Scene 1 begins in Emile's apartment in Hempstead, Long Island,
Emile Griffith is struggling to get dressed. Suffering from Dementia, he is
confused and haunted by his past. Luis, his adopted son and caretaker, reminds
him to be ready for an important meeting with Benny Paret, Jr.
Late 1950's, Emile is a young man again in St. Thomas, the US
Virgin Islands. He yearns to find his mother, Emelda, and make it big in
America as a singer, a baseball player, and a designer of hats. Emile moves to
New York. When he finds his mother, she is confused, not sure which of her
seven abandoned children he is, but overjoyed. Hoping to find Emile a job, she
takes him to meet Howie Albert, a hat manufacturer. Howie sees an opportunity:
Emile is built like a boxer not a hat-maker, and he sets his sights on training
Emile as a fighter. Giving up his other dreams, Emile quickly develops into a
talented welterweight. Lonely and confused by his success, Emile finds his way
to a gay bar in Manhattan. Kathy Hagan, the owner, welcomes Emile to a world
that frightens and attracts him. Emile confides in Kathy, revealing some demons
from his past. As a boy, his cruel fundamentalist cousin Blanche forced him to hold
cinderblocks above his head as punishment for having the devil inside him, a
punishment that made him into a man of great physical strength.
1962, Emile encounters Benny Paret at a weigh-in for their
upcoming fight. Kid Paret taunts the charismatic Emile, calling him
"maricon," a disparaging Spanish word for a homosexual. Alone with
Howie, Emile tries to talk to him frankly about why this word hurt him so
deeply, but for Howie this is something that no one in the fight business wants
to talk about. Howie leaves him and Emile wonders what it means to be a man.
Emile and Paret prepare for the big fight. Paret continues to taunt Emile, who
ultimately delivers seventeen blows in less that seven seconds and knocks Paret
into a coma.
Back in Emile's bedroom in the present, Emile is haunted by the
ghost of Kid Paret who still questions his old opponent.
Mid- to late 1960s, Emile is enjoying a strong winning streak
all over the world. Titles, trophies, and money roll in, but he remains
disturbed by the death of Kid Paret. He tries living it up, and, denying his
own identity, he take a young bride, Sadie, although everyone including his
mother Emelda, who remembers her own childhood back in the Islands, warns him
Early 1970s, After the wedding, Emile's luck seems to have
changed. He's now on a long losing streak and starting to display signs of
"boxer's brain," or trauma-related dementia. Howie realizes that
Emile's days are numbered and tries to console him, but Emile rejects Howie, as
well as his wife and his mother. Instead, he looks for comfort back at Kathy's
bar. Outside in the street, he is taunted by a group of thugs. They beat him
violently, exacerbating his brain injuries.
Back in the present, Emile relives the nightmare of the attack.
Luis tries to comfort him. "That was long ago," says Luis. In a New
York City park, Emile asks for forgiveness from Benny Jr. Luis tells Benny that
since that terrible evening Emile has struggled to find peace with what he's
done and who he truly is. Back at home, the voices and memories subside. Emile
Griffith, the former welterweight champ, can now take life one day at a time.