 1990.

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