Celebrity Boxing Fan: LeRoy Neiman


At ringside in Las Vegas or New York, with sketch pad in hand, artist LeRoy Neiman is a recognizable fixture on the boxing landscape. His distinctive artwork decorates the official fight posters and programs of many of boxing’s best super-fights since the 1970’s. Through his association with the sweet science, he has gotten to know and befriend some of boxing’s greatest titans, such as Mike Tyson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, Sylvester Stallone and on and on. BoxingInsider.com was honored to catch up with LeRoy Neiman to discuss his avid interest in boxing.

Introduction to Boxing: “When I was a kid growing up in St. Paul, MN, we had church basement boxing. They tried to keep the kids off the street during the depression. I was no good, but I fought. I had a record, oh, I’d say about 5-9. One time I boxed Red McGlowan, some red-haired, new kid. He cleaned me up! I came to the corner and they couldn’t find my stool. So the priest stuck his knee out under the rope and I sat on his knee! Sometimes big fighters came to train there. They charged us 35 cents to watch. One time, John Henry Lewis, the light heavyweight champ, came down. And I carried his bag down to the gym dressing room. I also saw Charlie Retzlaff, a heavyweight, and Mike Gibbons.”

Ringside Memory: “At one of the Robinson-LaMotta fights. Vickie LaMotta got up out of her seat to cheer and when she sat back down, her fur coat was gone [smiles].”

Favorite Boxers to Watch (past/present): “Oooooh boy, that’s a tough one to answer. I like Bernard Hopkins, he’s a stand-up fighter. De La Hoya, Vargas, Trinidad, Duran, Pernell Whitaker, Julio Cesar Chavez, Billy Miske. Ray Robinson was the most flashy of all time. Joe Louis was the most dramatic of all time. Ali is the most entertaining fighter of all time. Jack Dempsey was my favorite fighter. Mike Tyson is the most [pause]…he wants to hurt…and is vulnerable at the same time.”

Appeal of Boxing: “One-on-one. Because the artist is one-on-one. It’s not a team, it’s individual. How many sports have that? The line, ‘…may the better man win,’ is in the boxing instructions. The boxing attitude came from the poverty level, not university or college level. Every man fights to make a living. Important stuff.”

Greatest Boxing Moment: “Frazier flooring Ali (’71). Just the surprise of it. Ali had been on the floor before. But we didn’t expect Frazier to put him on the floor at that stage of the fight. It promised to be a great fight and it was. It seemed everybody in the world was there. That was remarkable. Also, the Hagler-Hearns fight.”

Most Painful Boxing Moment: “The night Panama Lewis took the padding out of Billy Collins’ gloves. The night that nice kid got hurt so badly. I liked him. Before the fight I went to his dressing room and he asked me for my autograph. I said after the fight I will. Pretty poignant moment.”

Favorite Boxing Movies: “Hmmmmmm. I think that Jake LaMotta movie ‘Raging Bull’ was the best. I also enjoyed ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me.’ Rocky Graziano. I liked both of them, because I liked both of the people.”

The Beauty in Boxing: “I’m excited with the visual part of boxing, the beauty of it. Boxing is a passion of mine. A boxer can look so spectacular when he does a good job. Boxing is an art. And also a science. The sweet science and the art of self-defense.”

Funny Boxing Memory: “The time I was in the dressing room with Ali and Angelo (Dundee) before one of his fights. And Ali asked Angelo to turn off the lights. Because he wanted to see if I could sketch in the dark [laughs].”

Boxing Passion: “Boxing is my real passion. I can go to ballet, theatre, movies, or other sporting events … and nothing is like the fights to me. I’m excited by the visual beauty of it. A boxer can look so spectacular by doing a good job.”

On Pacquiao vs. Hatton: “That was as convincing as you can get. Pacquiao is so effective. What he wants to do, he does it.”

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