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Gleaner 180 - Grant new Empire lightweight champion; dethrones Charnley in bruising bout

Published:Saturday | September 13, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Trainer Harry Wiley helping Bunny Grant bandage his hands before the start of a workout. - File

Gleaner Sports Reporter

Jamaica's 21-year-old boxing sensation Bunny Grant outpointed convincingly Britain's Dave Charnley to dethrone the British Empire lightweight boxing champion in their 15-round main bout at the National Stadium last Saturday night.

The fight started 11:55 Saturday night and ended five minutes to one on Sunday morning.

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  • Stadium christened with victory

Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer

He never became a world champion, but this has not stopped George Leslie 'Bunny' Grant, CD, from becoming one of the most famous and revered boxers in Jamaica's sporting history.

Born on September 29, 1940, Grant did not come through the amateur ranks, but honed his skills quietly in several Corporate Area gyms. He moved into the professional ranks a few months before his 18th birthday and had a stellar career.

He became a world-rated top-10 boxer, and fought for the World lightweight title on April 18, 1964, when he tried, unsuccessfully, to dethrone Eddie Perkins here in Jamaica at the National Stadium. He is most remembered, however, for his victory on August 4, 1962, when, on the eve of Jamaica's Independence, he dethroned Dave Charnley and became Commonwealth (then British Empire) lightweight champion.

That victory was significant because, apart from being for a major title, that fight was the first sporting event to be held at the then brand new National Stadium. Englishman Charnley was a firm favourite to win the fight and retain his title, but Grant, his manager Jacques Deschamps Sr and trainer Harry Wiley mapped out a strategy that allowed Grant to use his speed and defensive skills to nullify Charnley's punching power.

GLEANER AT RINGSIDE

The Gleaner was there, of course, to record this fight for posterity, and among those that we recall seeing cheering Grant on at ringside were the now National Hero Norman Manley, a former president of the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control, and his wife Edna, and the then president of the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control, K.H. Ivan Levy. The referee was former boxer and trainer Emilio Sanchez, who did a fine job inside the ring.

Many people believed that Grant was not ready to challenge Charnley, but Deschamps had every confidence in his abilities, and in fact urged promoter Lucien Chen to get Charnley to fight Grant here in Jamaica. It was not easy, but with the assistance of the Boxing Board, it happened, and a large crowd turned out to see Grant give of his best and put Jamaica's boxing on the map.

It was not an easy fight, as Charnley was aggressive and tried his best to win by knockout. Grant's speed of hands and feet, and his defensive skills when the action was close, gave him the edge, over 15 bruising rounds. At the end, referee Sanchez raised his hand, as the ring announcer made the announcement that thrilled the thousands of boxing fans inside the stadium, that Bunny Grant was the winner and new champion. It was a moment of joy, and one that was savoured for a long, long time.