Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Bunny Grant blazed a trail for modern boxing successes in Jamaica

Published:Friday | November 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMLeroy Brown/Gleaner Writer
In this file photo from Wednesday, October 6, 2017, former Jamaica boxing champion George ‘Bunny’ Grant shows Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport that he was still the champion. Grange was on a tour of his newly refurbished home on Weymouth Drive.
GETTING IN SHAPE: Jamaica’s welterweight boxing champion Bunny Grant is seen blasting away at the heavy bag during one of his regular training sessions at the Dragon Gym in this 1975 photo.
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"Bunny was one of the best boxers produced by Jamaica, and his trail-blazing career influenced numerous champions since then," said Jacques Deschamps Jr, whose father, Jacques Deschamps Sr, (now deceased), managed George Leslie 'Bunny' 'The Whip' Grant.

The former Jamaica lightweight and welterweight champion, former Commonwealth light-weight champion, former Central American light welterweight champion, and former Latin American junior welterweight champion died on November 1.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalised, but a tentative date has been set for December 1.

Speaking to The Gleaner recently, Deschamps said: " I was a little boy when I first came to know Bunny, and I used to get up in the mornings to run with him when he was training for a fight. My father would go to his house, pick him up, and drive him to Palisadoes Road to do road work. I enjoyed doing this and looked forward to it each morning."

Deschamps said that Bunny was the first boxer that he was associated with, and it influenced his life forever.

"Bunny made me grow to love boxing" he said. Among his memories was going to the Liberty Hall and Dragon gyms in the afternoons after school to watch the champion training with other boxing stalwarts. He fondly remembered Grant's two trainers, 'Kuru' Francis and 'Blackie' Stewart, who were as colourful as the boxer they trained. Kuru, he recalled, had a towel routine inside the ring between rounds, that always drew attention and put smiles on the faces of spectators.

 

MEMORABLE FIGHTS

 

Apart from the fight when Grant won the Commonwealth lightweight title by scoring a unanimous decision over champion Dave Charnley on the eve of Jamaica's Independence in 1962, he remembered other memorable encounters. Among them were his three fights against arch rival Percy Hayles, two of which he won, while the other ended in a draw. His two fights against Eddie Perkins were epic encounters he said, and are fights that he will always remember. Grant lost the first, which was for the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council Super welterweight titles, on points on April 18, 1964, but won the second, a non-title fight, on July 25, 1970, also on points.

His title fight victory over Gerald Gray for the Jamaica welterweight title was also memorable for Deschamps, but he recalls that it was a "bittersweet" victory for Grant as Gray was his idol.

"He could have knocked out Gray but held back because of the respect that he had for him," Deschamps recalled.

Michael 'The Body Snatcher' McCallum, former world light-middleweight, middleweight, and light-heavyweight champion, who is now based in Las Vegas, Nevada, told The Gleaner that Grant had a lot of influence on his life and his career.

"He had a great impact on me. I wanted to be like him, and when as a youngster he agreed to spar with me sometimes, I was thrilled. It was he who taught me how to throw the body shots that made me successful and famous," McCallum recalled.

"I remember once we were in the ring together sparring, and when I threw a good shot to the body that shook him, he smiled and said, 'Good shot, young boy, but don't try it again'." McCallum said that he did not push his luck for fear of serious retaliation.

Grant was without doubt one of the finest technical boxers produced by Jamaica, and his 'Whip' nomenclature came about because of his amazing boxing skills and the number of punches he could throw in quick succession. He had fast hands and was one of the finest boxers of his era not to win a world title.

His idol, he told The Gleaner some years ago, was the great Sugar Ray Robinson, one of the great boxing champions of all time. He was Jamaica's Sportsman of the Year in 1961 and was awarded the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) in 2005 and the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) in 2013 for his contribution to sport in Jamaica. He ended his boxing career with a 52- 15- 5 record.