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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.

Lionel Rose
Lionel Rose 1968.jpg
Real nameLionel Edmund Rose
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]
Boxing record
Total fights53
Wins by KO12
No contests0

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.



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.

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.

Boxing careerEdit

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.

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.

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

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 careerEdit

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.


  • I Thank You – Summit (SRA 250 033) (1970)

Jackson's Track - Festival SFL-934166

  • "I Thank You"/"Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" – Festival (FK-3425) (1969)
  • "Please Remember Me"/"Good Old Country Song" – Festival (FK-3575) (March 1970)


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 filmEdit

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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lionel Rose and Jenny Rose interviewed by Rob Willis for the Sport oral history project, Trove (National Library of Australia), 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g 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 readingEdit

External linksEdit

  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