'Bunny' Grant remembered as boxing legend, true champion and gentleman

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Observer staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 02, 2018

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Jamaican boxer George Leslie “Bunny” Grant was yesterday hailed as a legend of the sport, a true champion and gentleman by family, friends and members of Jamaica's boxing fraternity.

Former Jamaica Boxing Board of Control (JBBC) president and current Secretary Leroy Brown remembered Grant, who won the Commonwealth lightweight title in August 1962, as “one of the finest boxers the world has produced”.

“As a young man, Bunny wanted more than anything else to be a jockey. He loved horses and he loved the sport of horse racing. But Jamaica, and in fact the sporting world, must be grateful that he eventually changed his mind and instead became a boxing champion. He has left a rich legacy for new Jamaican boxing talents,” Brown said in his tribute at the thanksgiving service for Grant at Holy Cross Church in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew.

Grant died on November 1 after a long illness. He was 77.

One of the boxers for whom Grant paved the way was Richard “Shrimpy” Clarke.

“It's a sad occasion here today because Bunny Grant was my idol in boxing,” Clarke told the Jamaica Observer.

“Bunny Grant was who got me into boxing, because I wanted to be like Bunny Grant. My coach used to say I box like Bunny, so I always look up to him. One day Bunny came to the gym and me and him did one of round sparring, and that was one of my greatest moments. I'm just sad to lose him, but God is the master and the greatest. But Bunny will live forever in my heart,” Clarke said.

Current JBBC President Stephen “Bomber” Jones, and one of Jamaica's foremost sports administrators Mike Fennell also lauded Grant for his national and international achievements.

“We have lost a great champion. He fought many good fights. Bunny was lightweight and welterweight champion of Jamaica, the Latin American junior welterweight champion and, of course, his greatest achievement, the Commonwealth lightweight title when he defeated Dave Charnley in August 1962 — a great independence gift to Jamaica,” Jones said.

Fennell remembered Grant as “well-known and well-loved”.

“Bunny loved life, he loved people. He enjoyed life, and without a doubt, he set an example for youth to follow. His life, in fact, was one that could be examined and used as a barometer for any young man to follow. He was one who told of the do's and the don'ts of life. His life told you about how to be successful, and the things you should not do if you wanted keep that success. Bunny loved boxing, but it was not his only passion. He also loved life, and he lived his to the fullest,” Fennell said.

A tribute from Sports Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, who is overseas, was delivered by her special advisor Allie McNab.

Describing Grant as one of Jamaica's greatest sons, Grange said he will be remembered as the undisputed champion of the early days of the sport of boxing in Jamaica.

“Also undisputed is that Grant was one of the finest boxers that the Caribbean region has ever produced and was a trailblazer for future Jamaican champions,” the tribute read.

“Grant is not only idolised by a boxing-loving nation, he has been immortalised in song by another of our greats, recording artiste Alton Ellis, who lauded the champion Mr Bunny Grant. We can say with one voice that Bunny's passion and humility endeared him to one and all, and that each of his victories was a win for the Jamaican people,” Grange said.

She also said that the impact of Grant's 1962 pre-independence Commonwealth Games victory will never be forgotten.

“As we express our deep sympathy as a nation to the Grant family, his relatives, friends, and associates, I wish to say that the Government stands ready to give further assistance. We know that the Grant family is determined to continue his legacy with the creation of the Bunny Grant Foundation for sporting excellence, and we will be talking with them about this as they proceed to make it a reality,” Grange said.

The former pugilist's daughter Judy Grant, and granddaughter Natalie Grant described him as their role model and hero.

“Today we say goodbye to a boxing legend but we, his family, also say goodbye to a father, brother, and a friend,” said Judy Grant.

Natalie Grant agreed. “My granddad was my hero, he was a role model,” she said. “He always told me to hold my head high and do my best.”

Fittingly, the thanksgiving service was accentuated with a musical tribute by Grant's close friend and well known percussionist Bongo Herman, who delivered Rasta Man Chant.

“My friend Bunny was a good, clean-hearted brethren, and I beg the minister of the culture to please erect a statue for Bunny Grant,” he said before leading the congregation into the chorus, “Fly away home to Zion, fly away home...”

Grant was invested with the Order of Distinction, Officer Class in 2005, and in 2013 the Order of Distinction, Commander Class for his services to the sport of boxing.

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