By Paul Smeaton and Mitch Sabine

Australian boxers Jeff Fenech and Anthony Mundine have paid tribute to Lionel Rose, as the nation mourns a sporting hero.

Lionel Rose
Former world bantamweight champion Lionel Rose

AUDIO: Lionel Rose remembered, by Paul Smeaton

The champion Indigenous boxer died yesterday aged 62, after battling with heart problems in his latter years.

Rose became the first Indigenous boxer to win a world title, when he beat Japan’s Fighting Harada in 1968.

He was just 19 when he beat the Japanese champion in Tokyo to secure the world bantamweight title.

The win reverberated around the nation, and champion boxer Jeff Fenech spoke of the incredible scenes that greeted Rose upon his return to Australia.

“To come back home and have a couple of hundred thousand people pour in the streets, it’s something we’d never seen before and I dont think we’ll ever see again,” Fenech said.

Anthony Mundine says Rose will always be a hero to Aboriginal athletes.

“I believe he’s the best Australian fighter to ever come out of these shores.

“I had an immense respect for the man, for what he’s done for Aboriginal culture and what he’s done for Australia,” Mundine said.

In 1968 Rose became the first Aboriginal person to be named Australian of the Year and was appointed a Member of the British Order.

His career spanned 11 years, with a record of 42-11, with 12 wins coming by knockout.

Rose launched a successful singing career in 1969, and his country song ‘Thank You’ reached number 1 on the Australian charts.