On this day in 1985, world bantamweight champion Lionel Rose was inducted into the Sport Australian Hall of Fame. Today he’s being honoured in the form of a Google “doodle” – those entertaining alterations to the logo on the search engine’s homepage – with an artwork by Sydney artist Mark Ross.
Lionel Edmund Rose was born in 1948 in the Aboriginal community Jackson’s Track, Victoria, and was trained by his “tent-fighting” father using “rags for gloves”.
At 15 Rose won his first amateur bout and by 1964 he went pro. Rose made history in a 15-round battle in Tokyo in 1968, beating Japanese champion Masahiko “Fighting” Harada to become the first Aboriginal Australian to win a world sporting title.
Arriving home in Melbourne, Rose was greeted by an estimated quarter of a million people in what is still regarded as the biggest home-coming parade for an Australian sports star, Google said in a statement. Also in 1968, Rose was honoured as the first Aboriginal Australian of the Year.
Rose successfully defended his title in three further matches, overwhelming his opponents with his notorious agility and ferocious counterattacks, before relinquishing his belt in 1969 after being defeated by Mexican boxer Rubén Olivares.
In 1970, after meeting Elvis Presley, Rose lent into his other passion, music. He released a chart- topping country album I Thank You.
Jarwadjali and Wotjobaluk man, artist Mark Munk Ross – who is also known as the “grandfather of Indigenous hip-hop”, according to his website – says he feels “immense pride” in being chosen to celebrate Rose and his achievements, calling the boxer a “legend of this country and an advocate for First Nations people”, in a statement. Ross says he drew on the distinct style of Western Kulin art to “respectfully tell Lionel’s story through his songlines”.
Ross hopes the more than half-a-million users who’ve searched Lionel Rose on Google Australia today will see his work and learn a little more about the World Champion boxer, number one recording artist and “triumphant advocate for First Nations people of Australia”.
Today’s doodle is one of over 4000 alterations to the Google logo that have kept users amused and informed of local holidays and anniversaries for decades. The tradition began in 1998 when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin altered the homepage logo with a stick figure as a cheeky way of letting users know they’d headed off to desert-doof, Burning Man. Since then, hundreds of doodles have been created by Google’s dedicated “doodlers” and submitted by artists around the world. Google says, “the selection process aims to celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google’s personality and love of innovation”.
Lionel Rose retired in 1976 and passed away in 2011. He is “remembered as a generous and humble leader, a national hero and one of the greatest Australian athletes of all time,” Google says. Rose has also been immortalised in film in the documentary Lionel by Australian director Eddie Martin, the man behind Jisoe, All This Mayhem and Have You Seen the Listers?.