Barbara Buttrick’s Scrapbook: Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret
By: Ron Scarfone
Barbara Buttrick is currently the Women’s International Boxing Federation (WIBF) President. Buttrick formed the WIBF in 1993 and it is the oldest sanctioning body for women’s boxing that is still in existence. Buttrick was known as “The Mighty Atom of the Ring” during her boxing career. Buttrick was the first world champion of women’s boxing. Buttrick was a flyweight and bantamweight world champion. Buttrick’s prime as a boxer was in the 1940s and 1950s. Buttrick ended her boxing career in 1960 with a record of 30-1-1. Buttrick is considered to be one of the pioneers of women’s boxing as a boxer and as the founder of a sanctioning body solely for women’s boxing which began in the early 1990s. It would be more than a decade after the WIBF was founded before any of the major sanctioning bodies began sanctioning world title fights for women. Buttrick has met many people in the boxing business: boxers, managers, trainers, promoters, etc. Buttrick has photos of her with some of the people that she has met. These are photos that have not been seen by the general public, but they will be revealed starting with this photo of Emile Griffith and Benny “Kid” Paret. Standing between them is Barbara Buttrick.
Buttrick told me that this photo was taken before the first Griffith vs. Paret fight. Paret (right side of the photo) was the reigning world welterweight champion. Griffith (left side) was the challenger. The fight was at the Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida. The fight occurred on April 1, 1961. Griffith won by knockout in the 13th round. 15 rounds was the duration of world title fights in the 1960s. There was an immediate rematch a few months later. Paret defeated Griffith by split decision to regain the title. This rivalry was a trilogy and their third fight was on March 24, 1962. At the weigh-in, Paret called Griffith a “maricón” which means “faggot” in Spanish. Griffith was a homosexual, but he did not publicly admit that he was until 2008. The bout was scheduled for 15 rounds, but it ended in 12. Griffith pummeled Paret in one of the ring corners. After many consecutive blows to the head, the referee finally stopped the fight. However, it was too late. Paret slumped unconsciously to the canvas with his descent only slowed because one of the ropes was under his armpit. The official time of stoppage was 2:09 and Griffith won by TKO. Griffith became the world welterweight champion again. Paret was in a coma for ten days and died as a result of his injuries. This bout was on national television and there were people who were outraged and wanted boxing to be banned after seeing this fight.
Paret fought often in his career and usually against good competition which is something that is rarely seen today. After Paret won by split decision in the second fight against Griffith, Paret moved up in weight to challenge world middleweight champion Gene Fullmer. Paret’s fight against Fullmer was only about three months after his split decision win against Griffith. It was too much and too soon for Paret. Paret was knocked down three times in the tenth round and Fullmer won by knockout. Paret had chronic headaches as a result of that fight, but the third fight between Paret and Griffith was still scheduled. Paret went back to welterweight to defend his title, but he was not the same boxer who beat Griffith about six months before. Neither was Griffith who was more motivated than ever after hearing Paret taunt him about his homosexuality.
Before their first fight, Paret and Griffith faced off and Buttrick was there.