By Frank Cusumano
(KSDK Sports) -- On the heels of recent sports stories regarding the gay professional athletes coming out, an interesting play is opening up at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis that tells of a similar storyline from another era. It's called Champion, and it is an opera about the life of boxer Emile Griffith.
You may have seen this story in Sports Illustrated, or the documentary, Ring Of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story, but this promises to be a different experience.
The story, if you are not familiar with it, is an interesting one. Griffith was gay and not many people knew. 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. When the fight finally started, Griffith landed 17 consecutive punches before the referee was able to jump in, leaving Paret in a coma that he would never wake up from.
30 years later, Griffith was jumped and beaten when he was leaving a gay bar. It's never been proven if the beating was related to his sexuality. Griffith is still alive now at age 75, but he suffers from severe dementia.
Before that, though, he did manage to meet with Paret's son and ask for forgiveness.
What a powerful story. Can you imagine a gay man who is an incredibly skilled boxer getting in a ring with that rage because his secret was revealed, and exacting his revenge. No one was going to stop him. Even a novelist couldn't come up with a story like that, and it's a true story.
Champion will open on June 15 and run through June 30th. The show is being presented by the St. Louis Opera Theater and will be performed at the The Loretto-Hilton Center located in Webster Groves. Click here show and ticket information.