STOLEN: Police say priceless artwork ripped from wall of Muhamma - WDRB 41 Louisville News

STOLEN: Police say priceless artwork ripped from wall of Muhammad Ali Center

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a punch to the gut for the home built to honor Louisville's Muhammad Ali. Authorities say thieves ripped artwork from the wall of the Muhammad Ali Center -- and it may be impossible to find.

The Leroy Neiman gallery captures an iconic artist's impressions  of an iconic man: Muhammad Ali himself.

"As you can see, Muhammad and Mr. Neiman were friends," said Jeanie Kahnke, spokesperson for the Muhammad Ali Center. "They'd known each other -- I believe -- since the 60's."

"Mr. Neiman started covering some of Muhammad's fights, and you can see how he would do a sketch around him," Kahnke said.

Sixty-four signed prints brushed in Neiman's one-of-a-kind watercolor styling hung proudly in the Muhammad Ali Center's gallery. 

That is, until a knockout blow over the weekend. 

"So close to Muhammad's passing -- to take something from the Ali Center, the place that represents and preserves his legacy, is just very sad," Kahnke said. 

LMPD is looking to identify the black male in a blue hoodie in the attached picture. 

On Saturday afternoon, police say he ripped the painting off the wall and walked out the door. The missing picture shows Ali gloves on standing at the ready splashed in gold and rustic brown colors with highlights of blue and green.

"I'm appalled," said Louisville Metro Police Detective Matt Montfort. "I think everybody would be appalled by this. He's kind of a national treasure."

Detective Montfort said the suspect was part of a group that first stopped in the Ali Center gift shop told. He apparently told workers he was visiting from out of state, "You can see him pull it off, hide behind a door, put it in his shirt and then exit, " said Montfort. 

Neiman spoke candidly of his fondness for Ali, and in one interview, the world-renown artist said he considered his Ali paintings among his most memorable works. 

"Ali, he had to come through," Neiman said in an archived YouTube video. "He had to do what he bragged about, and there was something about that quality."

Neiman signed the missing picture before his passing. Police say it is valued at roughly $5,000 -- but to the museum, it's worth much more.

"Muhammad and Leroy had a special relationship -- and that's what makes this even sadder," Kahnke said.

It's a priceless reflection of a friendship among two greats. 

This is the first time in the history of the Ali Center that a piece has been stolen. If you have any information you are asked to call (502) 574-LMPD.

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