As a youngster, Tony Romeo treasured the hours he’d spend alone sketching his favorite sports heroes.
Drawings of New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath and Joe Montana of his beloved San Francisco 49ers adorned his bedroom walls. He called them some of the most precious creations from his formative years.
The Cardinal Mooney High and YSU graduate hails from an artistic family, so it came as no surprise when he gravitated to the arts.
“My father [Tony, Sr.] owned a dance studio and has been a choreographer for over 60 years while my mother [Aurelia] was always there to encourage my creativity,” he said. “I learned to love the arts from my parents, yet wanted to create and express myself through drawing. It all started at home with my parents’ love of the arts, so I really have them to thank for encouraging me to pursue my dreams and interest in painting and drawing.”
An abstract expressionist/ impressionism painter who incorporates some realism into his works, Romeo produces his creations in the form of photo silk screens, wood cuts and acrylic on canvas.
He said moving to Las Vegas in 1993 was exactly what he needed in order to kick-start his career.
“Boxing is big in Las Vegas and Caesar’s Palace has been the site where some of the game’s most memorable fights have occurred,” he said. “I was fortunate to be able to attend several championship fights; events that have served as inspiration for a variety of my boxing works.”
While working at Caesar’s, Romeo displayed his art at two shows in New York City while also being asked to exhibit his creations at such notable Caesar’s Palace casino shops as Gianni Versace and Wolfgang Puck Spago Restaurant.
His works have also been prominently displayed at the Stage Deli Forum Shops, Nora’s Restaurant, West Flamingo Las Vegas and Saks Fifth Avenue at the Fashion Show Mall on the Las Vegas Strip.
“I was very fortunate in that when asked by representatives of Gianni Versace to place my art around the mannequins in their shops, customers took notice, inquired about the pieces and then asked how to purchase them,” Romeo said. “That led to a one-man show at the Bellagio Hotel and a private purchase of several pieces by the architect who designed Mandalay Bay Casino.”
Included among Romeo’s many boxing renditions are two woodcuts of which he is most proud, the first entitled “Right Cross,” which features a likeness of Rocky Marciano and “In the Trenches,” depicting Jake LaMotta and his fight with Youngstown’s Tony Janiro, considered one of the top-10 ranked middleweights of the 1940s.
“There are no boundaries for me when I am painting or working with wood cuts and acrylic on canvas,” he said. “It’s like I can invent as I go along and create something new each and every day. When there is a local connection, it becomes that much more special when I try to capture that moment.”
His silkscreen of the classic Sugar Ray Leonard versus Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns fights of 1981 and 1989 has also been well-received, as has his depiction of the Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe match-up at Caesar’s Palace on Nov. 6, 1993.
That latter painting was on display during his Agora Gallery Show in New York City.
“I was at the Holyfield-Bowe fight when James Jarrett Miller, also known as ‘Fan Man,’ used his powered paraglider to fly into the arena,” he said. “He eventually crashed into the ring prior to the fight and I knew right then and there that I just had to capture that moment on my canvas.”
Romeo’s sports art, which now includes more than 50 boxing pieces, was also on display locally when he was featured in a one-man show at the Butler Institute of American Art.
That show took place in 1990 at the museum’s newly created Donnell Gallery of American Sports Art wing.
In 2011, he was commissioned by Denise DeBartolo York, owner of the San Francisco 49ers, to do a piece on running back Frank Gore, which now hangs in Gore’s California home.
“Passion is the key to anything and for me that comes through in my art, that is who I am,” Romeo stated. “Subjectivity breeds content with me.”
Miller to judge title bout
Tom Miller, an international boxing judge from Mineral Ridge, has been selected to work the WBA welterweight championship of the world, his 80th world title bout.
The fight will pit WBA Champion Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KOs) of Brooklyn as he goes up against challenger Adrien Broner (26-0, 22 KOs) of Cincinnati on June 22 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Greg Gulas writes about boxing for The Vindicator. Email him at email@example.com