|Thursday, January 21, 1993|
'HURRICANE' LEAVES PATH OF DESTRUCTION
McNEELEY HOLDS A 13-0 RECORD
By LARRY BEAN
The next opponent for Medfield's "Hurricane" Peter McNeeley could be coming down with a case of triskaidekaphobia - a fear of the number 13.
McNeeley, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound heavyweight from Medfield, brings a 13-0 professional record (10 KOs) into his next fight, which will take place Jan. 30 at the Chelsea National Guard Armory.
Victim No. 13 was Jimmy Harrison, who McNeeley decisioned in six rounds at Dorchester Dec. 10. Ron Drinkwater, a 225-pounder from Charlestown who has a 26-2 professional record, is scheduled to be McNeeley's 14th opponent. That, however, could change.
"We have a saying when you're in one of the preliminary fights," said McNeeley, 24. "You're on and then you're off. Opponents pull out. Shows fall apart. Quite a few times I didn't know who my opponent was or if I was even going to get to fight until I got into the ring.
"So you just learn to put your game face on and go to the show," said McNeeley. "If there's no opponent you just turn it off like a light switch.
"Back in '87 you couldn't explain that to me. But now I understand."
Back in '87, McNeeley, then a freshman at Bridgewater State College, finally decided to take the torch from his father, Tom, a former professional heavyweight who fought Floyd Patterson for the title in 1961.
"I grew up as a boxing fan," said McNeeley, who played football at Medfield High School. "I watched all the fights on TV. But coming from Medfield where was I going to learn to fight?
"My freshman year at Bridgewater was the first year that I wasn't playing any sports. I was just screwing around like every other college freshman. I decided to start boxing. I thought the discipline would help me in school."
McNeeley's amateur career got off to a rocky start. His first fight, which he took after only about two weeks of training, was televised by NESN and he was stopped in the first round.
"I was the main bout because I was a heavyweight and because I was Tom McNeeley's son," he said. "I didn't know how to fight. I didn't know what I was doing. It was a harsh introduction to boxing."
Even harsher were the hushed criticisms McNeeley overheard.
"I heard what people were saying behind my back - even my family and friends, that I couldn't follow in my father's footsteps."
McNeeley dispelled the doubts by winning his next three fights and making it to the finals of the Golden Gloves championships. After losing in the finals, he put together a 10-match win streak. Before turning pro, McNeeley compiled a 16-5 amateur record with 10 knockouts.
"If you look at Mike Tyson's record you'll see that even he didn't have a great amateur career," said McNeeley. "Like him, I didn't get to where I wanted to as an amateur. Our styles are much more suited for the pros.
"In amateur boxing there's more jabbing. In the pros there's a lot more in-fighting. You get right on top of your opponent."
McNeeley's first pro fight, Aug. 23, 1991 at Boston University's Nickerson Field, last less than a minute.
"I trained like a mad dog for the fight," he said. "I was working 9 ½ hours a day at the time and then training at night."
Physically, McNeeley was ready for the pro ranks, but something was still missing.
"I couldn't turn pro without a nickname," he said. "I never had a nickname that stuck. Hurricane Bob had struck just before that fight. So I thought why not 'Hurricane?'"
The nickname has proven appropriate. It accurately describes McNeeley's mercilessly and indiscriminately devastating style of fighting.
McNeeley weighed in at 193 pounds for that first fight. His opponent, Van Dorsey, who stood 6-foot-5, tipped the scales at 225 pounds.
"He was very imposing," said McNeeley. "My blood pressure was off the board that night. It was something like 200-over-100. They almost didn't let me in the ring. But I calmed down and took it out on him (his opponent).
Like his amateur debut, the immediate start to McNeeley's pro career was inauspicious. Twenty seconds into the fight he slipped and fell while throwing a punch, and the slip was ruled a knockdown for Dorsey. Just thirty seconds later, Dorsey, who entered the ring with a 7-2 record and had never been stopped, was sent crashing to the canvas. He never got up.
"I was so excited when the fight started that I forgot a lot of the things I had been taught that summer. When I slipped that settled me down. I took him out with a left hook. He was on the mat for about seven minutes."
McNeeley followed up his debut with six straight first-round knockouts. No. 5 came on a Tommy Morrison undercard and was televised nationally by ESPN.
McNeeley's opponent that night was a fighter named Jerry "Pit Bull" Arentzen.
"He came into the ring with a spiked dog collar around his neck," said McNeeley. "He looked a little crazy. I went right at him. That was another night I was really keyed up.
"It was pretty good because after the fight as I was stepping out between the ropes the Duke (Morrison) was stepping into the ring."
That night wasn't the first brush with the latest, greatest white heavyweight hope, who, before achieving fame in the ring played "Tommy Gunn" opposite Sylvester Stallone in Rocky V. In 1989, McNeeley nearly beat out Morrison for the Tommy Gunn role.
"I was discovered at Bridgewater," joked McNeeley. "They were looking for a guy who was 6-1, 200 pounds, 21 years old, white, and a talented boxer. I took the screen test and finished second to Morrison."
McNeeley's string of six straight first-round knockouts led to another parallel between his career and Tyson's.
"People started saying, 'Yeah, he can throw a punch but can he go the distance? Does he have any stamina? Can he box?'"
McNeeley answered those questions by posting a pair of four-round decisions within a week of each other. One of those decisions came against Harrison, his last opponent.
"I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I could go the distance," McNeeley said.
Prior to his Dec. 10 decision, McNeeley, who has now defeated Harrison three times, stopped him in the third round Sept. 12 at Wonderland, opening a 16-stitch gash on Harrison's face in the process.
Harrison, who has fought heavyweight title contender Alex Stewart, had yet to be knocked out, though six of his fights have been stopped because of cuts. Before the latest beating he took from McNeeley, Harrison had only been knocked down once in his pro career. McNeeley sent him to the canvas twice in one round Dec. 10.
"We keep bringing him back because we know he'll go the distance," said McNeeley. "He's a professional opponent. He'll fight anyone, anytime, anywhere. If somebody drops out at the last minute he makes himself available."
If, however, in the next week, Drinkwater reconsiders his comeback and McNeeley needs to find a new opponent, Harrison may want to leave his phone off the hook.
This story was published in the Medfield Suburban Press on 01/21/93.