b. Feb. 3, 1938, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
When he was a thirteen, Griffith's family moved to New York City, and he got a job in a hat factory three years later. In his prime, Griffith was 5-foot-7 1/2 and weighed 155 pounds, but had a 26-inch waist. His physique caught the eye of fight manager Howard Albert, who brought in trainer Gil Clancy to work with Griffith.
After two successful years as an amateur, Griffith had his first professional fight, a 4-round victory, on June 2, 1958. He won 21 of his next 23 bouts before being matched against Benny "Kid" Paret for the welterweight title at Miami Beach on April 1, 1961. Griffith won with a knockout in the 13th round.
He lost the title to Paret in a controversial 15-round split decision on September 30. Their third fight took place on March 24, 1962, in New York. Griffith trapped Paret against the ropes in the 12th round and pummelled him with a long series of punches. Paret went into a coma and died a week later.
Griffith lost the title again, to Luis Rodriguez, on March 21, 1963, and regained it on June 8. He tried to move up to the American middleweight championship against Don Fullmer on August 20, 1965, but lost a 12-round decision.
Nevertheless, Griffith fought for the world middleweight title on April 25, 1966, against Dick Tiger, and he won a 15-round decision, becoming the third fighter to hold both the welterweight and middleweight championships.
Griffith and Nino Benvenuti of Italy had a series of three fights in which the middleweight title changed hands, all 15-round decisions. Benvenuti used his longer reach to win on April 17, 1967. Griffith reclaimed the title on September 29, 1967, but lost it on March 4, 1968.
He lost his welterweight title to Jose Napoles on October 18, 1969, but continued fighting for another eight years. He retired after three consecutive losses in 1977.
Griffith used foot and hand speed to throw a lot of short, quick punches and combinations, but often seemed to lose his concentration and focus, even during important fights. Ironically, he was often accused of lacking the "killer instinct." He won 85 professional fights, 23 by knockout, and lost 25, 2 by knockout. He also fought 2 draws and 1 no-contest.