Well it’s been quite a week, former Australian World Bantamweight boxing champion, Lionel Rose has joined Sir Henry Cooper and Seve Ballesteros in that great ring in the sky. Rose passed away aged 62, at his home in Victoria after being ill for several months.
Lionel Rose made his way from very humble beginnings, He was the eldest of 9 children, born on an aboriginal settlement near Warragul in Victoria. He followed his father into boxing, who had been a success on the tent circuit. Lionel learned to box in a bush ring, marked out by fencing wire, strung between trees. He eventually moved to Melbourne where he lived and trained with legendary Australian Trainer Jack Rennie. Rose won the Australian Bantamweight title in 1966 and the World Title in Tokyo two years later. This was at a time when aboriginal Australians were still not allowed to vote in some States.
On his return to Melbourne, after winning the title in Tokyo, a quarter of a million people lined the streets to welcome him back. He was a inspiration to both aboriginal and white Australians. He won 42 of his 53 professional bouts 12 of them by knockout.
Although desperately short of money, Rose was one of the first sportsmen in the world to speak out against the apartheid regime in South Africa, refusing a lucrative offer to fight in South Africa in 1970. He turned down the fight there as he would only have been allowed entry as an “honourary white”
During and after his boxing career Rose also found fame as a Country Singer. His song “I Thank You” was a nationwide hit.
Tributes have flowed for Lionel Rose from the boxing fraternity and beyond and there are calls for a State Funeral for him. RIP.