MOST MEMORABLE FIGHT Sandwiched between stars like George Headley, Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, and George Rhoden, and others like Lawrence Rowe, Don Quarrie, Michael Holding, and Merlene Ottey is Bunny Grant, one of the greatest boxers Jamaica has ever produced. As a boxer, and the Jamaica and the Commonwealth champion, Grant, who died a few days ago, was one of the greatest heroes of the Jamaican people. On three occasions, Grant featured in three memorable fights between two great Jamaicans when he fought a draw with Percy Hayles at George V1 Memorial Park in 1960, when he defeated his compatriot at George VI Memorial Park, and again when he defeated him for both the Commonwealth (British Empire) and Jamaica lightweight titles in the National Stadium in 1965. Those three fights and the two victories set Grant on the way to becoming a household name in Jamaica. Grant, however, was more than a household name, and he proved that by not only beating other Jamaicans, like Killer Solomon, Gerald Gray, Kid Banga, Kid Bassey, and Roy Goss, but also dozens of fighters from around the world, at home and abroad, including men like Lennox Beckles of Guyana, Johnny DePeiza of Trinidad and Tobago, Carlos Teo Cruz of Puerto Rico, Maurice Cullen of England, and Bruno Acran of Italy. Probably the best of them, the one to remember, however, came on the eve of Jamaica’s independence, at Jamaica’s spanking new National Stadium, and before the eyes of his own people. On August 5, 1962, all of Jamaica, it seemed, made their way to the National Stadium. The roads leading to the stadium were blocked with traffic, and they were jammed for hours. My father of blessed memory, in his black Ford Anglia motor car, my mother, two brothers, and I, were caught up in what appeared an unending traffic jam on that memorable night. That was the night when Grant and England’s Dave Charnley fought for the Commonwealth (British Empire) lightweight title and the crowd went wild, chanting “Bunny, Bunny” with every left jab that found its mark. The Jamaican, the hometown boy, carved out a victory that when the result was announced, the cheers were so loud that all of Jamaica – from Negril to Morant Point – must have heard the roar of happiness. Grant’s fast hands, his speedy footwork, and his stinging left jabs were too much for the Englishman as he boxed his way into Jamaican folklore, giving Jamaica, and the tens of thousands who packed in the stadium that night, an early Independence gift, a gift which saw him finishing the year, at age 22, with four titles – the Latin American junior welterweight title, the British Empire lightweight title, the Jamaica lightweight title, the Jamaica welterweight title, as well as the Machado Sportsman of the Year award. The victory over Charnley may have been Grant’s finest hour as far as decorations won were concerned, but there were other fights which probably meant more. One was in 1963 when he fought world-rated Carlos Hernandez of Venezuela and lost, and another was a few months earlier, shortly after the Charnley fight, when he fought the world number three lightweight, Doug Valiant of Cuba, at the National Stadium and beat him on points in what, according to the records, was Grant’s biggest win. His biggest fight, however, was against Eddie Perkins, the world welterweight champion. In becoming the first Jamaican to battle for a world title, Grant traded punches with Perkins at the National Stadium on Aril 18, 1964, in the first world title fight in Jamaica for the WBC and the WBA junior welterweight and lost, a unanimous decision. In his time, George Leslie Grant, popularly called ‘Bunny’, fought eight world championship fights in a career spanning 15 years and in which he boasted a record of 102 fights, 86 wins, 10 losses, and six draws. However, the one Jamaicans will always remember, the one Jamaicans will always talk about, is the one when the Jamaican beat the Englishman for the Commonwealth title and handed Jamaica a fitting birthday gift.