Tag Archives: Emile Griffith

Carter Vs Griffith: Spectacular First Round Kayo But Was It Within The Rules

By Bobby Franklin

Emile Griffith

On December 20, 1963 Emile Griffith and Ruben Hurricane Carter stepped into the ring to face each other at the Civic Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Griffith was the reigning welterweight champion who was  campaigning as a middleweight seeking a title shot. Carter was ranked number two in the middleweight division. A win by either man would be a big step towards getting a shot at champion Joey Giardello.

At the time of the fight Griffith had won seven out of nine against middleweights including wins over Denny Moyer, Yama Bahama, Don Fullmer, and Holly Mims.

Carter had twenty-one fights at this point in his career with four losses and seventeen wins. He had scored 11 kayos including a one round devastation of Florentino Fernandez. In his last fight before facing Griffith he lost a very close split decision to Joey Archer.

The fight in Pittsburgh didn’t last long and the ending was quite a surprise. After Griffith had been dropped to the canvas twice in the first round referee Buck McTiernan stopped the contest and raised Carter’s hand. The stoppage was a good call as Emile was clearly unsteady and could have been seriously hurt had the fight continued.

I have watched the Griffith/Carter fight over and over again as it was a shock to see Emile Griffith taken out so fast. It has to be remembered that on top of having not been stopped previous to this match, he also went to the end of his career with only one other kayo loss. That happened in 1971 against middleweight champion Carlos Monzon. Griffith had not been off his feet in that fight, but rather was stopped when he was caught in a corner and unable to respond to Monzon’s barrage of punches. In a career consisting of 112 fights, Monzon and Carter were the only two men to defeat Griffith via a stoppage. 

Rubin Hurricane Carter

I have always believed the kayo by Carter was a fluke and that if the two had met a dozen times it would never happen again. So, how did Carter do it. Well, his devastating left hook was, of course, the major factor. Rubin could hit and hit hard. He was a good boxer, but did have flaws. Those flaws, such as throwing his punches a bit too wide should have enabled Emile to avoid getting tagged so seriously. Emile was a master boxer/puncher. Of course, no matter how good a fighter is, if he gets caught with a punch from the likes of a Hurricane Carter it can be lights out.

Recently, I was talking with Mike Silver boxing historian and author of The Arc Of Boxing about this fight. Mike pointed out something very interesting  that might explain how Carter was able to land the left hook that put Griffith down for his first trip to the canvas, a punch he never recovered from. I rewatched the bout after my conversation with Mike and I believe he is onto something.

Here’s what happened in the fight. Griffith weighed 151 1/2 pounds while Carter came in at 157. Griffith was above his welterweight fighting weight while Carter was around his usual poundage.

Before the fight started the referee called the two men to the center of the ring for a final few words on the rules. Among his instructions were “I insist on a clean break”. When you watch the fight remember those words.

At the bell, the men came out of their corners and the action was lively. They traded quite a bit of leather over the first minute with each giving as good as he got. In the first clinch of the fight referee McTiernan called for the men to break, and they both stepped back, obeying his instruction, before resuming boxing. 

A short while later the two again were exchanging punches with Carter landing a good left hook to the midsection of Griffith. a couple of seconds later they fell into another clinch. This is where Mike Silver’s shrewd observation comes into play. As with the first clinch, the referee calls for the men to break. Griffith steps back, but Carter, instead of stepping back, immediately jumps in with the left hook that floors Griffith. It is a powerful shot landing on Emile’s chin. 

Griffith hit the canvas and got onto his knees while taking a nine count. When he arose he was wobbly and was dropped again. It was at this point the referee stopped the bout. It was all over at 2:13 of the first round. 

Griffith On The Ropes Against Carter

Mike Silver makes the point that the blow landed by Carter was thrown and landed on the break when, by the rules, he should have stepped back before starting to fight again. I have watched this over and over and agree with Mike. It was basically a sucker punch and illegal. Did Carter do it on purpose? I think he did. Should he have been disqualified for it. Well, that’s a tough question to answer as it happened so quickly the fans would have certainly been in an uproar as most wouldn’t have seen what took place. Also, the old adage that a fighter must protect himself at all times would have been cited. But that adage doesn’t apply to illegal blows that occur when the referee’s instructions are not obeyed. 

Remember, just a few months earlier Carter had lost a close decision to the very slick boxing Joey Archer. In that fight he was not able to land a knock blow on the elusive Archer. Ruben might have gotten it into his head that he had to pounce at any opportunity to get in a power shot on a smooth boxer such as Griffith, and not leave it up to the judges as happened with Archer. He saw his chance when the fighters broke from their first clinch. The referee did not step between them as some do, but rather trusted them to break cleanly on their own. The second clinch is where Carter took advantage of this chance to play by his own rules. 

The two never fought again, but I am sure if they did Emile would have been very careful coming out of the clinches. The fight was a major win for Carter and led to him getting a shot at the crown a year later. In his title challenge he lost a fifteen round unanimous decision to Joey Giardello. Ruben put up a great fight and bruised the champion but could not land the power shot to end the fight. 

Take a look at the Griffith vs Carter on Youtube. You have to watch closely, but if you do I believe you will see what I’m talking about. After the clinch before the knockdown you will see Carter pounce right on Emile without having stepped back as he was supposed to do. He did not break cleanly and that is how he scored the knockout. He never stepped back, and that is how he landed the punch that won him the fight. 

Neeno! Neeno!

Neeno! Neeno!
Fifty Years Ago Nino Benvenuti
Arrived In America

By Bobby Franklin

On April 17, 1967 Nino Benvenuti stepped into the ring at Madison Square Garden to challenge Emile Griffith for the Middleweight Championship of the World. This would only be the third time Nino had fought outside of his native Italy and would be his first appearance in the United States. He brought a record of 71 wins in 72 fights with him. Twenty-nine of his victories were via knockout.

Nino Benvenuti

While it was not unusual for European fighters to arrive in the States with outstanding records on paper, many of the opponents they had would be viewed as being of questionable talent and lacking in motivation. With Benvenuti this wasn’t the case.

In the 1960 Olympics Nino had won a Gold Medal in the welterweight division. He was voted outstanding boxer in the games beating out a young American boxer by the name of Cassius Clay for that honor. Of course, the Olympic games that year were held in Rome, but by all accounts Nino was deserving of the recognition.

It has been reported he had an amateur record of 120 wins and no losses. It is hard to verify that figure, but anything close is still quite impressive. He won numerous amateur titles.

Nino would turn pro in 1961 and begin amassing a very impressive record that led to his winning the Italian Middleweight Title in 1963. In 1965 he won the World Light Middleweight Title by defeating Sandro Mazzinghi. He would beat Mazzinghi in a rematch. In Sandro’s career he suffered only three losses in sixty-seven bouts, two of those being to Benvenuti.

Nino would stay busy in the ring defending the title and fighting non-title bouts. He defeated American Don Fullmer and in his first fight outside Italy he defended the title against Jupp Elze in Germany. His next stop would be a title defense in South Korea against Kim Ki Soo. Fighting Soo in the Korean’s hometown Nino tasted defeat for the first time losing the title. Benvenuti claimed he was robbed and that is very likely. However, instead of looking for a rematch and a chance to regain the title he decided to campaign for a shot at the World Middleweight Title.

Emile Griffith was the champion, and promoters were looking for someone exciting to match against him. Things were a bit slow in the division at that moment and Nino had wins over top contenders Mazzinghi and Fullmer. Nino also had something else going for him; personality. He was handsome and could light up a room with his smile. Combine that with his not so bad boxing abilities and you had the perfect combination for a very attractive bout. Tex Maule writing in Sports Illustrated would call Benvenuti “The best Italian import since olive oil.”

Benvenuti Decks Griffith

As Nino entered the ring for the fight he looked fit and relaxed. At 5’10” he was tall for a middleweight and he had broad shoulders. One thing that was in question was how he would adapt to fighting under American boxing rules which allowed for a lot more infighting and roughhousing than he was used to. Remember, all but one of his previous fights took place in Europe where the rules were similar to those in Olympic boxing and a fighter could be disqualified for crouching too low and going to the body too aggressively. Nino dispelled any notion that he would have a problem with the change as he came out very strong in the first round and showed that he could be every bit as rough as his his American counterparts. He fought hard in the clinches, so much so he had Emile complaining about the tactics he was using. It was clear Benvenuti was there to win and was not going to give any ground.

Nino floored Griffith in the second round for a two count but the champion wasn’t hurt. In the fourth round the champion connected with a solid right that put the Italian down and had him hurt. Griffith was unable to take advantage of the moment and Nino, using his defenseive skills, survived the round. The rest of the fight was hard fought with Benvenuti bleeding from a cut on the bridge of his nose that he sustained in the second round.

Griffith worked the body hard in hopes of slowing Nino down in the later rounds, but the tactic did not work. To the chants of Neeno!, Neeno! from the crowd Benvenuti finished strong and won a unanimous decision bringing the Middleweight Crown to Italy for the first time.

After the fight the new champion had to be secluded in his dressing room for about an hour before meeting with the press as he was ill. No, not from the effects of the punches but rather from the emotions of having accomplished his dream.

Nino Benvenuti not only won the title that night, but he also gave boxing a much needed shot in the arm. He brought an excitement to the sport. He proved so popular that in his rematch with Griffith five months later it was decided to hold it at Shea Stadium. Nino would lose the title on a close majority decision that night and then regain it the following year.

Nino was now in his thirties and his fine boxing skills were slowly starting to diminish, though he still could dig down and show what made him a champion. He did just that in his defense against former Welterweight Champ Luis Rodriguez where he was taking a pretty good lacing and then flattened Luis for the count in the eleventh round with a perfectly timed uppercut. He defended the title four times before losing it to the great Carlos Monzon. After losing to Monzon in a rematch he retired. Benvenuti always said he would get out of the game when he no longer had it and he made good on that promise. He was one of the few who knew when it was time to pack it in.

Old Rivals Emile and Nino

He invested wisely, acted in movies, hosted a television show, and opened a restaurant. He also became a city counselor in his home town of Trieste. He maintained a friendship with Emile Griffith and helped him out financially. Griffith was godfather to one of his sons. Nino also became friends with Carlos Monzon and had him as a guest on his television program a number of times.

Nino Benvenuti is living la dolce vita in Italy. On April 26th he will celebrate his eightieth birthday making him the oldest living middleweight champion, though he looks years younger. He still flashes his infectious smile and looks more like a movie star than a former boxer.

Nino’s name is rarely mentioned when the topic of all time greats comes up, but he certainly was a very impressive boxer/puncher. He was a master at throwing a hook off the jab. He could move very fast, had great defense, a lethal right hand and a devastating uppercut. Nino was always very courageous in the ring and had no quit in him. He was a proud and popular champion and is still well loved in Italy.

His professional record was 90 total fights with 82 wins, 35 by knockout, 7 losses and 1 draw. He was stopped on only three occasions, two of those were in his final two bouts which were against Monzon.

Nino Benvenuti was a classy champion. He made the sport interesting and fun. He deserves to be remembered with the respect and dignity he earned. On April 26th raise a glass of wine to him and say “buon compleanno Nino Benvenuti campione”