Lionel Rose

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Lionel Rose
Lionel Rose 1968.jpg
Real nameLionel Edmund Rose
Nickname(s)"Slim" [1]
Weight(s) Bantamweight
Height5 ft 5 12 in (166 cm)
Born(1948-06-21)21 June 1948 [2]
Drouin, Victoria [2]
Died8 May 2011(2011-05-08) (aged 62) [2]
Warragul, Victoria [2]
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights53
Wins by KO12
No contests0

Lionel Edmund Rose MBE (21 June 1948 – 8 May 2011) was an Australian bantamweight boxer, the first Indigenous Australian to win a world title. He later became the first Indigenous Australian to be named Australian of the Year.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Bantamweight is a weight class in combat sports.

Boxing combat sport

Boxing is a combat sport in which two people, usually wearing protective gloves, throw punches at each other for a predetermined amount of time in a boxing ring.


Lionel was the 2003 Inductee for the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame Moderns category and was the 2nd person to be elevated to Legend status in 2010.

Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame was founded in 2001 and began inducting boxers into the Hall of Fame in 2003. Since then annual induction dinners have been held across Australia.


Born and raised at Jacksons Track in Victoria, Australia as well as the town of Warragul, Rose grew up in hardship and learned to box from his father. Roy (his father) was a skilled fighter at local house shows.

Warragul Town in Victoria, Australia

Warragul is a town in Victoria, Australia, 102 kilometres east-southeast of Melbourne. Warragul lies between the Strzelecki Ranges to the south and the Mount Baw Baw Plateau of the Great Dividing Range to the north. The town is named after an Aboriginal word meaning "wild dog". As at the 2016 census, the town had a population of 14,276 people. Warragul forms part of a larger urban area that includes nearby Drouin that had an estimated population of 35,353 at June 2016.

Later at the age of 10, Rose was given a pair of gloves by his teacher Ian Hawkins (who observed him shadow boxing). Aged about 15, he went under the tutelage of Frank Oakes, a Warragul trainer (whose daughter Jenny he later married). [3] He won the Australian amateur flyweight title at 15. He is the godfather to model/actress Ruby Rose.

Model (person) person employed to display, advertise and promote products, or to serve as a visual aid

A model is a person with a role either to promote, display or advertise commercial products, or to serve as a visual aid for people who are creating works of art or to pose for photography.

Ruby Rose Australian model, DJ, recording artist, actress, television presenter

Ruby Rose Langenheim is an Australian model, actress, and television presenter. Rose came to attention as a presenter on MTV Australia (2007–11), followed by several high-profile modelling gigs, notably as the face of Maybelline New York in Australia. In addition, she has co-hosted various television shows, most notably Australia's Next Top Model (2009) and The Project on Network Ten (2009–2011).

Boxing career

Rose c. 1969 Lionel Rose 1969b.jpg
Rose c. 1969

After missing selection for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Rose began his professional boxing career at age 16, [2] on 9 September 1964, outpointing Mario Magriss over eight rounds. This fight was in Warragul, but the majority of Rose's fights were 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.

1964 Summer Olympics Games of the XVIII Olympiad, celebrated in Tokyo in 1964

The 1964 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Tokyo, Japan, from 10 to 24 October 1964. Tokyo had been awarded the organization of the 1940 Summer Olympics, but this honour was subsequently passed to Helsinki because of Japan's invasion of China, before ultimately being cancelled because of World War II.

Tokyo Capital of Japan

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis, one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, has served as the Japanese capital since 1869. As of 2018, the Greater Tokyo Area ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The urban area houses the seat of the Emperor of Japan, of the Japanese government and of the National Diet. Tokyo forms part of the Kantō region on the southeastern side of Japan's main island, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo was formerly named Edo when Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters in 1603. It became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. Tokyo Metropolis formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is often referred to as a city but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo.

After five wins in a row, on 23 July 1965, Rose was rematched with Singtong Por Tor, whom he had beaten in a 12-round decision. Por Tor inflicted Rose's first defeat, beating him on points in six rounds. On 14 October of the same year, he had his first fight abroad, beating Laurie Ny by a decision in 10 rounds at Christchurch, New Zealand.

Christchurch City in South Island, New Zealand

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand's third-most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington. The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks.

Over his next nine fights, Rose had a record of eight wins and one loss, with one knockout. The lone loss in those nine fights was to Ray Perez, against whom Rose split a pair of bouts. Then at age 18, [2] on 28 October 1966, he met Noel Kunde at Melbourne for the Australian bantamweight title. He won the title by defeating Kunde in a 15-round decision.

Rose won one more bout in 1966 and eight in 1967 (including a thirteenth-round knockout win against Rocky Gattellari to defend his Australian championship) before challenging Fighting Harada for the world bantamweight title on 26 February 1968 in Tokyo. [4] Rose made history by becoming the first Aboriginal Australian to be a world champion boxer when he defeated Harada in a 15-round decision. [5] This win made Rose an instant national hero in Australia and an icon among Aboriginal Australians. A public reception at Melbourne Town Hall was witnessed by a crowd of more than 100,000. On 2 July of that year, he returned to Tokyo to retain his title with a 15-round decision win over Takao Sakurai. Then, on 6 December, he met Chucho Castillo at the Inglewood Forum in Inglewood, California. Rose beat Castillo by decision, 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.

Rose in 1969 Lionel Rose 1969.jpg
Rose in 1969

On 8 March 1969, Rose retained the title with a 15-round decision over Alan Rudkin, but five months later he returned to Inglewood, where he faced Rubén Olivares on 22 August. Rose lost the world bantamweight title to Olivares via a fifth-round knockout.

Rose continued boxing after his defeat against Olivares, but, after defeats against practically unknown fighters, many believed he was done as a prime fighter. However, he was far from finished: he upset future world lightweight champion Itshimatsu Suzuki on 10 October 1970 in a 10-round decision, and once again, he positioned himself as a world title challenger, albeit in the lightweight division, 17 pounds over the division where he crowned himself world champion.

Despite having lost to Jeff White for the Australian lightweight title, Rose got another world title try when he faced WBC world junior lightweight champion Yoshiaki Numata, on 30 May 1971 at Hiroshima. Numata beat Rose by a fifteen-round decision, and Rose announced his retirement soon after.

In 1975, he came back, but after losing four of his next six bouts, including one against Rafael Limón, Rose decided to retire for good. Rose compiled a record of 42 wins and 11 losses as a professional boxer, with 12 wins by knockout.

Singing career

During his time off from boxing in the 1970s, Rose embarked on a modest singing career in Australia having hits with "I Thank You" and "Please Remember Me" in 1970. The song "I Thank You" was a top 5 nationwide hit, produced and written by Johnny Young and engineered by John L Sayers; it was played as a substitute to the Australian National Anthem during radio broadcasts of the State of Origin series, and other sporting events by the comedic sports commentators, Roy Slaven and H.G. Nelson.

It is widely thought that Rose's singing career didn't give him time to get enough preparation training in, which is why he lost bouts against so many unknown fighters (after his loss to Ruben Olivares).

Rose sang "Jackson Track" and "I Thank You", in both the SBS documentary and accompanying CD, Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music.



Jackson's Track - Festival SFL-934166



A statue of Rose in Warragul Warragul Lionel Rose Statue 001.JPG
A statue of Rose in Warragul

In retirement, Rose became a successful businessman, and he enjoyed the monetary benefits his career brought him. Rose was showcased in 2002 in The Ring section 'Where are they now?'.

In 2007, Rose suffered a stroke that left him with speech and movement difficulties. [6] [7]

Rose died on 8 May 2011 after an illness which lasted for several months. [8] [9]


Rose was featured in Australian author: Wendy Lewis's book of "Australia's Greatest People" in 2010.

In 1968 Lionel Rose became the first Aboriginal Australian of the Year [2] [10] and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). [11]

In 1970 he won the Australian Amateur Flyweight title

In 2003 he was an inaugural inductee in the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame.

In 2005 he was featured on a stamp (part of the 2005 edition).

In 2005 Rose was also awarded the E9 title of 'King of the Ring'.

In 2011 he was inducted to the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll. [12]

TV and film

The TV miniseries Rose Against the Odds was produced in 1991 – a period drama of Rose's life story starring Paul Williams and Telly Savalas. It was released as a feature film in 1995.

In 2008, after nearly three years of conducting interviews with Rose, his family and friends, Melbourne filmmaker Eddie Martin premiered his feature-length documentary Lionel at the Melbourne International Film Festival. [13] After a brief theatrical run, a shorter version of the film premiered on SBS television on 28 November 2008.

See also

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  1. Lionel Rose and Jenny Rose interviewed by Rob Willis for the Sport oral history project, Trove (National Library of Australia), 2008.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Milbert, Neil Francis. "Lionel Rose". Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  3. "New Dawn" (PDF). March 1971. p. 17. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 March 2011.
  4. "Lionel Rose - Lineal Bantamweight Champion". The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia.
  5. National Film and Sound Archive: Lionel Rose World Title on australianscreen online. Retrieved on 24 July 2015.
  6. Elder, John (15 June 2008). "Fight to the end". The Sydney Morning Herald . Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  7. Nobbs, Tony (7 August 2007). "Lionel Rose MBE Recovering From Stroke". Archived from the original on 24 August 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  8. "Lionel Rose dies aged 62". ABC News. 8 May 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  9. Australian boxing great Lionel Rose dies aged 62, Daily Telegraph, 9 May 2011.
  10. Chronology Archived 13 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine . Australia Day. Retrieved on 24 July 2015.
  11. "ROSE, Lionel Edward". Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  12. "2011 Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll". Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  13. Lionel (2008). IMDb

Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Lionel Rose at Wikimedia Commons

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Fighting Harada
WBA bantamweight champion
27 February 1968 – 22 August 1969
Succeeded by
Rubén Olivares
WBC bantamweight champion
27 February 1968 – 22 August 1969
The Ring bantamweight champion
27 February 1968 – 22 August 1969
Lineal Bantamweight Champion
27 February 1968 – 22 August 1969
Undisputed bantamweight champion
27 February 1968 – 22 August 1969