Mickey Walker on Canvas

By George Thomas Clark on July 21, 2013
Mickey Walker on Canvas
"I told the clerk I'd bust him if he told anyone tough Mickey Walker bought sissy stuff."

With my wife I saw a movie based on the life of Paul Gauguin and, after maybe three viewings, I said I’ve got to try that…

I wasn’t worried about losing a 1925 middleweight title decision to Harry Greb, I got a rematch a few hours later. He was in a nightclub, acting nice with two blondes, and asked me to join them. We closed the joint and I don’t remember where the ladies went but Harry and I stepped outside to address mutual insults and, as he naively took off his coat, I nailed him in the kisser, knocking him back against a car. We mixed it up quite a while. As the only survivor and sole judge, I give myself a unanimous decision.

I already owned the welterweight title and usually didn’t let judges, referees, or newspapermen decide who won. My left hook, about like a heavyweight’s, was the only voice needed. After Greb lost his title to Tiger Flowers and died following an auto accident and operation in 1926, I decisioned Flowers in a fight most fish wrappers and other loudmouths thought I lost. Look, I knocked him on his ass in the ninth round. Ask the referee. He said Flowers was slapping, rather than hitting me, and only hurt me when he thumbed my eyes.

I beat 16 guys in a row, stopping most, but had to figure out what to do. I was only 5-feet-7 and kept putting on muscle so decided to become light heavyweight champion. In 1929 I fought Tommy Loughran. He was a great boxer and earned the decision. I didn’t cry in my beers. I drank ‘em and everything else with alcohol. Prohibition didn’t bother me. I had a ball. People all over wanted to meet me. I was friendly with Al Capone but would’ve busted his big mouth if someone hadn’t stepped in. I told the guy he saved Al. He said, no, he saved my life. What the hell?

I loved to travel and have a good time, even spent 50 grand during a trip to Paris. I also loved the ladies, and they felt the same about me. I ended up marrying one woman three times and another twice and guided four women down the aisle seven times. My wives and everyone else needed to understand. My habits didn’t hurt my fighting. After Loughran I won 22 straight times and decided to become heavyweight champion of the world. First, in 1931, I needed to beat Jack Sharkey, who might’ve become champion his previous fight but fouled Max Schmeling. I knew I could take Sharkey. And I did, believe me. Look at the films. I was much quicker nailing his body and head. Sharkey must’ve gotten a sympathy draw.

I kept beating bigger guys, including heavyweights Bearcat Wright and Paulino Uzcudun, and figured I could take Schmeling, who’d been decisioned by Sharkey in his previous fight. But I confess Der Max pounded me with right-hand hammers and I felt a little small for heavyweight, getting knocked down and battered around the ring. Frankly, I was glad they stopped it after the eighth round. I moved back down to light heavyweight and fought Maxie Rosenbloom in 1933. They got it right calling him “Slapsie Maxie.” I don’t think he hit me hard with a fist all night. But, okay, maybe he really won. I should’ve stopped right there. Isn’t hindsight great? I lost six times in two years and was stopped twice by guys you haven’t heard of.

Several years later I won my biggest fight. I was entertaining in some nightclub and getting heckled and about to go after the guy but said to myself, wait, that idiot’s exactly what I look like to others. Folks, I told the customers, everyone have a drink on me because this is the last one I’ll ever take.

Geez, I felt a lot better and got more active in things. With my wife I saw a movie based on the life of Paul Gauguin and, after maybe three viewings, I said I’ve got to try that and went to the art supplies store and spent a couple hundred bucks and told the clerk I’d bust him if he told anyone tough Mickey Walker bought sissy stuff. Soon I wanted everyone to know I was painting. Couldn’t have hidden it, anyway. Many called me an “easel addict” since I was painting 10 to 20 hours at a stretch. I thought people were joking in 1944 when they offered me a solo exhibition at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Experts called me primitive but that’s not necessarily bad in painting. Lots of my still lifes, landscapes, and city scenes sold for good money, and I had another exhibition the following year. Old sportswriters said I should’ve taken off my gloves before painting, but collectors understood. I connected with scenes and could make them dark or light, happy or sad. My wife at the time grew jealous of the canvases overwhelming our house, and during our divorce called art my “mistress.”

I decided to give up marriage as just another bad fight or drink and would’ve stayed single until Martha, a pretty blonde 20 years younger, made my heart race. We did pretty well. I’m not blaming boxing that people found me unconscious on the street when I was about 73. They thought I’d fallen off the wagon or been beaten. Doctors determined I had Parkinson’s disease and needed care. Several years later I finished life in a convalescent home, same place as those who had a lot less fun.

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Tommy Loughran vs Mickey Walker

Mickey Walker -vs- Jack Sharkey 7/22/31 (16mm Transfer & Restoration)

Max Schmeling vs Mickey Walker

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  1. George Thomas Clark 09:21pm, 07/23/2013

    A guy who inherited a couple of paintings by Mickey Walker wrote an art appraiser and received a letter, available online, stating that his painting were probably worth about a grand apiece.  That fairly durable pricing.  And these works are not among Walker’s best.

  2. kid vegas 05:53am, 07/22/2013

    Looks just like Dempsey in that photo.

  3. RonLipton 07:09pm, 07/21/2013

    In the 60’s I fought quite a bit in Elizabeth NJ.  I went with some friends to meet Mickey.  He was ill at the time but did speak with us and I could see that he was once a very powerful man.  I read his life story and knew all of his background as I spoke with him.  Life can be very rough on Champions sometimes.

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