New York City, March 24, 1962: Rival boxing champions Emile Griffith and Benny "Kid" Paret entered the ring for their feverishly anticipated world title bout. Earlier, Paret had taunted his allegedly homosexual opponent w... more »ith a shocking slur. That night, as millions of fans watched the fight on live television, Griffith brutally beat Paret to death. The sport of boxing, the life of Emile Griffith, and the innocence of America would be changed forever. In this haunting documentary, filmmakers Dan Klores and Ron Berger capture a provocative saga of love, violence and redemption that transcends the ring. Through startling archival footage and revealing new interviews with jounalists, historians, champion boxers, Paret's widow, and Griffith himself, experience the Sundance sensation that begins with one tragic night nearly 45 years ago and ends with the heartbreaking modern day meeting between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret's now-grown son.« less
Donald W. (Noboss17) from ELMHURST, IL Reviewed on 5/29/2009...
Excellent movie. Award winner at Sundance and I see why. You'll really enjoy this even if you're not a boxing fan.
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Superb documentary, powerfully told
Paul L. Laclair | Kearny, NJ | 07/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was eight years old the night I saw the third and final fight between Emile Griffith and Benny (Kid) Paret on national television. My father, who learned how to fight in rural mid-Michigan shortly after its lumbering years, was a fight fan who appreciated skilled fighters and a good, fair fight. That night, my eight-year-old eyes witnessed perhaps the most spectacular knockout I had ever seen; my father saw something else.
My mother was away that night --- rare for us --- and my father climbed into bed with me after the fight, and held my hand. Both these events were unheard-of. At the time I thought he was trying to comfort me, and maybe he was, but looking back on it, I am quite sure now that he was trying to comfort himself, to hold on through my hand to a young life that was precious and could be snuffed out with almost no warning.
"Ring of Fire" follows the surviving fighter, Emile Griffith, into and through his fight career and into a career as a trainer, and then picks him up in the present as a prison guard (or is he retired?) living a simple and modest life in Queens, New York. He was beaten nearly to death in the mid-1990's, apparently by a gang of homophobes, from which he suffered some mild but discernible cognitive damage. He takes public transportation "like everybody else," he says, instead of the limousine he used during the height of his boxing career.
We see no hint of regret over Griffith's present, modest, circumstances. His comments and demeanor throughout the film --- he is charmingly candid and unassuming --- suggest that he need never have been a fighter at all. Like Ferdinand the Bull, he would have been content to continue working in the fashion industry creating something beautiful. Fortunately or unfortunately, his employer noticed his exceptionally well-developed body, brought him to a gym, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Paret's death at his hands has haunted Griffith these past 43 years, undoubtedly far more than it has haunted me and perhaps millions of others who saw the fight. For years, Griffith imagined, but feared, meeting Paret's family. Paret's son, now in his forties, relates his mother's struggle (she never remarried) to rear and provide for him. The meeting between the two at film's end is moving and powerful. The young Paret approaches the meeting somberly but with a certain emotional detachment; but when he looks into Griffith's eyes he realizes that it is the old fighter who desperately needs consolation and forgiveness. They are instantly given, and in that instant, the young son who was deprived of his father at the age of two becomes the older man's emotional caretaker.
Many will find the fight scenes difficult to watch. However, the tragedy of Griffith-Paret III is only the jumping-off point for this marvelous documentary, which lets the participants and the events tell the story. Unlike most Amazon reviewers, I am stingy with my stars, but this little gem rates a *****."
Primal Plate Tectonics in a Good Man's Soul
Dick Stull | 09/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ring of Fire Reviewed by Richard Arlin (Dick) Stull
JULY 9, 2007 archive - Arete, Sport Literature Association Primal Plate Tectonics in a Good Man's Soul
[Ring of Fire]
On March 24, 1962, I sat in the living room with my dad to watch Gillette's Friday Night at the Fights on an old eighteen-inch Zenith black and white TV. It was a regular ritual. My dad would drink Falstaff beer, we'd discuss the newest rankings in Ring Magazine and look forward to watching Carlos Ortiz, Kid Gavilan, Jose Torres, Floyd Patterson and Emile Griffith. At a time before instant replay, my father, in his quest for reception perfection, habitually got up during the fights to adjust the long rabbit ears antennae. It drove me crazy because he'd invariably cause a blizzard right at the critical knock-down or knockout. That night, Emile Griffith, an artful, powerful boxer, fought Benny "Kid"" Paret, a tough Cuban counter-puncher for the welterweight championship live from Madison Square Garden in New York City. In the twelfth round, Griffith pinned Paret in the corner and unleashed a barrage of punches that left Paret helpless along the ropes. As Griffith continued to pound away with straight right hands and tremendous uppercuts, Paret slumped along the ropes slowly to the canvas. According to one observer, Griffith threw seventeen unanswered punches. My dad never moved to adjust the antennae. The picture was crystal clear this time. Paret never regained consciousness and died ten days later.
Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story is a documentary of uncommon power, a modern day Greek tragedy with individual and cultural twists and contexts that make unforgettable viewing. From the opening scene of the swollen streets of late 1950's New York City, James Brown's soulful rendition of "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" in the background, Ring of Fire has you hooked. The back-stories and subsequent developments surrounding that night in 1962 are told by a colorful array of New York writers and boxing people and like Pete Hamill, Howie Albert, Juan Gonzalez, Jimmy Breslin, Jack Newfield, Neal Gabler, Hank Kaplan, Griffith's trainer Gil Clancy, boxers Gaspar Oretga, Jose Torres and Lupe Pintor, Ruby Goldstein Jr., Paret's widow, Lucy, his son, Benny Jr., and, of course, Emile Griffith himself, age 67 at the time of the filming.
Griffith and Paret were immigrants from the Virgin Islands and Cuba, respectively. They grew up in adjacent neighborhoods and had even played basketball together as kids. For the Irish, Italian, Jewish and other immigrant groups of the past, boxing was a way out of poverty. But the two fighters were on a collision course in more ways than one as they ascended to the top ranks of the welterweight division. Griffith was a popular, likable fighter, supremely gifted, who was genuinely respectful to his peers and opponents alike. Paret was a cocky, courageous counter-puncher willing to take four punches to land one. Griffith had won the title against Paret the previous year but lost their rematch. The third fight was more than a clash of boxing styles and personalities. Rumors on the street circulated that Griffith was gay. At the weigh-in for their third fight, Paret taunted Griffith with the word 'maricon.' Griffith, while never directly confirming or denying his sexual orientation, said ominously in the opening interview for the documentary, "He called me a 'maricon.' I knew 'maricon' meant faggot. And I wasn't nobody's faggot." During the fight Griffith was sharp, focused, moving skillfully, fighting cleverly out of the clinches, beating Paret to the punch from long and short range. Although Paret knocked Griffith down in the sixth round, it was Griffith's fight. Finally, in a 12th round that was comparatively benign, Griffith caught Paret on the ropes in the corner of the ring. What happened then was described by writer Norman Mailer as Griffith's right hand "like a piston-rod unhinged from the crank-case" with the effects of a "ball-bat smashing a pumpkin." Referee Ruby Goldstein, lauded on the Ed Sullivan Show because he had the courage to step in and stop fights before fighters were permanently hurt, inexplicably stood by as Griffith pounded Paret. After finally stepping in to separate the two, Paret, wrote Mailer, "went down like a large ship that turns on end and slides second by second into its grave."
Paret remained in a coma, never regaining consciousness, and died after ten days. Griffith was inundated with hate mail. Politicians called to ban boxing. Television, which had become the new national medium, had literally shown an execution as mass entertainment.
The documentary also points out the inverted vice bowl of poverty and exploitation of those in the fight game. Paret, who had already suffered tremendous punishment in his previous fights, was likened by writer Pete Hamill to a car that had been in a crash and could never be the same. His manager, Manny Alfaro had simply used him for one more big payday. Ironically, Griffith, a genuinely likable, respectful, thoughtful, humane human being, never intended to become a boxer. At the age of fifteen, he was working as a hat designer in the garment district when he took his shirt off on a hot day. His boss, noticing his Herculean body, immediately took him to fight trainer Gil Clancy, who taught him how to box.
Griffith was shattered by the death of Paret. He nonetheless continued to fight into the seventies and won five additional world championships. Incredibly, after he retired, he was severely beaten by thugs outside a gay night-club and sustained brain and memory damage far worse than he ever had taking blows in the ring. He is cared for by his adopted son, a former inmate in a correctional facility where Griffith used to work. Griffith still has nightmares about the fight.
There are some unforgettable scenes. One, showing Benny Paret Jr. as a toddler playing on the floor with a picture of his late father in his boxing attire on the wall in the background, is heart-breaking. Paret's young wife, Lucy somehow carried on, never remarried, and is shown laying flowers on the grave of her late husband forty-four years later. Finally, there is an emotional meeting of Griffith and Benny Jr., now in his forties, where Griffith, haunted for years by that fateful night and his fears of meeting Benny Jr., embraces the fighter's son. Lucy was never able to bring herself to meet with Emile. "I understand," Griffith said to Benny Jr.
Ring of Fire is a profound commentary on fate, violence, primal pathos, cultural and class complexities, sexuality, wives and mothers, fathers, sons, tragedy, what it means to be a man, what it means to be human - a fiction writer couldn't have invented this story. See it for yourself. Unforgettable. Like that night in 1962.
Ring of Fire - The Emile Griffith Story (2004). Starring: Emile Griffith, Howie Albert Director: Ron Berger, Dan Klores. Running Time: 87 Min., Format: DVD MOVIE
"I asked my mom if she was aware of the Emile Griffith controversy, and if she knew of the documentary that was made. I watched this documentary, and I was sobbing at the end of it. 1st, I am a gay male. 2nd, I am a sport fanatic. I used to go to all the Eagles games when I grew up in Philly. I now go to Ohio State and enjoy every football and basketball game I go to. So this story hit a little close to home. I can't imagine what Griffith went through being a gay male, in the boxing profession, and being called a "faggot" by another fighter. What happened was tragic. I have to ask this question though. What if Griffith had died? Would the outrage have been as great. Anyone who says it would, is being completely dishonest. Still. Watch this film. It is well worth the time. "
Ring of Fire
John Farr | 07/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Superb feature recreates a forgotten, life-transforming moment in time with admirable balance, insight, and sensitivity. Particularly intriguing is that Griffith was in fact a closeted gay, and that Paret's thoughtless taunting (and outing) of him before their final fight fueled a volcanic rage in Griffith. Years later, it's clear Emile paid a steep psychological price for those fateful punches, and the closure the film facilitates between Griffith and Paret's son is incredibly moving. A must-see."
A powerful must-see
Clementine | Lincoln, NE | 11/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having not yet been born when this tragedy happened, and never having been a fan of boxing, I was nonetheless very moved and touched by this well-done documentary. The filmmakers explore the impact of this accidental death on the lives of Emile Griffith, Benny Paret's widow and son, the referee, trainers, promoters and sportswriters who witnessed the event, and the millions of Americans who watched it on TV. This is a very balanced film that does not shy away from, and does not let its subjects shy away from, the gritty details of this tragedy and its aftermath. It's clear that no one was really to blame, but neither is anyone really let off the hook by the filmmakers. The film's message is still relevant to fans of sports, reality television and news programs of today. Have a box of tissues handy for the ending--it's a heartbreaker. A must-see for any fans of boxing, sports, or general fans of documentaries and quality films."