Boxing community devastated as tributes are paid to ‘gentle giant’ coach Granville Williams
By Davina Hyde
The passing of coach and mentor Granville Williams has devastated the boxing community.
The 66-year-old gentle giant of Miguel’s Boxing Gym in Brixton was a hugely popular former karate black belt who influenced many hundreds of young lives during his 25 years there.
One of his proteges was Dillian Whyte, world heavyweight title contender, who tweeted: “Woke up to sad sad news this morning of coach Granville passing he was one of the kindling guys u will ever meet and he help all of us out as kids that come up in @miguels.a.b.c and he was very proud of me to see where have come from to where I am today #restwell.”
Driven by a desire to help turn the youngsters’ lives around, Granville devoted his life to helping young teenagers get off the streets, and into a friendly environment where no one was judged.
Granville’s sudden death at his home in Tooting on August 19 came days after he celebrated his 66th birthday on August 6, with his daughter and members of his family.
Apart from his day job at the Royal Mail’s sorting office at Nine Elms in Battersea, which he retired from a few years ago, Granville devoted his spare time to the gym.
His daughter, Allana Williams, said he was a gentle giant.
She said: “My dad’s greatest achievement would be that he can train kids and see their outcome. He must have influenced hundreds of kids.
“Even Dillian Whyte, heavyweight champion, my father trained him and is very proud of where he is today.
“He was always so calm, and kind and gentle, a gentle giant, he never once raised his voice to me although he was very strict, but fair, at the gym. He was hugely popular, and loved to party.”
Granville’s sister, Denise Harris-Williams, said: “Granville was a big family man, the epicentre of our family and deeply loved by all of us.
“He was a quiet man, but there was something about him that drew people to him.
“If you were a friend of Granville’s he was your friend for life.
“For our family his passing is a shock beyond shock, and a real painful time for us to get through.
“He was such a humble guy; often described as a The Gentleman Giant. He never did anything for reward, never did anything for payment. It always came from his passion in seeing the potential in people, regardless of their background.
“Granville was an advocate for getting young kids off the street – how do we get them to put down their weapons and do something constructive – and saw Miguel’s boxing gym as an excellent platform for doing that.
“Once in the gym, he quickly instilled in them the positivity of self-worth and encouraged them to recognise that they are masters of their own journey.
“What was nice was he also encouraged young girls to understand that boxing is not just a male sport, and that behind the face of boxing is self discipline, self respect and confidence building.
“He was an amazing coach and that was indicative by the number of youngsters from the boxing gym that turned up for his Nine Night on August 27, just to pay their respects to him.
“The realisation that Granville was no longer with us was emotionally too much for some of those youngsters. They cried.
“More than 600 people attended and it was heartwarming for the family to see the community love that was there for him.
“Granville’s death has left a gaping hole in so many people’s lives, not just his family. But I have no doubt in my mind that his spirit and legacy will live on, and the family is immensely proud of that.”
Wesley Graham, a cousin of Granville’s, said: “It wasn’t until one of my best mates passed away and I decided to do a white collar charity boxing match to raise money for my best friend’s family, that I decided to train with Granville.
“I raised a lot of money but lost that bout so I thought I can’t do that – just one fight and lose – so I trained down there for a few more years and I haven’t lost since.
“His last words he texted to me the day before he died was ‘Boxing is hard enough as it is, do the simple things exceptionally well’.
“The day after he died I had my weigh in, and I thought I can’t do this, I can’t box now, then thought Granville would never let me pull out.
“That evening we went to Miguel’s and paid our respects to him. Everyone, all the amateur fighters, came to the gym, everyone spoke of their memories of him, it was brilliant, really emotional. The next day I went into my fight and used him as inspiration. I won my fight, and dedicated my fight to him.
“Granville was a great man, father and husband, and really popular member of our family. He changed my life, getting me down to Miguel’s.
“I live a much cleaner life, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I train regularly, mentally and physically I am in a great place because of boxing. Granville transformed my life.”
Granville leaves behind a daughter and two sons, 11 grandchildren and one great-grand daughter.
Funeral details have not been released yet.