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Murphy Griffith dies at 88; trained 'Boom Boom' Mancini

The boxing world lost one of its great trainers this week when Murphy Griffith was laid to rest in San Diego.

Griffith, 88, who had worked with Hall of Fame trainer Eddie Futch, was renowned for his ability to get fighters in top shape. His methods were resolutely old school, as he had boxers push logs and boulders up steep hills, shadowbox under water, and run with sandbags fastened to their torsos.

He trained contenders like heavyweight Duane Bobick and light-heavyweight Randy Stephens, and champions like Brian Mitchell, a South African who won the super-featherweight title. Manager Dave Wolf selected Griffith to train Ed "Too Tall" Jones, after the defensive end left the Dallas Cowboys to embark on a boxing career. But Griffith is best known for training Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, whom he discovered in 1979 at the national Golden Gloves finals in Indianapolis.

"I hear fighters today talk about their trainers and their masseuses and their nutritionists and their sports psychologists," said Mancini. "Griff was all that to me - and more. When I came to New York, I was 18 years old and didn't know anybody or anything, and he was like a second father to me."

By day, Mancini trained under Griffith at the Times Square Gym. By night, he slept on Griffith's couch. "One day, Ray, one day," Griffith told him. "You're going to be my first champion."

On May 8, 1982, Mancini did just that, knocking out Art Frias in the first round to win the WBA lightweight belt, a title he held for almost three years. "I was an Italian kid from Youngstown, Ohio," recalled Mancini. "I had a Jewish manager from New York, and a black trainer from the Virgin Islands. We were the original Rainbow Coalition."

Griffith was born in Charlotte, Amalie, V.I., and served honorably for 30 years in the United States Navy. He saw action in World War II and received many decorations, including three Bronze Stars and a National Defense Service Medal.

In 1949, while visiting Panama, he met Norma Lopez. She died November 30, 2007, after 58 years of marriage. They had three children: Helen, Humberto and Alecia.

Alecia's children, Khalfani and Kamilah Williams, were on hand Wednesday morning in San Diego to see their grandfather eulogized by his first world champion, and buried at Mt. Hope cemetery with full military honors.

-- Mark Kriegel