More than 2,000 Australians gather for Lionel Rose's funeral

09:39, May 17, 2011      

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by Vienna Ma

Friends, family, sports stars and politicians on Monday gathered at Festival Hall in Melbourne for the funeral of Australia's sporting greats, legendary boxer, Lionel Rose.

More than 2,000 people attended the service at Festival Hall. Among the mourners at the state funeral are Rose's long-time trainer Jack Rennie, former boxing world champion Johnny Famechon and Aboriginal fighter Tony Mundine.

Federal Sports Minister Mark Arbib, former Victorian premier John Brumby and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews also attended the service.

Rose made Australian sporting history in 1968 when he became the first Indigenous boxer to win a world championship.

He was named Australian of the Year in 1968 in recognition of the achievement, becoming the first indigenous Australian to be awarded this honor. That same year, he was also appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Rose had been suffering from health problems since having a stroke in 2007 that left him partially paralyzed with speech difficulties. He died last week at the age of 62.

According to Aboriginal elder Aunty Joy, Rose excelled in the boxing ring at a young age and showed the world the tenacity and integrity of a young Aboriginal man.

"He knew from an early age the challenges facing his family and the Aboriginal community," Aunty Joy told the crowd in Melbourne on Monday.

"Lionel's career has been an inspiration for many. Lionel will be remembered making history and receiving recognition at the tender age of 19.

"Lionel also sent a strong message especially to young people around the world to stand up and fight for ... your rights and aspire to reach your dream."

Meanwhile, Victoria state Premier Ted Baillieu said Rose would forever be remembered as one of Victoria's greatest champions and a national treasure.

"There was, and remains, only one Lionel," Baillieu said.

"People genuinely loved him and felt protective of him. He was a thoroughly decent and gentle soul. He inspired us, he charmed us and he in turn grew up with us."

Meanwhile, former Victorian Football League player and Rose's friend, Stan Alves said Rose was a proud Aboriginal, steeped in his culture and he never forgot to stick up for and never took a backward step when it came to talking about his roots. He said Rose's spirit has inspired other Aboriginal people to lift their sights.

Alves also paid tribute to Rose's brilliant boxing style, which inspired many.

Festival Hall was built in 1915 by the notorious bookie John Wren as a venue for boxing and wrestling. The venue was where Rose cut his boxing teeth and where he won his first major fight in 1963. Of his 52 professional fights, 23 were at Festival Hall with 22 wins.

Rose will be buried in a private ceremony in his home town of Warragul in Victoria, Australia.

Source: Xinhua
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