The Art He Knows

By Clarence George on May 8, 2013
The Art He Knows
Tony Galento said "the subordination of technique to composition is indubitably fatuous."

Well and truly nonplussed, Mickey Walker soon found himself hosting an art exhibit at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria…

“Let each man exercise the art he knows.”—Aristophanes

Mickey Walker was something else, wasn’t he? I mean that literally. In addition to being among the greatest middleweights (indeed, boxers) of all time, he was also an accomplished artist. Edward Hopper? No, but Walker’s paintings were not only appealing, but recognized and lauded by the art world.

A few years following his retirement from the ring, Walker happened upon the film version of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, a novelization of the life of Paul Gauguin. An epiphany for the former pugilist, as an entirely new understanding of the word “canvas” descended upon his heart and mind.

Walker quickly became a committed, perhaps obsessive, artist. But either unsure of the quality of his work or protective of his reputation as tough guy, “The Toy Bulldog” hid his paintings whenever friends visited. On one occasion, however, he neglected to remove a landscape when sportswriter Bill Corum came to call. Corum spied the work, and was astonished to discover that it had been painted by the man who stood sheepishly before him, the former Middleweight and Welterweight Champion of the World. Well and truly nonplussed, Walker soon found himself hosting an art exhibit at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria.

“Perhaps nothing like it had occurred in the history of civilized mankind,” writes Kelly Nicholson of an event where Upper East Side swells exchanged pleasantries and artistic insights not only with painters and art critics, but also with jockeys, boxers, and just plain longshoremen, all looking like so many blood sausages in their hastily borrowed and ill-fitting tuxes. The fictional Nick and Nora Charles hosted such shindigs. But in real life? No, Nicholson got it right. And could such an august assembly be complete without the presence of that glorification of refinement and artistic sensibility, “Two Ton” Tony Galento? There he stood in monocle, beret, and smock, observing that Walker’s “perspective is distorted and the subordination of technique to composition is indubitably fatuous.”

What’s in the water these middleweights are drinking? Following in the footsteps of his great predecessor, John Thompson IV (11-0, 4 KOs) has his own business, Divine Artist. “I do portraits and landscapes, even abstract art,” says Thompson. “My motto is if you can think it, I can put it on canvas.” Catchy. But, “The Apollo Kidd” adds, “boxing is in my blood.”

A two-year pro, the 24-year-old is a man after Walker’s heart—he fought a remarkable (by today’s standards) seven times last year. The Kidd beat Aaron Williams and Andre Espeut by unanimous decision in January, stopped Laureano Laracuente by third-round TKO in February, defeated Bryan Brooks by unanimous decision in March, stopped Jamond Bourgeois by second-round TKO in April, and beat John Mackey and Elie Augustama by unanimous decision in, respectively, June and December.

Thompson has already fought once this year, stopping Grayson Blake by fifth-round TKO in February, and is scheduled to take on Puerto Rican southpaw Giovany Rodriguez in an eight-rounder at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma, on May 10.

Twenty-four-year-old Rodriguez (8-0, 5 KOs) has been a pro since 2009. His most recent bouts took place last year, when he defeated Cleven Ishe by unanimous decision in August and stopped Daniel Rodriguez by fifth-round TKO in September.

Thompson…is he is or is he ain’t the new Walker? Hey, you never know. After all, Walker wasn’t Walker until he became Walker.

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  1. Clarence George 06:14am, 05/10/2013

    I’d plunk money down for it, Mike—always looking to add to my Galento collection.

  2. Mike Casey 05:35am, 05/10/2013

    If Two Ton had dipped his fist in red paint and let rip on a giant canvas, he would have been right up there with Matisse as an impressionist.

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