|Friday, June 10, 1994|
McNeeley in ring with King
Spotlight shines on Medfield heavyweight
By George Kimball
FOXBORO — Since turning pro three years ago, Medfield's Peter McNeeley has managed to win 27 of his 28 professional fights without attracting much attention outside of New England.
That is about to change.
Two days ago in New York, McNeeley and manager Vinnie Vecchione entered into a four-year promotional agreement with Don King Productions, a move that could pay immediate dividends if the 25-year-old heavyweight's name starts showing up in the WBC and IBF rankings. Since that is a common tradeoff in these Faustian bargains with King, don't be surprised if it happens as early as this summer.
Although Vecchione was inclined to downplay the possibility, the King deal also puts McNeeley squarely in the Mike Tyson sweepstakes should the unthinkable happen and the former heavyweight champion be sprung from jail next week.
McNeeley was at Foxboro Park yesterday for the formal announcement of his next fight, an already-scheduled June 24 bout against former WBC light-heavyweight champion J.B. Williamson. That Williamson represents a step up in class over McNeeley's previous slate of victims says more about the latter than it does the opponent at hand.
But Jim McCarthy, the Cohasset insurance broker cum "Sports Huddle" voice who is staging the fight in conjuction with promoter Bill Salisbury, said the time has come to either put up or shut up.
"I'm not doing this as a philanthropist," McCarthy said. "Peter thinks he can go on to bigger and better things, but just how far no one really knows. We'll know on June 24 how far Peter can go."
That remains somewhat dubious. It could be said that Williamson earned his place against McNeeley by being stopped by his last opponent, veteran trial horse Bobby Crabtree.
McNeeley, you will recall, was sailing uninterrupted through a succession of hand-picked bums until one of them, Stanley Wright by name, administered a 40-stitch cut that resulted in McNeeley's lone career loss at the Westin in February. McNeeley has won three straight bouts since, none of them lasting even two rounds.
Yesterday McNeeley promised to knock Williamson out inside 10 rounds. It will be surprising indeed if it takes him that long.
The deal with King consummated this week followed nearly nine months of negotiations, and although the heavyweight woods are full of boxing managers who have entered into similar deals only to awaken months later to discover in fine print that Carl King is the co-manager of their fighter, Vecchione insisted that McNeeley's interests had been protected.
"I retain control over the opponents, the sites, and how much money we get," said the Whitman-based manager. "It's like if you're sending your kids to college, you want to get them into the top three colleges. In boxing that's King and Arum and Duva, and when it comes to heavyweights, King has the top four or five contenders."
Whether Tyson's sentence ends next week or next May will be decided Monday, and in any case is no better than 50-50 that King still has him when he does emerge. Muslim promoter Murad Muhammad would seem to be running neck and neck with King, with a whole host of contenders bringing up the field. If Tyson does end up with anyone else, then Vecchione has probably dealt himself out of the game.
If Tyson does stay with King, however, look for him to fight King-controlled heavyweights his first four or five times out of the box. This means fighting Razor Ruddock under several different names — Frans Botha, Tony Tucker, Oliver McCall, Ruddock himself and, now, McNeeley.
To be sure, a good white heavyweight with a 27-1 (or, by then, 30-1) record would be a very attractive opponent from television's standpoint, and Showtime already has evinced an interest in McNeeley. Despite Vecchione's repeatedly articulated philosophy of bringing McNeeley along slowly, it could prove all too tempting.
"First of all, we don't know when he's getting out, or if he'll go with King or Murad or somebody else, or even if he'll fight at all," said Vecchione. "Does this mean we'd rush out and fight Mike Tyson? No, we don't need that right now."
McNeeley was more realistic.
"Even if Tyson doesn't get out next week, he'll be out in 10 months, tops," he said. "Of course he's going to fight. He's not going to shine shoes. If that fight came up and the money was right, I'd love to fight him.
"Look," McNeeley continued, "I know it goes against everything Vinnie has said about my career, but if a chance to fight Tyson came up and they offered us a million dollars, do you think he'd say no?
"Bring him on."
This story was published on Page 100 of the Boston Herald on 06/10/94.