Lionel Rose wore this gown on the night he defeated Fighting Harada in Tokyo on 26 February 1968 to become world bantamweight boxing champion. That fight made Lionel Rose a national hero overnight. When he returned to Melbourne he was greeted by a crowd of 250 000 people; 10 times the number the Beatles had attracted four years earlier.
This fight was a key event in Rose’s sporting history and in the history of Indigenous boxing. Through this and subsequent fights, Rose became a household name in Australia and an Australian sporting hero. He was awarded an MBE and was Australian of the Year in 1968, finally retiring in 1975 at the age of 27.
Lionel Rose is a Gunditjmara man. He grew up in Jacksons Track, near Drouin in Victoria. His rise to international fame from the most impoverished circumstances made him an inspiration to Aboriginal people, and today he remains one of Australia’s greatest Indigenous sports heroes.