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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Lionel Rose, World Champion Bantam Weight Boxer before departing to the USA to defend his title

1968 (printed 2008)
Mervyn Bishop

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 50.7 cm x 40.5 cm, image: 40.0 cm x 26.5 cm)

Lionel Rose MBE (1948–2011) took up boxing in his early teens, having been introduced to the sport by his father, Roy, a tent-show fighter. He won the Australian amateur flyweight championship, aged fifteen, in 1963, the day after Roy's death. The eldest of nine, Rose went professional to help support his family, taking out the national bantamweight title in 1966. At nineteen, Rose accepted an opportunity to contest the world bantamweight belt in a bout against Mashiko 'Fighting' Harada in Tokyo in February 1968. Rose defeated Harada on points after a fifteen-round fight and returned to Melbourne a national hero. More than 250,000 turned out to cheer Rose on his return.

In this photograph, Mervyn Bishop captures Rose at the pinnacle of his success as the first Aboriginal Australian to win a world sporting title. This iconic image was taken at a press conference at Sydney airport in 1968 before the champion boxer left Australia for the USA to defend his world bantamweight title. At the time Bishop was a photographer for the Sydney Morning Herald, and was named Press Photographer of the Year three years later.

Purchased 2008
© Mervyn Bishop

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Mervyn Bishop (age 23 in 1968)

Lionel Rose (age 20 in 1968)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

The Sands Brothers (group photograph)
The Sands Brothers (group photograph)
The Sands Brothers (group photograph)
The Sands Brothers (group photograph)

Seeing stars

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2013

Joanna Gilmour explores photographic depictions of Aboriginal sportsmen including Lionel Rose, Dave Sands, Jerry Jerome and Douglas Nicholls.

Lionel Rose, World Champion Bantam Weight Boxer before departing to the USA to defend his title
Lionel Rose, World Champion Bantam Weight Boxer before departing to the USA to defend his title
Lionel Rose, World Champion Bantam Weight Boxer before departing to the USA to defend his title
Lionel Rose, World Champion Bantam Weight Boxer before departing to the USA to defend his title

The champs

Magazine article by Dr Christopher Chapman, 2008

Two lively portrait photographs reflect the agility of their subjects: world champion Australian sportsmen Lionel Rose and Anthony Mundine.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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