Don’t Blame Ruby: A Boxing Tragedy Revisited

By Mike Silver on July 30, 2012
Don’t Blame Ruby: A Boxing Tragedy Revisited
The best built piece of machinery can only stand so much abuse before breaking down.

Boxing history (and medical opinion) has shown that it is the damage sustained in a previous fight that often leads to a fatal outcome in a subsequent fight…

“If boxing is a sport it is the most tragic of all sports because more than any other human activity it consumes the very excellence it displays—its drama is this very consumption.”—Joyce Carol Oates

On March 23, 1962 Benny “Kid” Paret, the welterweight champion of the world, was beaten into a coma in the 12th round by former champion Emile Griffith at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Despite emergency brain surgery Paret never regained consciousness and died ten days later.

Boxers had been killed in the ring before (192 in the previous 16 years) but never in the modern history of the prize ring had a champion died defending his title. And never before had anyone ever been fatally injured in front of a nationwide television audience.  (Twenty months later Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy, would be the second person killed during a live nationwide broadcast). 

Estimates put the number of people who watched the Paret vs. Griffith fight at 14 million. The tragedy, being so public and involving a world champion, shook the boxing world to its very core. The memory of the fight and its brutal ending—unforgettable to those who witnessed it on television or in person—remains an iconic moment in the history of boxing.

There is an infamous side story to the fight that involves Paret’s insulting Griffith at the boxing commission’s weigh-in on the morning of the fight. Paret’s gay-baiting remark and boorish behavior was meant to unnerve Griffith and it worked. Griffith was furious and had to be restrained from starting the fight then and there. But that ugly incident is not relevant to the purpose of this article which is to set the record straight as to who was really responsible for Paret’s death and to determine if it could have been avoided.

Details of the fight resurfaced not too long ago in obituaries of Gil Clancy, the well-known trainer and co-manager of Emile Griffith. Most of the articles stated that Paret had died because the referee, Ruby Goldstein, waited too long to stop the fight. This explanation has been repeated so often over the years that most people just accept it at face value. But an examination of the facts leading up to the tragedy reveals a far more complex answer to the question of who bears responsibility for the tragedy.

The competence of boxing referees remains an ongoing problem in professional boxing. In no other sport can a wrong decision by an official have fatal consequences for the athlete. It is a very heavy responsibility. There have been a number of previous boxing fatalities that can be directly attributed to a referee acting too late to stop a fight—but this was not one of them.

The Facts

Benny “Kid” Paret won the undisputed welterweight title from Don Jordan in May 1960. His record was a respectable 32-7-3. Paret’s ascent to the title was done the old-fashioned way—he earned it. Six months earlier he upset the number one welterweight contender, Charley Scott, in two back-to-back 10-round bouts that were spaced less than six weeks apart. Both bouts were savage affairs with each fighter taking, and dishing out, heavy punishment. At the time Scott was one of the hardest punching welterweights in the world.

Just two months after his second row with Scott, Paret fought 12 hard rounds with third ranked Federico Thompson of Argentina. The fight, a title eliminator, ended in a draw.

Federico Thompson is all but forgotten today except by a few boxing purists who remember a very experienced and skilled boxer with knockout power in both fists.

Less than two months after his melee with Thompson, Paret defeated a washed up Don Jordan for the title via a 15-round unanimous decision. It was one of the few easy fights of his career.

The new champion would have been justified in taking a rest, but with Madison Square Garden having to fill its summer TV schedule Paret was back in the ring six weeks after winning the championship.

On July 12 he knocked out former contender Sugar Hart in the sixth round of a non-title fight. The following month he returned to the Garden to face fourth ranked Denny Moyer in yet another non-title fight. Paret appeared a bit overweight and fought without his usual fire or conviction and lost the 10-round decision.

Four months later, on December 10, 1960, Paret closed out a very busy year by fighting a return bout with Thompson in defense of his title. The champion absorbed some powerful punches but youth was on his side and he was able to outhustle the hard punching Argentinean over 15 rounds and win a unanimous decision.

Barely ten weeks after that tough bout, Paret fought perennial contender Gaspar Ortega in a non-title 10-rounder. This fight was the first overt clue that Paret’s unrelenting schedule and his give and take style of fighting was wearing him down. He looked uncharacteristically sluggish and lacked the energy and focus of previous fights. Paret lost a unanimous decision.

To most fans it appeared that Paret was not trying hard enough against Ortega or perhaps he just had an off night. But in truth he was already a shopworn fighter physically and mentally in need of a respite from boxing and training. Yet only five weeks after his bout with Ortega he put his title on the line against top ranked contender Emile Griffith. 

If Paret had been a less durable fighter his recent poor showings might have been cause for some concern. But throughout his career the tough Cuban expatriate had exhibited a remarkable resiliency and the ability to absorb punches that would have wrecked many other boxers. This was particularly evident in his punishing fights with Scott and Thompson.

It was hard to envision Paret on the canvas. But that is exactly where he landed on April 1, 1961, the day he faced Emile Griffith for the first time. The resiliency that was this iron man’s stock in trade suddenly evaporated at one minute and eleven seconds into the 13th round. 

Paret will never make an all-time great list, but in his day he was a decent enough fighter and a step above the tough club fighter he was just a few years earlier. His movements were quick and rhythmic. At his best he was a very strong and durable unrelenting pressure fighter who preferred infighting over long range boxing. If he were active today he could easily steam roll the competition.

Even though he was beginning to show the effects of his punishing ring career Paret was no pushover and more than a match for Emile. He was the busier puncher and was outscoring Griffith in close quarter infighting. At the end of 12 rounds Paret had a slight lead on all the scorecards.

What happened next was totally unexpected. In the middle of the 13th round Griffith suddenly landed a three-punch combination capped off by a solid right cross to the chin. The knockdown took everyone by surprise, including Griffith. Paret stumbled back a few steps after being hit and then sprawled to the floor. He landed on his side with his body propped up by an elbow, in a position similar to that of a reclining beachgoer gazing absentmindedly at the surf.

But Paret’s glassy eyed empty stare indicated a fighter who was completely unaware of his surroundings. Even after being counted out he did not move or attempt to rise. It took several minutes before the woozy fighter was able to leave the ring.

To this observer, watching the televised broadcast of the fight, there was something unnatural and disturbing in the way Paret took the count. I have seen countless knockouts since then and have yet to witness anything resembling that knockdown.  His body just seemed to suddenly quit on him, as if it had reached the end of its limit and just could not go on anymore.

The Breaking Point

What had happened to the iron man? He’d taken worse punishment from harder punchers in other fights and had not faltered. The answer was that Paret’s ability to “take it” had finally been compromised. The Kid had fought too many tough fights in too short a span of time. The iron man had stretched his remarkable physical resources to the breaking point. When those three punches caromed off his head, the champion’s neuromuscular physiology went into lockdown. The connection between Paret’s consciousness and his indomitable fighting spirit had been temporarily short-circuited.

Beginning of the End

Benny “Kid” Paret was a magnificent physical specimen. Even his sinewy muscles seemed to have muscles. But he did not have the wide lats and oversized pectoral muscles that are useless to a fighter but are common among today’s weightlifter/boxers. The Kid never lifted weights. His development was all natural and genetic. As a poor illiterate child and teenager he’d worked for years cutting sugar cane in Cuba. If he wasn’t doing manual labor he was training to be a fighter. His muscular development was perfect for the ring.

But even the best built piece of machinery can only stand so much abuse before breaking down. In the jargon of the fight game the 24-year-old ex-champ was on his way to becoming a “shot” fighter—meaning that he was punched out, irrevocably past his prime, and vulnerable to further injury.

A Perfect Storm

In a rare break from his hectic schedule Paret did not fight again for six months. When he did get back into the ring it was for a return match with Griffith in an attempt to regain the title.

The six month respite had given Benny a chance to recharge his batteries and regain a semblance of his old form. Although a 5 to 1 underdog to Griffith he still had enough juice left to make it a competitive fight. The one aspect of Paret’s fighting persona that had not diminished was his indomitable fighting spirit.

In a hard fought and exciting battle the former champion upset the odds and won a 15-round split decision. 

The decision did not sit well with the Madison Square Garden audience or the millions of fans watching the fight on television. To most everyone it appeared that Griffith had won the fight. It wasn’t a blowout but he definitely deserved the win. The referee saw it that way but was overruled by the two judges who voted for Paret.

Without knowing for sure I will not impugn the motives of the two judges. But no less than 18 of 22 reporters sitting at ringside had scored the fight for Griffith. The controversial win for Paret insured a third bout between the two adversaries.

A perfect storm of circumstances that would eventually lead to a champion’s death in the ring was gaining momentum.

Welterweight or Middleweight?

An often overlooked aspect of Paret’s ill-fated career that may have had some bearing on the outcome of his final fight was his difficulty making the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. In the 18 months prior to acquiring the welterweight title he was under 147 pounds only once in 12 fights. Paret’s average weight for all of his other bouts hovered around 153 pounds. He’d even gone as high as 157½ pounds for one bout. Eight weeks before his third fight with Griffith he was still almost 10 pounds over the welterweight limit. I’m not saying he was dehydrated for his final fight, just that the extra burden of making weight could have weakened him, especially as the fight entered the later rounds.

The Fullmer Fight

Considering the problems Paret was having making 147 pounds it seemed logical to move up a division and challenge the middleweight champion Gene Fullmer. Even if Paret lost he would still retain his welterweight crown. Nevertheless, it was an audacious move. 

Gene Fullmer was something else. He was a hard charging bull of a fighter with an iron chin and an indestructible body. Aside from being extremely strong and durable his awkward punishing style gave opponents fits. To throw Paret into the ring with him only nine weeks after his grueling 15-round bout with Griffith was really pushing the envelope. A parent can be arrested for child abuse but there are no laws to stop a boxing manager from abusing his own fighter.

Paret weighed 156¾ pounds for his fight with Fullmer, a good weight for him. Fullmer scaled a quarter pound under 160 for the nationally televised fight. The location was the Las Vegas Convention Center, not far from Fullmer’s home base near Salt Lake City, Utah. Everyone expected an exciting fight but hardly anyone expected Paret to win.

A battle of attrition was the hallmark of almost every one of Fullmer’s fights. He seemed to have endless reserves of energy and stamina. Against this type of opponent Paret’s aggressive buzz saw style and his fondness for infighting would work against him. He would be drawn into a slugging match with one of the strongest and roughest middleweights to ever hold the title. It was a recipe for disaster.

As expected Paret stood toe-to-toe with Fullmer for the first four rounds, dishing out as much punishment as he took. It was a tremendous but futile effort. Over the next four rounds the superior strength, punch and stamina of the middleweight champion wore Paret down. The ninth and 10th rounds were particularly hard to watch as the rampaging middleweight champion connected at will with one brain rattling punch after another.

In the 10th round the exhausted, bloodied challenger was the recipient of one of the most frightful and sustained beatings this writer has ever witnessed. Seven full power right hand punches were landed consecutively to Paret’s head before he went down. After getting up from the second knockdown he could barely stand. The referee, Harry Krause, inexcusably allowed the fight to continue for one more knockdown before finally counting him out.

If ever there was a textbook example of incompetent refereeing, this was it. Yet there was hardly any criticism directed towards the referee for his atrocious conduct, mainly because Benny, after being revived, was able to walk out of the ring under his own power. 

The fight had also taken its toll on the middleweight champion. Fullmer’s face looked like he’d walked into an electric fan. He told reporters he hit Paret harder and more often than any other opponent and could not understand what held him up.

Fullmer did not fight again for 10 months. Benny was given no such luxury. He was back in the Madison Square Garden ring three and a half months later for the rubber match with Griffith.

After his punishing bout with Fullmer the wise decision would have been to either retire Paret or grant him six months to a year off from boxing and sparring. His brain had been traumatized and needed time to heal. But a temporary suspension or neurological testing was not ordered by the New York State Athletic Commission that licensed Paret, a resident of the Bronx. The Commission did not hesitate to approve the bout with Griffith. 

Old-school managers shook their heads. They thought it was a reckless move for the Kid’s manager, fellow Cuban Manny Alfaro, part owner of a Bronx nightclub, to put his fighter back into the ring with the hard punching Griffith so soon after such a vicious beating.

Aftermath of the Fullmer Debacle

Boxing history (and medical opinion) has shown that it is the damage sustained in a previous fight that often leads to a fatal outcome in a subsequent fight.  A famous case is that of 1930s heavyweight contender Ernie Schaaf who collapsed in the ring after getting hit with a jab from light hitting Primo Carnera.

Five months earlier Schaaf had been knocked unconscious by Max Baer, whose murderous right hand punches had already taken the life of another fighter. It took Schaaf’s handlers three minutes to bring the fighter back to consciousness. After the Baer fight Schaaf complained of chronic headaches, yet he continued with a busy fight schedule. At that point Schaaf was an accident waiting to happen. Carnera was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

Los Angeles welterweight contender Jimmy Doyle should have retired after being knocked unconscious for several hours by vicious punching middleweight Artie Levine. (In fact, Doyle was banned from fighting in California after the knockout). He was never the same after that knockout and was subsequently killed in a 1947 title fight with Sugar Ray Robinson. 

Other high profile ring fatalities happened for the same reason. Check the records of Georgie Flores and Willie Classen and you will find they suffered punishing knockouts only weeks before the fight that ended their lives. All had become accidents waiting to happen. That was Benny “Kid” Paret’s situation in early 1962, although no one seemed to notice or care.

Despite the knockout by Fullmer, Benny’s reputation as an iron man remained more or less intact. The televised image of a fighter who could “take it” was still fixed in most people’s minds. It was obvious he could be stopped, but it took a tremendous effort by a very good fighter to make it happen. The guy was still one tough cookie. Fullmer had to go all out to stop his stubborn opponent in their savagely fought battle.

But warning bells should have sounded. The former iron man had been counted out twice in the previous year, indicating there were definitely cracks in the armor.

In a recently published biography of Emile Griffith, “Nine, Ten, and Out: The Two Worlds of Emile Griffith,” Paret’s wife Luci told author Ron Ross that in the days leading up to the fight her husband complained of headaches and said he did not feel right. She begged him to seek a postponement. But Alfaro told her it was too late to pull out. There was big TV money on the table. So there was no cancellation or postponement. 

Split Second Decisions

Ruby Goldstein, the popular 54-year-old referee chosen by the New York State Athletic Commission to referee the third and final Griffith vs. Paret title fight was a former outstanding professional boxer. He was also one of the most respected and experienced referees in the world. Over the previous 20 years he’d refereed hundreds of bouts and never experienced a fatality in the ring.

Ironically, Goldstein had been criticized in the past for stopping at least half a dozen major fights too soon. Just five months earlier he stopped a main bout at the Garden when an outgunned fighter was staggered just once.

I do not envy a professional boxing referee’s job. Split second decisions must sometimes be made. The life of the athlete is in his hands. A wrong call during a boxing match can lead to severe injury or worse. Mere seconds could mean the difference between life and death in deciding when is the proper time to stop a fight. If a boxing referee wants to sleep well at night his mantra should be “better to stop a fight too soon than too late.”

Unfortunately there are referees today who consistently make the decision to allow a hurt fighter every opportunity to come back rather than risk criticism for appearing to stop a bout too soon, thereby incurring the wrath of the promoter (who pays his fee) and the fans. These referees are a menace to the health and well-being of fighters and do not belong in the sport. Ruby Goldstein’s history showed he did not fit into this category of referee.

Did the Referee Stop the Fight Too Late?

But nobody is perfect and the question to be answered is did Ruby Goldstein stop Griffith vs. Paret III too late? First off, let us look at other mitigating circumstances. Benny “Kid” Paret was a world champion. The words “world champion” really meant something in those days. At the time there were only nine weight divisions and nine champions—not 17 weight divisions and over 100 so-called world champions, as is the case today.

It was not uncommon for a ref to give a defending champ the benefit of the doubt, especially one with the proven ability to come back and win after being hurt. A striking example of this can be seen in the 11th, 12th and 13th rounds of the third Jake LaMotta vs. Sugar Ray Robinson bout in 1951 for LaMotta’s middleweight championship.

LaMotta, the sport’s ultimate iron man, was exhausted and practically defenseless during those rounds. He took a horrific beating, absorbing dozens of unanswered blows to the head. Yet the referee, knowing LaMotta’s reputation for durability and for turning defeat into victory at the last minute, let it go on far too long. If it were any other fighter taking that beating the fight would have been stopped no later than the 12th round.

True to form, Benny “Kid” Paret nearly pulled off an upset when he dropped Emile hard with a perfect left hook in the sixth round of their final fight. Emile was badly hurt but made it to his feet at the count of eight. The bell rang seconds later.

Griffith recovered during the one minute rest period and took back control of the fight, but there was no inkling of what was to come. Paret had been hurt several times after scoring the knockdown but always came back with a flurry and even managed to win the 11th round on one judge’s scorecard as Griffith slowed down to conserve energy.

Back to Goldstein’s decision; during Griffith’s final vicious assault the referee did not “freeze,” as some have suggested. He moved to stop the fight as soon as he was in position to see the extent of Paret’s distress. For a few seconds the broad back of Griffith blocked Goldstein’s view while Paret was trapped in the corner of the ring. In the few seconds it took to step around the near maniacal Griffith and pull him off the stricken fighter, Griffith was able to get off an additional five or six damaging punches. The extent of the damage became obvious as the unconscious champion slowly sank to the floor. The speed and volume of Griffith’s punches was just incredible.

Whether you believe the referee did or did not stop the fight in time is not the real issue in this particular case. What no one seemed to realize was how badly injured and vulnerable to further damage Paret’s brain was after his destruction by Fullmer. Perhaps a thorough neurological exam might have turned up something but that was never ordered or even suggested.

No one knows if stopping this fight a few seconds earlier would have made any difference. The fatal punch may have been landed before the final flurry. It could have been Griffith’s right cross in the 12th round that staggered Paret and drove him into the corner. Or perhaps it occurred in an earlier round.

It is also possible that even if Paret had managed to avoid that final awful blizzard of 14 punches delivered in just five seconds, and had made it to the final bell, he might have collapsed into a coma in the dressing room. That is what happened to a preliminary fighter named Jose Regores just 10 months earlier at New York’s St. Nicholas arena, and to Davey Moore, the featherweight champion of the world, after he was stopped in the 10th round of a title defense in Los Angeles against Sugar Ramos. Davey walked out of the ring to the dressing room under his own power, talked to reporters for a few moments, and then collapsed into a coma and died a few days later.

The Real Culprits

Although one cannot be sure when the fatal punch was landed the bottom line is this: Paret was damaged goods going into his third fight with Emile Griffith. He should not have been allowed in the ring that night. The right time to have stopped the fight was before it ever began. 

So who is to blame? The list of those who are most complicit begins with Paret’s manager. Blame should also extend to the callous promoters. But the most complicit entity, and the one that bears the greatest responsibility for the tragedy, was the negligent New York State Athletic Commission, the government agency that oversees boxing in the state, conducts medical exams, and licenses everyone connected with the sport. Where was the oversight and concern the commission’s own charter states is the very reason for its existence? Answer: There was no oversight or concern—just blatant negligence.

State Sanctioned Mayhem

Both Paret’s manager and the New York State Athletic Commission failed in their duty to protect a vulnerable fighter when he needed it most. Without adequate oversight and medical supervision, including suspending a boxer who sustained too much punishment, a violent contact sport such as boxing becomes nothing more than state sanctioned mayhem.

If referee Ruby Goldstein shares any blame at all it is way down on the list. Was the death of Paret his fault?—Absolutely not. And to argue the point back and forth only serves to divert attention away from the real culprits.

Benny “Kid” Paret was doomed before he ever stepped into the ring. When he heard the knock on the dressing room door summoning him into the Madison Square Garden ring for the final boxing match of his young life the person knocking on the door might as well have been the warden of a prison summoning him to the execution chamber. All that was missing was a priest administering the last rites. For on the night of March 23, 1962, Benny “Kid” Paret was an abused fighter whose tortured brain and exhausted body was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode—if not in this fight, then the next. The fuse had already been lit, most probably in the Fullmer fight. The soon to be ex-champion was literally a dead man walking. Emile Griffith, the other victim in this tragic scenario, was the final straw.

Epilogue

• Emile Griffith fought for 15 more years and had a legendary career that included winning the middleweight championship. He was a changed fighter after his tragic bout with Paret. Thereafter he rarely tried to stop an opponent. In his next 80 fights he scored only 11 knockouts. He currently resides in an assisted living facility in Hempstead, New York.
• Manny Alfaro continued to manage fighters for a few more years and then faded from the boxing scene.
• Ruby Goldstein refereed one more fight after Griffith vs. Paret and then retired. An internal investigation conducted by the NYSAC cleared Goldstein of any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the Commission staff never addressed its own incompetence and negligence, nor did anyone else for that matter. Most outside criticism was directed at the violent nature of professional boxing itself. Perhaps that is where the real problem lies.).                       

Boxing historian Mike Silver is the author of the The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science (McFarland Publishers, 2008). The critically acclaimed book has just been reissued in paperback and in kindle version.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Benny Paret vs Luis Federico Thompson



Benny Kid Paret v Don Jordan, (Won UD 15), v E Griffiths 2 (Won SD 15)



Emile Griffith vs Gasper Ortega (part 1)



Emile Griffith vs Gasper Ortega (part 2)



Emile Griffith vs Gasper Ortega (part 3)



Emile Griffith KO13 Benny Paret I



Benny Paret SD15 Emile Griffith II



Gene Fullmer vs Benny 'Kid' Paret



Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret III (part 1 of 6)



Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret III (part 2 of 6)



Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret III (part 3 of 6)



Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret III (part 4 of 6)



Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret III (part 5 of 6)



Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret III (part 6 of 6)



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  1. barry Tesar 09:19pm, 03/30/2018

    I just re-read my comment and I think I was a little harsh on Referee Ruby Goldstein.  I implied that he was responsible for Paret’s death and I don’t feel good about that.  There were a lot of factors that led to his poor decision not to stop the fight.  Someone above mentioned the angle he was seeing the punches from and that Griffith’s broad back made it impossible for him to really see what was happening.  I think that is an excellent observation.  In retrospect, it is easy to spot a good decision from a bad one, but in the moment, in the heat of the battle, you don’t get the benefit of hindsight.

  2. Hristo Torbov 11:26am, 03/30/2018

    If you scratch all those useless words you’ve written and ask yourself - what would have happened, if Ruby did his job, you’ll realise, that this kid wasn’t going to die in the hospital.

  3. Killer 06:30pm, 08/17/2017

    I would not blame the referee,Goldstien for death of Paret. As paret had busy bouts before this fight. But i would blame Goldstien for allowing those upercut shots to Paret’s head over and over again while Paret’s hands did not defend, his head was out of the ring and the body leaning on the ropes. Is it a good for a referee to allow someone to take more than 20 shots without defending, even though paret has a good reputation for taking hard punches. Iam not a referee but if i was that goldstien i would have stop the fight during those upercut punches.

  4. Michael Hegan 04:33pm, 05/09/2013

    Mike Silver has made his case….that Paret was not supposed to be in the ring….
    ...He had accumulated a lot of punishment over the years…Medical examinations weren’t what they should have been….

    Fighters fought often in those days…and prior to that era.  Sugar Ray Robinson ...(many think the greatest pro boxer of all time…) finished his days suffering from dementia…just to name one .

    Boxing is a contact sport…and all the training in the world can’t protect a nervous system.  Strict medical examinations have to be enforced.  Many of you saw Jerry Quarry getting his license..and that was nothing short of accessory to attempted murder

    Having said all that….Griffith landed something like fifteen unanswered blows to a helpless Paret…who was propped up in the corner…his head clanging off the post….
    I say Goldstein has to share some of the blame….and he must have thought so too…..as he retired after his next fight.

  5. BARRY TESAR 11:52am, 04/27/2013

    I saw this fight on TV and, of course, remember it well.  I cannot believe anyone who saw it will ever be able to forget it.  This was a well-researched article, and I commend the author for that.  Yes, I agree with his premise that Paret was a worn-out fighter when he stepped inside the ring.  However, he was tough, and he even dropped Griffith earlier in the fight.  Nevertheless, as well-researched as the article is, the idea that Ruby Goldstein was not directly responsible for Paret’s death doesn’t hold water with me.  I must admit I didn’t read the whole article because I found it too painful to recall these memories; but was it mentioned that Goldstein had recently received criticism for stopping fights too early and that might well have contributed to his reluctance to stop this fight when it so clearly needed to be stopped.  Was the later addition of the fourth rope mentioned?  It wasn’t only Griffith’s punches, but the fact that Paret’s head was bouncing off the metal ring post with each punch that was the clincher. I remember my dad telling me as soon as the fight ended that Paret would not survive and, unfortunately, he was right.  That very well could have been the end of my interest in boxing, but just a month before this ill-fated bout, a kid named Cassius Clay had come into my world, and I was hooked for the next 30 years.  Now, I really don’t follow it very closely anymore.

  6. beaujack 09:21pm, 04/26/2013

    Mike, that tragic death of Benny Paret evokes memories in me. A week or so before that tragic fight at MSG, I and some friends were at a cocktail party at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills where Emile Griffith was training for his bout with Paret. Griffith entered the party all by himself, and I and a few buddies surrounded him and someone asked him how is the fight going to end ? Griffith very agitated and angry said, “he call me a [Spanish name for fag], and I will KEEL him “. He screamed his answer to us in his sing song accent, then left the room…None of us ever imagined that Emile’s prediction would come true…Most likely Paret was badly hurt in his ko loss to Gene Fullmer prior to his fatal bout with Griffith in 1962 contributing to Paret’s death.
    This tragic death reminded me of a former MW favorite of mine Laverne Roach, who took a bad beating at the hands of Marcel Cerdan in 1948 and then in his next fight was kod and died in the ring at the hands of an acquaintance of mine Georgie Small…SAD…

  7. andrew 06:18pm, 10/02/2012

    Mike, the end of the story is Goldstein standing right there while the fatal blows are inflicted for what in a championship boxing setting is an interminably long time.
    No one disputes Paret had no business in a title fight that night, but it doesn’t relieve Goldstein of an iota of blame for allowing so many blows after “Kid” was so obviously defenceless, not to mention unconscious. Griffith’s shoulders would have had to have been wider than a barn door to prevent Goldstein from seeing Paret lying limp against the ropes.
    Your investigative talents would have been better used by looking into what knowledge Goldstein might have had of the homophobic comments Paret had made about the admittedly bisexual Griffith and whether he might have shared some of the rage they aroused in Emile.
    I really don’t understand why you think blaming Goldstein as much as he deserves somehow prevents others from also being censured for their own roles in bringing the victim to his slaughter.

  8. Mike Silver 05:34pm, 10/02/2012

    Andrew, no one is saying that Goldstein shouldn’t have stopped the fight sooner. But keep in mind the film shows the action from a different angle than Goldstein’s view. Goldstein was in back of Giffith, whose broad back obscured his view for the few seconds it took for Griffith to land the most damaging punches and for Goldstein to then move to stop the fight. It is terrible to watch. But you cannot view Goldstein’s actions in a vacuum, and to criticize him alone is a BIG mistake. To quote from the article “To argue the point back and forth only serves to divert attention away from the real culprits”—and there were more than one in this tragedy. End of story.

  9. andrew 07:28pm, 09/29/2012

    So now I understand the point: a referee has less of a duty to protect a fighter who is unconscious and held up by the ropes when the fighter was badly beaten and damaged in his previous fight?
    Do you enjoy watching the end of the fight Mike? How often do you watch it?
    How can anyone justify Goldstein standing by while so many punches are rained on a defenceless victim?

  10. Jim Crue 06:22pm, 09/29/2012

    Mike, great comment as usual. I’m glad you read this site.

  11. Mike Silver 05:43pm, 09/29/2012

    Andrew, I think you are missing the point of my article. Paret was a terribly abused fighter over the previous two years and suffered a recent horrendous beating by Fullmer. If that Fullmer fight had not taken place, Paret probably would have given Griffith another close battle. To only blame Goldstein removes culpability from those most responsible. The negligence of his manager, the boxing commissions and his promoter are the ones who created the circumstances that directly led to his death. To not understand that is to learn nothing from this tragedy.

  12. andrew 02:41pm, 09/29/2012

    Whatever damage Paret had previously suffered, the fact is Ruby Goldstein allowed Griffith to kill him. Can anyone doubt the  
    punches Griffith hit Paret with after he was completely defenseless and held up only by the ropes could easily have killed any fighter in his prime? I saw the killing of Kid Paret once a long time ago and have not been able to watch it again but I encourage all fans to see it and say “never again”. Just count the full force clean punches Goldstein allowed the victim to absorb and explain how this was not an obviously fatal beating for anyone.

  13. Tex Hassler 05:57pm, 08/05/2012

    This was truly an outstanding article and accurate on every detail. The Fullmer vs Paret fight was the most brutal fight of any I have ever seen. I believe the damage to Paret was done in this fight. It was such a brutal fight it is hard for me to watch even on YouTube today. Goldstein was a great referee and he should not be blamed. Paret’s manager deserves much of the blame.

  14. Jofre 12:36pm, 08/02/2012

    Terrific article. The details of what happened that night are masterly presented. And I agree 100% with your conclusions. The NYSAC, the promoter and Paret’s manager are all to blame for this tragedy. As Max Baer’s character stated in “The Harder They Fall” - Paret was a dead man walking.

  15. Jethro's Flute 03:26am, 08/01/2012

    Good article. Very insightful.

  16. Bob 02:00am, 08/01/2012

    Mike Silver writes it like he tells it, with passion, flair and erudition. Great work, Mike.

  17. Mike Silver 05:35pm, 07/31/2012

    Thank you Thresher, Mike and Jim. Much appreciated.
    Mike Silver

  18. The Thresher 04:00pm, 07/31/2012

    Bravo, bravo, a masterpiece.

  19. mikecasey 05:45am, 07/31/2012

    Excellent breakdown of a never-to-be-forgotten chapter in boxing, Mike. Enjoyed this very much, my friend!

  20. Jim Crue 04:29am, 07/31/2012

    Wonderful article Mr. Sliver. Thank you for writing this article.

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