Terence Blanchard’s jazz opera Champion, about openly gay boxer Emile Griffith and his infamous fight where he killed homophobic opponent Benny “Kid” Paret, is now playing at The Met. Check out the trailer and clips below.
Griffith grew up in the Virgin Islands and moved to New York as a teen. He was making hats in the Garment District when the owner introduced him to a boxing trainer. Griffith became notorious following a 1962 fight with Paret where his opponent called him the homophobic slur maricón at weigh-in. Griffith beat Paret so badly in the ring that he died ten days later.
Griffith largely kept his personal and professional life separate. Via New York Times:
Mr. Griffith’s Weehawken, N.J. apartment was decorated in a Versailles-like décor that featured Cupids painted on the wall, rococo furniture, and twin French Provincial tufted couches, according to a 1966 Sports Illustrated profile.
His circular bed had a sparkling crown headboard and leopard-print bedspreads. There were championship belts next to oil paintings, and closets full of tailor-made suits, tuxedos and sports coats.
“If I see somebody wearing the same suit I’m wearing, I take it off and never wear it again,” he told the magazine, which detailed his affinity for plaid hip huggers and suede, ankle-high boots.
Those who are interested in learning more about the gay sports pioneer should check out the 2005 documentary Ring of Fire:
For tickets to the production starring Ryan Speedo Green in the starring role, check out the Met website.
Image: YouTube / The Met