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PASSINGS: Lionel Rose, Gunter Sachs, Thomas G. Nelson

Lionel Rose, Aborigine boxer, dies at 62; Gunter Sachs, German photographer, dies at 78; Thomas G. Nelson, retired U.S. 9th Circuit judge, dies at 74

May 09, 2011
  • Lionel Rose said that his upbringing in a crude bush-settlement hut helped him to become a boxing champion.
Lionel Rose said that his upbringing in a crude bush-settlement hut helped… (AP )

Lionel Rose

1st Aborigine to a win world boxing title

Lionel Rose, 62, the first Australian Aborigine to win a world boxing title, died Sunday near Melbourne after being ill for several months, his family said. He had a stroke in 2007 that left him partially paralyzed.

Rose beat Japan's Masahiko "Fighting" Harada in Tokyo in February 1968 to win the world bantamweight title at age 19.

In December of that year at the Forum in Inglewood, Rose was declared the victor in a split 15-round decision over Mexico's Jesus "Chucho" Castillo. An unruly mob among the more than 15,000 spectators rioted, throwing bottles, chairs and other debris into the ring and setting fires inside and outside the arena.

Known for his powerful left and his calculated ring strategy, Rose successfully defended his bantamweight title three times before relinquishing the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. honors in August 1969 when Mexican fighter Ruben Olivares knocked him out in the fifth round at the Forum. Rose retired in 1971, made a comeback in 1975, then finished his career in 1976 with 42 wins, 12 by knockout, in 53 fights.

Rose was named Australian of the year after his world title victory, becoming the first Aborigine to receive the honor, and was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire

Born June 21, 1948, Rose was raised in the bush settlement of Jackson's Track outside Melbourne. He grew up with a large family that lived in a hut with corrugated metal roof and packed dirt floor and without electricity or running water.

"It was home," Rose told The Times' Dwight Chapin in 1969, "and I spent many happy years in those crude huts."

Rose added that his upbringing "not only led me into boxing but also gave me something else that helped me to the world's title. It's like an outer shell that gives you resistance and immunity to many things, physical and mental."

After retiring, Rose worked odd jobs, battled alcoholism and had several brushes with the law over the decades.

Gunter Sachs

German photographer once married to Bardot

Gunter Sachs, 78, a German-born photographer known for his playboy lifestyle and marriage to Brigitte Bardot in the late 1960s, committed suicide in Switzerland, his family said.

In a statement released Sunday by his family at his request, Sachs said he chose to end his life after concluding that he was suffering from an incurable degenerative disease affecting his memory and ability to communicate.

The statement provided no details on the timing or circumstances of his death, but German weekly Focus reported that Sachs shot himself Saturday at his home in the exclusive Swiss Alpine resort of Gstaad.

Sachs was born in 1932 into a wealthy industrialist family behind the Opel auto line in 1932 and used his inheritance to fund a glamorous lifestyle that fascinated many in postwar Germany. He also made a name for himself as a photographer and documentary filmmaker.

German tabloids reported extensively on his affairs with film stars and friendships with artists such as Andy Warhol. He was married to Bardot from 1966 to 1969.

Thomas G. Nelson

Retired U.S. 9th Circuit judge

Thomas G. Nelson, 74, a former Idaho attorney who was nominated to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George H.W. Bush and served on the court for almost 20 years, died Wednesday at his home in Boise, Idaho, after a period of declining health, federal court officials said.

Nelson resigned from the court in January after serving for seven years as a senior judge on the 9th Circuit. Two other senior justices on the court — Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall and Judge David R. Thompson — died earlier this year.

Nelson began serving on the appeals court in 1990. In 2003 he accepted senior judge status, but continued to hear cases through 2009 and kept his chambers through December.

Nelson was born in 1936 in Idaho Falls, graduated from the University of Idaho College of Law and worked for a Twin Falls law firm before being elevated to the federal bench. He also briefly served as a deputy in the Idaho attorney general's office and was a member of the Judge Advocate Generals Corps while a member of the U.S. Army reserve.

As a federal jurist, Nelson weighed in on several notable cases, including a 1999 lawsuit over Arizona's use of lethal gas for executing inmates, which was ruled unconstitutional.

Times staff and wire reports

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