On March 24, 1962, Emile Griffith reclaimed the welterweight world championship from Benny "The Kid" Paret in fight broadcast live on ABC. In the twelfth round, with Paret reeling against the ropes, Griffith pummeled his opponent with seventeen punches in seven seconds before the referee finally stopped the fight. Paret never regained consciousness and died ten days later. In the documentary Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story the filmmakers dig behind the scenes, revealing that during the pre-fight weigh in Paret called Griffith a Spanish slang term for homosexual. In the '60s, no sportswriter was going to get that in a paper -- nor could one understand why it made Griffith so vengeful. Not until the 1980s, when Griffith was jumped by a gang and badly beaten after he walked out of a late-night gay bar did all the pieces fit together. The Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DaBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599 or www.mohistory.org) screens Ring of Fire tonight at 6:30 p.m. Jazzman Terence Blanchard, who is currently at work on an opera adaptation of Griffith's story titled Champion, hosts a discussion after the film. Champion is scheduled to debut at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis' this summer. Admission to the film and discussion is free.
Thu., Feb. 21, 2013