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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.

Russell Sands, (n.d.)

an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 14.1 cm x 8.9 cm)

Clem, George, David, Alfie and Russell Sands were members of one of Australia's most famous sporting families. Of Dunghutti descent, the brothers were born at Burnt Ridge near Kempsey on the mid north coast of New South Wales, the children of rodeo-rider and timber-cutter George Ritchie and his wife Mabel (née Russell). The brothers took up boxing as young men in emulation of their father and a great- uncle, Bailey Russell, who had had some success as a bare-knuckle fighter. They and a sixth brother, Percy, fought under the surname Sands, adopted after a local boxing fan and railway worker who, in 1940, allowed Percy to travel fare-free to a fight. The 'Fighting Sands Brothers', in their green satin boxing shorts bearing a white star, won numerous New South Wales and Australian boxing championships, between them notching up at total of 607 bouts and winning 209 of them by knockout. Clem (1917-1989) held the NSW welterweight title from 1947 to 1951; and Alfie (1929-1985) was the NSW middleweight champion in 1952, 1953 and 1954. Russell (1937-1977) fought a total of 58 professional bouts and won 35 of them; George (1924-1986) won 55 of his 101 fights. Dave Sands (1926-1952), the most successful of the brothers, was known for his dedication, fortitude and modesty. He won his first Australian middleweight title in May 1946 and later that year took out the national light heavyweight championship. He won the British Empire middleweight boxing title while on a tour of England in 1949, defeating a fancied British fighter named Dick Turpin and rising to the rank of number 1 in the world in 1950, he won the Australian heavyweight title, making him the middle, light heavyweight and heavyweight champion simultaneously. In all, Dave Sands won 97 of his 110 professional bouts. He died, aged 26, when a truck he was driving overturned; at the time of his death, he was rated number three in the world middleweight rankings, behind Americans Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta. Dave Sands was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2011

Accession number: 2011.74.5

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Russell Sands

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

Related information

The Companion

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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), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist
The Sands Brothers (group photograph), (n.d.) an unknown artist

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.

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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.