Champion: An Opera About the Life of Gay Boxer Emile Griffith
Following recent sports stories regarding gay professional athletes coming out, an interesting play opened up at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. The story, called Champion, is told in an opera about the life of boxer Emile Griffith.
Griffith’s story was featured in Sports Illustrated, and in a documentary, Ring Of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story. This opera, however, promises to be a different experience. In the story, not many people knew Griffith was gay. Before his first professional fight against Benny “the Kid” Paret, who knew about Griffith’s sexuality, Paret used a derogatory Spanish word for a gay person. Griffith was enraged at his secret being revealed. To exact revenge, Griffith landed 17 consecutive punches on Paret, before the referee was able to jump in, leaving him in a coma that he would never wake up from. Thirty years later, upon leaving a gay bar, Griffith was jumped and beaten. It’s never been proven if the beating was related to his sexuality. At age 75, Griffith is still alive, but he suffers from severe dementia. Before that, though, he did manage to meet with Paret’s son and ask for forgiveness.
Champion opened on June 15 and will run through June 30th. The show is being presented by the St. Louis Opera Theater, and is being performed at the The Loretto-Hilton Center located in Webster Groves. [KSDK]