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Two-time Australian boxing champion Aussie Rocky Gatterlari from Sydney's west has died aged 81

The boxing fraternity of Australia is in mourning following the overnight death of former Australian flyweight champion and Aussie Olympian Rocky Gatterlari.

Born in Italy but raised in Sydney, Gatterlari, who was tiny at just 160cm tall, took up boxing in the 1950s to ward off the bullies at school.

And he did that so well that he then went on to become an Australian representative at the 1960 Olympics, winning the Australian flyweight title after turning professional, then later stepping up in weight class, losing to the great Lionel Rose.

Along the way, the colourful Rocky fought for a world title going 13 rounds  with Italian world champ Salvatore Burruni [who had won 77 pro fights before this bout] before losing. That was Rocky’s 17th pro fight and first pro fight loss after 16 wins.

He came back and won five more bouts before the epic clash with Rose, in the heavier weight division, then he retired to become a restauranteur.

After 12 years out of the ring, he made a comeback but his lightning speed and his whirlwind never-stop action that had taken him to great heights, simply wasn’t there anymore.

In his prime Rocky Gatterlari (pictured) who won the Australian flyweight title, but lost an epic 13-rounder when stepping to bantamweight to Lionel Rose has died aged 81

In his prime Rocky Gatterlari (pictured) who won the Australian flyweight title, but lost an epic 13-rounder when stepping to bantamweight to Lionel Rose has died aged 81

He lost then retired for good with a record of 25 fights for 21 wins and three draws, 12 by way of knock out.

And perhaps it was in retirement that he became an even bigger man. 

Always larger than life with his flamboyant style both in and out of the ring, he had two daughters who gave him three grand kids and he owned the extremely popular restaurant Rocky’s At Edgecliff.

‘One of my favourite memories is that at the end of every phone call, every conversation all his life, he’d say ‘I love you’. That’s the kind of man he was, he just adored his family and always showed it openly,’ daughter Diana told the Daily Telegraph.

‘He was never embarrassed or ashamed to show his feelings. He did it in his career, he did it with his family, he did it with his friends.

‘He taught us the true meaning of unconditional love, I’ve never known anyone to just be so family-oriented and just be so altruistic, everything was about his family and he just adored us and showed it in every possible way, through his affection, through his generosity.

‘He was just an amazing human. Put sport aside, put boxing aside, he was the most humble man. He used to often joke, ‘Was that really me at the Olympics? Did I really do that?’

During an interview 30 years ago, Rocky said he took up boxing because as a young migrant in western Sydney he was being bullied at school

During an interview 30 years ago, Rocky said he took up boxing because as a young migrant in western Sydney he was being bullied at school

During an interview 30 years ago, Rocky said he took up boxing because as a young migrant in western Sydney he was being bullied at school

The great Lionel Rose who won a world title, halted The Rock's charge into the world of bantamweights in an epic 13 round battle in the 1960s

The great Lionel Rose who won a world title, halted The Rock's charge into the world of bantamweights in an epic 13 round battle in the 1960s

The great Lionel Rose who won a world title, halted The Rock’s charge into the world of bantamweights in an epic 13 round battle in the 1960s

‘He was just the poor kid from Calabria, just so humble.

‘I know lots of people say their parents are amazing but he is just a legend to me.’

Rocky was 81 when he passed away peacefully suffering from dementia, which made him a far cry from the always happy, dancing, singing and smiling star he was.

‘I was told the best way to stop bullies picking on you is to belt them. So I learned to fight and I belted them,’ he famously said.

Along the way through his fulfilling life, he belted many guys but he copped a few beatings too.

One was when he decided to get into politics.

It was in the 1995 NSW state elections and he ran as a Liberal candidate in the seat of Cabramatta.

He lost that day to Labor’s Reba Meagher.

His daughter Diana, said her father’s dying wish was that no-one mourned his death, instead celebrated it with a party. Many people surely will.

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