World bantamweight boxing champion Lionel Rose in training, 1968, originally uploaded by National Archives of Australia.
Citation NAA: A1500, K18448
Lionel Rose won the title by defeating Fighting Harada in February 1968.
I remember watching the fight on television. We lived in Pascoe Vale South, not far from Essendon where he trained in the gym of his trainer and mentor Jack Rennie. What brought Rose even closer to home was his friendship with Maurie Greene who owned the butcher shop 3 doors down from our place in Anderson Street.
Mr. Rose was a regular visitor to Maurie's house behind his shop, as they were good friends and used to go on shooting trips together. I have vivid memories of Mr. Rose driving a huge (by then Australian standards) American car in and out of the laneway behind our place.
He wore army surplus greens for his hunting trips, and used to stop and chat with my brother and I. He would also sign autographs for we kids, and others in the neighbourhood who heard he was there. He also sometimes came into the shop run by my Mum and Dad, and Dad remembers him as a nice, quietly spoken man.
After his victory over Harada the enormous trophy, which was much bigger than I was, went on display in Maurie's shop and I remember my Mum taking me to see the trophy.
Like many pugilists Mr. Rose later fell on hard times - but he was my boyhood hero, and I still remember his kindness to my brother and I.
I've just looked up a photograph of the trophy, and it was every bit as big as I remember, here it's pictured in a Moomba parade float:
Another Melbourne memory: The headquarters retail store of the McEwans' hardware store in Bourke Street used to have a walk of fame, somewhat like Grauman's Chinese theatre, where famous Australians or visitors to Melbourne would be persauded to leave imprints of their hands and feet in cement.
Lionel Rose left his hand prints by pressing his clenched fists into the wet cement. Later, I and I'm sure many Melbourne boys would go there and press our fists into the impressions to see how ours measured up to those of the great boxer.
I understand that now that Bunnings have taken over the store that these have been moved to a wall inside the Bourke Street store. I'll have to try them for size the next time I'm in town.
Added: Here's a nice piece written in 2005 by that most Australian of writers Barry Dickens with whom I share a hero.