|Thursday, September 5, 1991  |
McNeeley Launches Pro Boxing Career
By MARK PRATT
When Peter McNeeley climbed into the boxing ring at Nickerson Field on August 23 for his professional debut, it was hardly surprising he got so emotional.
"I'd never felt that feeling of excitement," McNeeley said. "I'd never had so much fire and energy in my life. I tried to tell myself it was the same (as an amateur fight), but on the night of the fight it was completely different. This was everything I was working for. It was very emotional."
That emotion helped carry the 22-year-old Medfield resident to a 50 second knockout of Van Dorsey, his 6-foot-5, 220-pound opponent, who came into the match with a 7-2 record.
McNeeley hopes that the knockout will launch him on a successful professional boxing career.
McNeeley, 6-2, 197-pounds, has been boxing since he was in junior high. The sport runs in his family. Peter's grandfather, Tom McNeeley Sr., was a national AAU light-heavyweight champion, and won a spot on the 1928 United States Olympic team. A broken hand kept him out of the lineup.
Peter's father, Tom McNeeley Jr., boxed and played football at Michigan State University, and fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight championship of the world in December, 1961.
And although the older McNeeleys had long since retired by the time Peter was born, there was enough boxing memorabilia around the house to get the younger McNeeley interested.
"At a very young age, I saw films of my father, and read magazines," Peter said. "My father was even on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I became intrigued, and became a fan at a very young age."
McNeeley's first taste of competitive boxing came when he was in junior high, and his father took him to a CYO boxing program in Newton. In high school, McNeeley's interest in boxing waned as he concentrated on football at Medfield High.
At the end of his freshman year at Bridgewater State College (he is a few credits shy of a degree in political science and history), McNeeley caught the boxing bug again.
"Right at the end of my freshman year, I was disgusted with my physical condition, so I started working out again," he said.
A quick defeat in his first amateur bout in July 1987 just made him all the more determined.
"I got beat in the first round," he said. "That's what made me come back. When all the doubters said 'get out', that's when I decided to grit my teeth and put in the effort to prove that I deserved respect as a boxer."
"It was a great feeling after nine months of hard work," he said.
McNeeley (15-8 as an amateur) went on to win the Novice Heavyweight Golden Gloves title as well as the New England Diamond Belt Heavyweight championship in 1989, winning nine straight matches at one point. He also boxed for Team USA against Team Canada, and almost won a part in the movie Rocky V.
While still at Bridgewater State, McNeeley worked out at the world famous Petronelli gym in Brockton, which produced Marvelous Marvin Hagler. But there was still something missing from his career.
"I kind of got lost in the shuffle down there," McNeeley said. "They were concentrating on other things and other people."
McNeeley now trains at the South Shore Boxing Club in Whitman, under manager Vinnie Vecchione. The change was just what he was looking for.
"I won my amateur fights by being tough, being in good condition, and with tough sparring," McNeeley said. "But I was only going to get so far with those ingredients.
"I needed to be schooled in the finer points of boxing to make me a complete fighter," he said. "I found that in Vinnie Vecchione. Vinnie has turned my whole career around."
Vecchione saw something he liked in McNeeley, and plans on turning him into a fighter who can hold his own with anyone.
"(Peter) is a pure-born puncher," Vecchione said. "He has the power to knock out anybody, and we're going to try to harness that power so he's under control in every match.
"He has a tremendous amount of stamina, and like every young athlete, it takes a certain amount of time to groom him. By the time he's 25, he should be able to hold his own with any 10-rounder in the world."
McNeeley pulls no punches when talking about his ambitions.
"My dream has been to be a pro fighter," he said. "I take it one fight at a time. I have a lot more learning to do. I have to grasp the basics. But in a few years, I hope to fight for the cruiserweight championship of the world."
This story was published in the Medfield Suburban Press on 09/05/91.