Australian boxing great Lionel Rose has died aged 62

By: Elvis Australia
May 8, 2011

Australian boxing great Lionel Rose has died aged 62 after being ill for several months. The bantamweight champion had 53 fights for 42 wins and was one of Australia's greatest sporting legends. Rose beat Fighting Harada in 1968 to win the world bantamweight title and in doing so became the first Aboriginal to win a world title. On his return to Australia with the title belt, he was greeted by more than 100,000 people outside Melbourne's Town Hall. Rose was made Australian of the Year that same year. Rose was born into poverty at Jackson's Track, near Warragul in country Victoria on June 21 1948 and started boxing aged 10. By 15 he was the Australian amateur flyweight champion. Four years later he was world champion. In the 70s Rose became a recording artist and had two hits with I Thank You and Please Remember Me.

He had suffered a stroke in 2007 that left him partially paralyzed and with speech difficulties.

As well as being a much loved and respected Australian identity, we mention this sad news as Elvis appreciated Lionel too, personally asking for a meeting when both were in L.A., Elvis was filming The Trouble with Girls.

Lionel Rose: 'I was punching a heavy bag in a gym in L.A., and I hear a voice sing out, 'Hey, Lionel! What's doin'?' And it was Elvis himself', Rose recalled. 'I was in awe of him, but he said he was in awe of me'.

Lionel Rose was nearing the end of a hard training session when he got the message that Elvis Presley wanted to meet him. It was December 1968 and the 20-year-old Aboriginal boxer had come to Los Angeles to defend his world bantamweight title against Mexican challenger Chucho Castillo. But the bout was still two days away, and an invitation from the King was not something to be passed up. Elvis was, after all, a big favourite of Lionel's mum. Rose 'pulled off the gloves, jumped under the shower and drove straight to the MGM lot'.

Elvis was shooting the movie The Trouble with Girls. A runner on the set, a fight fan, had suggested the get-together, judging that the two men would get along well. He was right. They spent two hours together, talking about music and the manly arts.  As well as conversation, there was a little light sparring - strictly for the camera - and an autographed US dollar bill as a gift for Lionel's mum back home.

Would Elvis ever come to Australia? Rose wondered. Too far away, said the King.

They parted as friends, the young boxer 'pleased as punch' by the encounter.

Lionel Rose and Elvis Presley
Lionel Rose and Elvis Presley meet on the set of The Trouble With Girls 1969.

Lionel Rose and Elvis Presley

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