Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Boxing Glove Book Review: Lionel Rose: Australian-The Life Story of a Champion




The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review By Peter Silkov
"Lionel Rose, Australian, The Life Story of a Champion" By Lionel Rose.  As told to Rod Humphries.

The book, which we are looking at this week, is an old one on the great 1960’s World bantamweight champion Lionel Rose.  “Lionel Rose: Australian, The Life Story of a Champion” is not a book that you will find in your local bookstore new, as it seems sadly to be out of print. Although it is out of print, it is available secondhand, and is one of those boxing biographies that are well worth hunting down. 

Rose was a brilliantly talented boxer, with fast hands and fast feet, and razor sharp reflexes. Although he didn’t have a big knockout punch, Rose would throw many punches in blistering combinations. Rose also had excellent stamina and the ability to fight at a pace at which few opponents could keep up with him.

Born in Warragul, Victoria, Australia, on June 21, 1948, Lionel Rose was the first Aborigine to win a world boxing championship. He was also one of the youngest men ever to win a world championship at the age of just 19 years and 8 months old.

First printed in 1969, this autobiography covers Rose’s life from his childhood beginnings, growing up in poverty in Jackson’s Track, a small Aboriginal settlement set in the middle of the bush, near Victoria, to his famous world championship victory over Fighting Harada in Tokyo on February 27, 1968, when he captured the world Bantamweight crown. 

We are given a fascinating insight into Rose’s life growing up as an Aborigine in Australia, the hardships and clashes of culture that he had to endure, but also the countries idolization of him after he won the World bantamweight championship.  Rose was named “Australian of the year” in 1968, a huge honour for a young 20-year old.

This book also gives a great insight into the dedication and deprivations that fighters need to make in order to reach the top. Rose’s battles making the weight for his fights are often as draining as the fights themselves.

There are detailed accounts of the fights, which saw Rose rise up the world rankings, and then secure his world title shot. We are then given a blow-by-blow account of Rose’s title winning effort against Harada, including the build up to the fight, and its aftermath. As would be expected Rose, with his Aboriginal background and youth, found it an incredible culture shock when he won the world championship, with all of the attention, demands, and money that it brought. While Rose is very proud and thankful for his success, it is clear that being a world champion is not always easy, and perhaps entails some problems and pressures, which had never previously been foreseen.

Rose takes us through his successful defences against Takao Sukurai, Chucho Castillo, and Alan Rudkin.  “Lionel Rose: Australian” ends before he lost his world title to Mexican Ruben Olivares in 1969, finally succumbing to a mixture of chronic weight problems, as well as Olivares dynamite punching. Rose's boxing career went into a tailspin, and while he would give a few near vintage performances, he suddenly found himself being beaten by boxers whom previously would not have come near him when he was in his prime.

When his career finally ended in the late 1970s, following another aborted comeback, Rose struggled to adjust to a life away from boxing and the crowds. Over the next few years, he would experience problems with alcohol and have a number of run-ins with the police. Despite this, Rose was still held in great affection by Australian fans, and his fellow Aborigines, and in his later years seemed to find peace of mind.

“Lionel Rose: Australian” is a fascinating book, giving us a great insight into the thoughts and memories of a young world champion when he is at the height of his sporting powers. Anyone who has heard Rose’s life story or watched him box will gain a lot out of this book, which remains the only biography that has been written about Rose, who outside of Australia at least, tends to be unfairly over looked today.

Despite the ups and downs which he was to experience later in life, Roses life story remains an uplifting tale of one mans rise from poverty to the championship of the world, and along with it fame and fortune.


Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

 
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