Friday, June 10, 1994

King contract crowning jewel for McNeeley

By Bob Buckley

FOXBORO — Welcome to the big time, Peter McNeeley.

McNeeley met the press Thursday, 24 hours after becoming a very rich man. McNeeley's manager, Vinnie Vecchione, confirmed at a Foxboro Raceway press conference that the boxer had signed a four-year deal with Don King Productions following a New York City meeting between the two parties Wednesday afternoon.

WELCOME TO THE BIG TIME, KID — Promoter Don King (right) introduces his latest heavyweight prospect, Peter McNeeley, to the press. McNeeley is a big puncher with a ring record of 27-1 (21 KOs).
(Click on image to display at full size)

The demands on McNeeley's time began 15 seconds after yesterday's noontime press conference ended. A radio station in Attleboro called, wanting him for an interview on Friday. Boston's SportsRadio WEEI wanted him the beginning of next week. Radio stations from Providence and all over New England were also in line.

McNeeley has graduated to the big show.

Financial terms of the McNeeley-King alliance were not announced and may differ from fight to fight. However, McNeeley's South Shore Boxing Club management team, including SSBC director Cliff Phippen and Vecchione, said they will remain active in the direction of McNeeley's career.

"I can tell you that he is making more money than he could if he fought a year full of local boxing shows," said Vecchione. "There are still a lot of negotiations to be done in terms of money. But this has been nine months in the making. I will remain as his manager. We will have input on opponents, sites, and monies involved. Both parties will have to agree for a fight to take place."

Al Braverman, who has served as right-hand man to King and runs King's New York office, was happy to have McNeeley on board. This is the second time Braverman has worked with the McNeeley family. He was in Tom McNeeley's corner for 19 of his professional bouts.

"If he is anything like his old man, we have a winner," Braverman said by phone from his New York office. "I've got to admit I've never seen him fight in person, but to have the record and knockouts that he has shows us something. We like his whole makeup, the way he talks and handles himself in and out of the ring. He is a gutsy kid. It is the first time I have seen Don excited in a while."

Braverman confirmed reports in the Enterprise that King is exploring the possibility of having McNeeley fight in Ireland before the end of the year. Braverman also said that King is exploring the possibility of King promoting a boxing show in Boston within the next 12 months.

For McNeeley, all those Easter Sundays and Memorial Day weekends in the gym have paid off in a big way.

"I have focused all my energies on realizing this dream," said McNeeley. "Good things come to those who work hard. For me, this is a perfect contract because (King) will want me to fight 3-6 times per year and he will also allow me to fight 2-3 times a year locally. It is also a four-year deal so I will be taken care of. I trust Al Braverman. He used to get fights for my dad. Anyone who knows boxing knows Don King. I have talked to him personally and he welcomed me to the family.

Vecchione dismissed questions about King's reputation which has been negative and includes a Frontline report which accused King of criminal behavior when dealing with his fighters.

"If you had a choice to send your kid to one of the top three universities in the country, what would you do?" said Vecchione. "In this game, you have three choices: Arum, Duva, and King. We made King our choice because he is very involved with the heavyweight division."

Phippen believes Braverman is a key to the McNeeley-King alliance.

"Vinnie and Al have been friends for 20 years, and he has been aware of McNeeley and giving Vinnie advice about how we were handling him," said Phippen. "Plus Peter's family knows and trusts Al."

The Foxboro press conference was brief but did allow enough time for McNeeley and Vecchione to be asked about the possibility of a McNeeley-Mike Tyson showdown in the future. McNeeley said he would welcome any challenge that will come his way, but Vecchione was quick to downplay any such matchup.

"That is impossible for us to even think about," said Vecchione. "Of course, we expect Peter to want to fight him. He wants to fight anyone, anytime, anywhere. There is a lot of confusion about Tyson right now. When can he fight? Will he want to fight? He has his things to deal with and we have ours. We don't need to rush into anything right now. The main thing we want to do is keep Peter busy."

The first step in keeping McNeeley busy is an eight-round, June 24 date with J.B. Williamson, the former WBA cruiserweight champion. That fight was scheduled before McNeeley signed the deal with King and will be a formidable challenge for the SSBC heavyweight. Williamson has a career record of 27-10 with 12 knockouts. Williamson's opponents include George Foreman and Pierre Coetzer.

"This is a time for (McNeeley) to step up, said Jim McCarthy, the promoter of the June 24 card and a top executive with Foxboro Raceway. "None of us really knows just how good Peter can be. Williamson is not an old man. This will be a true step up for Peter."

Other SSBC boxers on the June 24 card include Mike Cappiello, Mike Culbert, Danny Phippen and Charles Livingston. Nigerian Bash Ali, whose national team will play in the World Cup in Foxboro the next day, will also be on the card.

Related articles:
McNeeley In Ring With Don King   [The Boston Herald]
Kissing Blarney Stone - King Signs McNeeley   [The Boston Globe]
The Hurricane And The King   [Hurricane Watch]

This story was published on Page 28 of The Brockton Enterprise on 06/10/94.