The Aboriginal Lionel Rose didn’t pack a huge punch but he still won a world title against a legend and took it on the road to prove he was one of the greatest Australian fighters ever. He won his title on the road and made two of his three defenses on the road.
#3: Lionel Rose 42-11 (12 KO)
Titles won: Australian bantamweight, World Boxing Council (WBC) World, World Boxing Association (WBA) World, Commonwealth (British Empire) bantamweight
Rose won 17 of his first 19 fights and beat both men who defeated him before fighting for the Australian bantamweight title. He beat former victim Noel Kunde over 15 rounds to win the title. Kunde was under .500 coming into the fight so this was far from his best win.
Rose ran his record to 26-2 before he got the first big win of his career. He again fought for the Australian bantamweight title this time against Rocky Gattella, who was 21-1 coming into the fight. Gattella was a former Australian flyweight champion and had only lost in a bid for the world flyweight title against Salvatore Burruni who was 81-5-1.
Rose scored a rare knockout in round 13 and defended the Australian bantamweight title.
That fight propelled him into a title fight with Fighting Harada in February of 1968. Rose would travel to Japan to take on the legend Harada and would take his WBC and WBA titles after 15 hard fought rounds.
The win made Rose the first Aboriginal fighter to win a world title. His next fight would be a win in Australia but it was not a world title defense. His first world title defense came against the undefeated Takao Sakurai in his home country of Japan.
Rose would retain the title with a close majority decision win after 15 rounds. His next fight was another majority decision win this time a non-title win against Joe Medel. This fight took place at the Inglewood Forum and was the first fight in America for Rose.
His next fight would also take place at The Forum but would be a world title defense against Chucho Castillo. The fight was closely contested with Rose building an early lead before Castillo came on late in the fight and knocked Rose down in round 10.
Castillo was the aggressor while Rose used a counter punching style. The split decision went to Rose and the fans of Castillo were not happy. A riot broke out after the fight and forced the rest of the card to be cancelled. Fires were set, debris was thrown into the ring, and cars were overturned in the parking lot.
The win was the second defense of the title for Rose. His next title defense was also a split decision but came in his home country of Australia against Alan Rudkin. He also won the Commonwealth (British Empire) bantamweight title. He again traveled to the United States to beat novice Ernie Cruz in Hawaii.
He returned to The Forum to defend his title against the undefeated Ruben Olivares, 52-0-1, and was relieved of his title. Olivares dropped him in the second and twice in the fifth. The fight was stopped in the fifth round. He kept fighting but only went 5-3 in his next eight fights.
He did however upset future world lightweight champion Guts Ishimatsu with a 10 round unanimous decision. That fight put Rose back on the map but was followed by a loss to Jeff Smith in a Australian lightweight title fight. He got one more chance at world glory when he challenged Yoshiaki Numata for the WBC super featherweight title.
He lost a 15 round decision and announced his retirement shortly after. He returned four years later but lost four of the six fights he fought.
Why he is here:
He was the first Aboriginal to win a world title and beat a legend to do it. He beat Harada a year before Jeff Famechon did it. He then went on the road to beat an undefeated fighter and future world champion Castillo.
He was also a superb boxer who relied on his skills because his power was almost nonexistent.