Jace McTier: Sweet Science and Artistry

By Dennis Taylor on November 9, 2016
Jace McTier: Sweet Science and Artistry
"That moment really helped shaped who I became as a person and as an artist."

“The last time I met with Angelo, he took me to his house, and opened up the closet where he stored all of his personal memorabilia…”

That first glimpse at destiny came when Jace McTier was just 6 or 7, watching the first movie he’d ever seen in a theater. The final frame of “Rocky III” freezes into a splashy painting by the legendary LeRoy Neiman, and Jace vividly remembers staring through the credits on the screen—words he was too young to read—at the spectacular colors the artist used to depict Rocky and Apollo Creed exchanging punches. Wow.

“Neiman’s painting is on the screen for at least two minutes, and it’s a moment I’ve never lost,” McTier said. “Film is a form of art, and Sylvester Stallone really impacted my life just by the inclusion of actual visual fine art in his movie. That moment really helped shaped who I became as a person and as an artist.”

At 35, McTier has become a boxing artist of Neimanesque stature, a painter so eye-popping that his work was recently showcased (alongside Neiman’s) at the “I Am The Greatest” Muhammad Ali exhibit in London, as also has been displayed at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

His best-known piece, “Impact,” shows Ali coming off the ropes to jolt George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle.” McTier duplicated the original painting as a 20-by-60-foot mural that graces the side of Matt Baiamonte’s Boxing Club in Miami’s history Wynwood Walls Art District.

The title proved ironic in the best-possible way: “Impact” had a mesmerizing effect on Angelo Dundee, Ali’s trainer, who graced him with greatest compliment of his professional lifetime.

“When he first saw that painting, he said, ‘Kid, you did it right! You got the technique right!’” McTier remembered. “Then he threw this incredibly fast right hand—the man was in his upper 80s, and he threw that right hand like he was in his 20s—and he said, ‘That’s when we shocked the world. You might have heard of an artist named LeRoy. I made him famous, kid, and I’ll do the same for you.’”

The trainer and the artist became close friends after that—so close, in fact, that Dundee invited Jace to his 90th birthday party (a private dinner that also included Jake LaMotta and former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard).

“The last time I met with Angelo, he took me to his house, and opened up the closet where he stored all of his personal memorabilia,” McTier said. “It was like I had walked into the Smithsonian of boxing. The first thing I saw was a white robe covered with sequins, and ‘The People’s Choice’ on the back. I looked at Angelo and said, ‘Is that really what I think it is?’”

He was looking at the famous garment Elvis Presley had given Ali, a robe the champ wore into the ring just once, for his loss to Ken Norton in San Diego.

Dundee also granted McTier access to his entire collection of personal photos—fading Kodaks and Polaroids that chronicled the trainer’s entire life in boxing.

When Dundee died a few months later, in February 2012, the family humbled Jace with an invitation to display his entire collection of Ali and Dundee paintings at the memorial service.

Though McTier’s artwork was clearly influenced by Neiman, his style is far more realistic, like that of his mother, Lucy McTier, a world-class artist in her own right. Her depiction of Ronald Reagan astride a white horse got the entire family, including 4-year-old Jace, invited to the White House to meet the president in 1985.

McTier recalls advice his grandfather gave him just before that trip:

“He told me to look the president straight in the eye when I shook his hand, and say, ‘Keep up the good work,’” McTier recounted. “Well, I was so focused on behaving myself that I forgot all about it.

“As the Marine guards were escorting us out, I suddenly remembered,” he said. “So I sprinted back into the Oval Office, shook the president’s hand, and said, ‘Keep up the good work!’ I’m probably one of the few people in history who managed to get past the Marine guards and into the Oval Office.”

Dennis Taylor is editor/publisher of www.ringsideboxingshow.com, host of The Ringside Boxing Show (Sundays at 4 p.m. Pacific, 7 Eastern at www.radiomonterey.com), and co-author author (with John J. Raspanti) of “Intimate Warfare: The True Story of the Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward Boxing Trilogy.”

https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442273061/Intimate-Warfare-The-True-Story-of-the-Arturo-Gatti-and-Micky-Ward-Boxing-Trilogy

Taylor, McTier, and George Foreman IV also are collaborating on a coffee table book, “A Puncher’s Chance,” due for release in early 2017.

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  1. Eric 06:32am, 11/09/2016

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess. I was never one who was impressed by Leroy Neiman’s art at all. IMO, Neiman couldn’t even carry the late Bob Ross’ jockstrap. teehee. Bob taint bad for relaxation either, watching him paint is better than popping a couple of Xanax and Ambien for drifting off to sleep. Ross could very well be the king of ASMR.

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