Lionel Rose the eldest of nine children and Australian Boxing Legend, died on 8 May 2011 aged 62 after an illness which lasted for several months.
Few Australian sportsmen captured the attention of the nation quite like Lionel Rose, Lionel was a true legend of boxing, and a icon amongst the aboriginal community, and a hero to all Australians.
Lionel Rose grew up in hardship, learning to box from his father, Roy, a useful fighter on the tent-show circuit. According to the boxing historian Grantlee Kieza, Lionel Rose "sparred with rags on his hands in a ring made from fencing wire stretched between trees".
He came under the tutelage of Frank Oates, a Warragul trainer (whose daughter Jenny he later married). He won the Australian amateur flyweight title at age 15.
Lionel Rose began his professional boxing career, outpointing Mario Magriss over eight rounds. This fight was in Warragul, but the majority of Rose's fights were to be held in Melbourne. Along the way he was helped by Jack and Shirley Rennie, in whose Melbourne home he stayed, training every day in their backyard gym.
Lionel Rose challenged Fighting Harada for the world's bantamweight title (picture above) on 26 February 1968, in Tokyo. Rose made history by becoming the first Aboriginal to be a world champion boxer when he defeated Harada in a 15-round decision.. This win made Rose an instant national hero in Australia, and an icon among Aboriginals. A public reception at Melbourne Town Hall was witnessed by a crowd of more than 250,000. ( I dont think Anthony Mundine would get that kind of support, maybe 20 people at most)
On 6 December, he met Chucho Castillo at the Inglewood Forum in Inglewood, California. Rose beat Castillo by decision,( picture below) but the points verdict in favour of him infuriated many in the pro-Castillo crowd, and a riot began: 14 fans and fight referee Dick Young were hospitalised for injuries received.
Even Elvis Presley wanted to meet him, when Rose defended his title in California later that year, requesting to meet him.
"I was in awe of him, but he said he was in awe of me," Rose recounted of the meeting in an interview.
Lionel Rose compiled a record of 42 wins and 11 losses as a professional boxer, with 12 wins by knockout.
Lionel Rose was Australian of the Year in 1968, the first Aboriginal to be awarded the honour. The same year he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
In retirement, Lionel Rose became a successful businessman. He was able to manage his money and make good financial decisions, and he enjoyed the monetary benefits his career brought him. Rose was showcased in 2002 in the The Ring section 'Where are they now?'.
During his off time from boxing in the 1970s, Rose embarked on a successful singing career in Australia having hits with "I Thank You" ( Listen Here ) and "Please Remember Me" in 1970. The song "I Thank You" was a nationwide hit.
Rose remains one of only four Australian-born fighters to win a world title overseas.
Jeff Harding and Jimmy Carruthers also achieved the feat, while the latest came on the same day as Rose's death, with Daniel Geale defeating German champion Sebastian Sylvester for the IBF middleweight title.
A person like Lionel Rose, who becomes a hero and a legend in his sport is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men.
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