Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
400 mm x 500mm
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.
Rose was the 2003 inductee for the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame “moderns” category and was the second person to be elevated to “legend” status in 2010.
Born and raised at Jacksons Track in Victoria as well as the town of Warragul, Rose grew up in hardship and learned to box from his father, Roy, who was a skilled fighter at local house shows. Rose was of the Gunditjmara (Dhauwurd Wurrung) people
Rose began his professional boxing career at age 16 on 9 September 1964, outpointing Mario Magriss over eight rounds. 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. Then at age 18 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 by becoming the first Aboriginal Australian 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 Aboriginal Australians. A public reception at Melbourne Town Hall was witnessed by a crowd of more than 10,000.
On 8 March 1969, Rose retained the title with a 15-round decision over Alan Rudkin,
Rose continued boxing after his defeat against Olivares, 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.
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. Produced and written by Johnny Young and engineered by John L Sayers, the song “I Thank You” was a top Five nationwide hit. Comedic sports commentators Roy Slaven and H.G. Nelson played it as a substitute to the Australian national anthem during radio broadcasts of the State of Origin series and other sporting events.
Rose sang “Jackson Track” and “I Thank You”, in both the SBS documentary and accompanying CD, Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music.