Lionel Rose - Boxing Legend
By Paul Upham: The room stood and applauded as one. Four hundred people in unison signalled their appreciation for the Australian boxing great Lionel Rose - now recognised as a true legend after his elevation to the highest status possible in the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame.
The 8th annual induction ceremony dinner was held on Saturday 9 October 2010 in the prestigious Members Dining Room at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
“For me, the Hall of Fame is all about preserving great memories,” said ANBHOF President Brett McCormick. “We are going to make another legend of Australian boxing. He already knows he is a legend. Tonight, we are going to make if official.”
Three-division world champion and International Boxing Hall of Famer Jeff Fenech performed the ceremony which confirmed Rose’s new status.
“It is an honour to be here tonight,” said Fenech. “To be here speaking on behalf of Lionel Rose, who is my great friend and a legend. It is a great honour to be able to announce that Lionel Rose is a true legend.”
Born in Drouin, Victoria, on 21 June 1948, the physically gifted Rose demonstrated a superb left hand and went to Japan to face world champion Masahiko ‘Fighting’ Harada for the WBC and WBA bantamweight world titles in February 1968. This was meant to be an easy fight for the champion, but Lionel Rose and ‘Fighting’ Harada was actually a mismatch. The Australian winning over 15 rounds on 27 February to become world champion against the two-division world champion. Rose became the first Aboriginal man to become a world champion boxer.
Both bantamweight world champions, Jeff Fenech had no doubt who would have won if they had ever fought inside the boxing ring, telling Rose and the audience at the induction ceremony.
“I watched of Lionel’s fights against Rocky Gattellari and against the Mexicans Chucho Castillo and Ruben Olivares,” said Fenech. “I thought to myself, ‘how would have Jeff Fenech gone with Lionel Rose’? I lot of people have made their own pick and I made my own. You are the winner champ.”
Four division Australian champion Wally Carr was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the Modern category.
“This is unbelievable,” he smiled. “I’m not a real good talker, Fair dinkum! This is so exciting and now I’m lost for words.”
Tony Madigan represented Australia at three Olympic Games, winning a bronze medal in 1960, losing to future great Muhammad Ali. He was inducted in the Veteran category.
“I had a very enjoyable career as a boxer,” said Madigan. “I wouldn’t promote it (boxing) to everybody. Such is the head damage, which is something I feel I’m suffering a bit from these days – that’s partly a joke.”
Another Australian Olympian inducted in the Veteran category was Australian flyweight champion Rocky Gattellari.
“I am the proudest person on Earth,” he said. “Very pleased and very honoured to be here today and to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I may be in the final round, but this for me will last forever.”
Former professional boxer and world title referee Billy Males was inducted in the Non-Participants category.
“The boxing game has been tremendously interesting,” said Males. “It has given me a lot of joy, a lot of happiness. Over the years, you don’t think about the end of it all. When you get inducted into the Hall of Fame, I am so very excited.”
Kostya Tszyu, currently filming The Contender television series in Ukraine was unable to attend the ceremony for his induction in the Modern category. His last opponent, British great Ricky Hatton, sent a video message.
“Congratulations Kostya on being inducted into the Australian Boxing Hall of Fame,” said Hatton. “Nobody deserves it more.”
Apart from those being inducted and Jeff Fenech, other well known boxers in attendance on the night included Johnny Famechon, Lester Ellis, Henry Nissen, Jeff Harding, Sam Soliman and Paul Ferreri.
2010 ANBHOF Inductees
Legend: Lionel Rose
Moderns: Kostya Tszyu / Wally Carr
Veterans: Tony Madigan / Rocky Gattellari
Old Timers: Mickey Miller / Merv Blandon
Pioneers: Tim Hegarty
Non Participants: Ern McQuillan Sr / Billy Males
Honorary Internationals: Jimmy Clabby