The film "Ring of Fire" centers around the three historic Emile Griffith Benny "Kid" Paret Welterweights Championship bouts. The first taking place in Miami Beach on April 1, 1961 with Griffith looking sluggish and behind on points suddenly coming to life and wrestled the championship belt away from Paret flooring him in the 13th round with a double left hood followed by a straight right putting the champ on Queer Street. The second championship fight between the two welterweights took place on September 30, 1961 in New York's old Madison Square Garden and went the full 15, the distance, rounds. Paret surprising many fight fans in attendance and watching on TV by winning a split decision and regaining the championship that he lost to Griffith six months earlier.
As the two fighters were about to weigh in on the eve of their rubber match again in the Garden on March 24, 1962 bad blood had developed between the two pugilists to the point where they almost had it out right there and then at the weigh in before he match. Paret started needling Griffith, more to disrupt his concentration on the fight then anything else, about his sexuality calling him a "queer or homosexual", to put it mildly, in Spanish. These uncalled for remarks on Paret's part really started to get under Griffith's skin as well as enraged and set him off later in the ring.
In the fight there was no love lost between the two with both Griffith and Paret slugging it out toe to toe for eleven rounds. Griffith earlier in the sixth was knocked down, for the first time in his professional boxing career, by a devastating one two right left combination by a revitalized Paret. Paret then started slowly taking control of the fight in the middle and later rounds and leading on points, in the opinion of many at ringside, as the fateful and fatal 12th round started.
The 12th round for the most part was uneventful until with about a minute left Griffith suddenly caught Paret with a hooking solid right that stunned him knocking him into the ropes. Before Paret could counter or even cover up Griffith swarmed all over him like a windmill with two dozen punches with Paret not throwing a single one in return. Paret was left unconscious and propped up against the ropes with the fight stopped by referee Ruby Goldstein with 51 seconds left in the round. Benny "Kid" Parets skull was so baldly battered that he, ten days later, died in Roosevealt Hospital from a massive blood clot without regaining consciousness.
Even though were shown what Emile Griffith did in his boxing career since his last fight with Benny "Kid" Paret it was that fight that haunted him for the rest of his days in and out of the ring. The Paret fatal boxing match not only had caused Griffith to lose his killer instinct in the ring but may very well have caused him to become an alcoholic. It wasn't Until he met with Benny "Kid" Parets son some 40 years later and with Benny Jr kindness love and understanding that Griffith finally made peace with himself. Brutal but extremely moving documentary about a brutal sport Professional Boxing and those who participate in it both in and out of the ring.
Mrs. Paret left a widow with an infant son Benny Jr. after her husbands untimely death has never really recovered from the shock that took Benny Sr. away from her on March 24, or really officially April 4, 1962. It's only her son Benny Jr. whom we see at the end of the movie finally meeting face to face with the man Emile Griffith who was responsible for his fathers death. The scene between the two is one of most emotionally packed encounters even put on the big or small screen that no amount of acting could possibly duplicated.
Emile Griffith himself had suffered his fair amount of tragedies since his final battle with Benny Paret. Not only losing the championship belt that he took from the fallen champion that terrible night but losing almost everything that he won in the ring leaving him broke. Later after getting a job helping out young men in prison to go straight and, if they have any talent, pursue a boxing career he himself was almost beaten to death in 1992. That's when Griffith was brutally attacked one evening, leaving dead drunk from a NYC bar, and robbed by a gang of thugs who beat the 55 year-old ex-champ to the point that he almost died from kidney failure.
We get to see in the end how Emile Griffith finally got closer from the demons that had been tormenting him ever since that horrible evening some 45 years ago when he should have been celebrating the biggest victory he ever won in the ring. Griffith instead went into a long tail-spin that didn't seem to ever end. It wasn't until he finally got to see and talk to the son, Benny Paret Jr, of the person he killed that night in he boxing ring that his life took a sudden turn for the better. It's then that he saw that forgiveness from Benny Jr is far more powerful then the hate that he had for his dad that not only lead to the psychical death of Benny "Kid" Paret but, until he finally got to talk to Benny Jr, the spiritual and emotional death of himself as well.
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