METROWEST DAILY NEWS Sunday, August 21, 1994

SPORTS

IT'S HIS TURN TO BE A STAR

Peter McNeeley aims for the big time

HEAVYWEIGHT BOXER PETER McNEELEY - CLOSEUP
Peter McNeeley takes a break from working out at the South Shore Boxing Club in Whitman this week. The Medfield heavyweight is preparing himself for bigger things.   (Photo by Clay McLachlan)


METROWEST SPORTS

"Hurricane" looks to rise through the ranks

By Lenny Megliola
SENIOR SPORTS COLUMNIST

"Hurricane" Peter McNeeley is tired of the peanuts, the empty pockets, the nothingness.

Time for the future.

Something else is bothering him. He wants to be The Show, not the ticket seller. Too often, he's both. Yeah, the local guys want heavyweight McNeeley on their fight card, but it's usually a bush league operation, like Here ya go, Hurricane, take these tickets and sell 'em to your friends and relatives, OK? Go train, show up fight night and move these tickets in your spare time, would ya?

SELL YOURSELF.

He's had enough. "Sometimes I have $800 in tickets to sell," says McNeeley, a pro now for three years. "I have to put up posters, then chase people down for the money. That's a pain in the ass."

He is 29-1 with 23 knockouts. He wants more. "Me and Vinnie, we don't get a penny," says McNeeeley. "We hustle to get on every show."

Vinnie Vecchione is McNeeley's trainer, the soul in his camp. Vecchione sees past his fighter's frustration. He thinks. "I wouldn't be surprised if he got a shot at Tyson," says Vecchione calmly.

MIKE TYSON? The one and only.

"I think Peter needs more seasoning, one more year," says Vecchione. At which time Tyson will be out of the slammer and soon ready to fight again. And if Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley of Medfield, Mass. seemed like a pipedream before, once you figure Don King into the equation anything's possible, right?

King and McNeeley recently signed a four-year promotional deal. In order to get anywhere in the fight racket, you have to be watched over by either Bob Arum, the Duvas, or Don King. "Next June or July, I wouldn't be surprised if we got a shot at Tyson.

Tyson vs. McNeeley? "I don't care," says McNeeley. "This is a business. And I fear no man."

But really folks, Tyson vs. McNeeley? "It's a possibility," says McNeeley. "He'll be out in nine months. I'll be a year stronger and six or eight wins better.

Tyson vs. McNeeley? "I'd be a household name after," says the dreamer.


HEAVYWEIGHT BOXER PETER McNEELEY - FIGHTING POSE
Heavyweight contender Peter McNeeley strikes a fighting pose for our photographer before climbing into the ring for a sparring session.   (Photo by Clay McLachlan)

Anyway, it's time to move up. "He's ready to graduate from high school, as far as boxing is concerned," says Hurricane's father Tom, who fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title three decades ago. "His state of mind is great. The King deal gives him added incentive. It's a chance to make money. Big money."

Tom McNeeley says he and Vecchione are on the same wavelength now but that wasn't always so. "I wanted Peter to fight better calibre fighters," says Tom. Was the kid really that good, or were those 16 first-round KOs just another prospect's Bum of the Month roll call? Peter says the guys he's beaten are the same guys the contenders have bumped off.

He trains with obsession, but with the quick knockouts McNeeley hasn't fought a lot of rounds, and he only had 21 amateur fights. He's never gone more than eight rounds. The last time he went eight, for the New England title at the Westin Hotel against Stanley Wright, the bout was stopped, McNeeley bleeding profusely. He needed 35 stitches to close the eyebrow. "I was ahead 7-0 in rounds," says McNeeley, still upset. "It was a joke. I punched the (bleep) out of that guy.

"Right now, I'm between an eight and 10-round fighter. I'd like to go 10 rounds just to do it."

The Wright bout took place February 18. By April 9 McNeeley was back in the ring, winning by KO in Arkansas, then four nights later, a one-round KO in Raleigh, NC. Then another win back in Massachusetts. Boom! Boom! Boom! "Three fights, three different states, three weeks," McNeeley says proudly.

For more peanuts.

Don King could turn the peanuts to gold. Suddenly, since the deal with the promoter with the silver stand-up hair, McNeeley has climbed to Number 20 in the WBC ratings. "I'm totally satisfied with what has taken place with King," says Vecchione. "He's in control of the heavyweight division."

McNeeley has no day job. He trains almost every day, at the South Shore Boxing Club in Whitman. "I'm known as the guy who's always there," says McNeeley. "My attendance is impeccable, just like it was in high school and college (he attended Bridgewater State College).

"Sometimes it's a drudgery. Get up and go to the gym, or run. But it's that moment at the end of the fight, when they raise your hand, that keeps you going. There's no better high." Now, with King in his corner, training is not such a grind. There's new hope. "I'm busting my butt," says McNeeley.

So can King keep his own butt out of prison? He faces a federal indictment for insurance fraud, the authorities forever at his heels for something or other. That would be great timing, wouldn't it, King going off to jail as Tyson walks out.

This doesn't faze McNeeley. "I hope he robs me, and makes me a superstar."

HEAVYWEIGHT BOXER PETER McNEELEY - REAR SHOT
His contract with Don King about to begin, Peter McNeeley hopes it means his career is ready to skyrocket.   (Photo by Clay McLachlan)

McNeeley will take his chances on center stage, if he could only get there, and he probably can't without King, who controls the division.

"I think (King) will spend money to lead Peter to a title fight some day," says Tom McNeeley.

If fighters can dream, so can their fathers. Tom McNeeley Sr. was national AAU light-heavyweight champ in 1928. "The night Boston Garden opened he turned pro," says Tom Jr. "I fought at the Garden 15, 20 times." He dreams of a big Garden paynight for his son, although time's running out. "That would be three generations that fought at the Garden," the father says wistfully.

Peter McNeeley has met Muhammad Ali twice. Such a thrill. Recently, he had to fight off tears when they introduced his father and Floyd Patterson in the ring. He has had moments of the heart, now it's time for even more personal moments, some big-time glory, and time to stop making chump change.

But not just yet. He's not quite there. McNeeley isn't the center of Don King's universe. Not yet.

So he'll take the small fights. "Maybe down South — North Carolina, Kentucky," says McNeeley. "And definitely some local fights, in October and November. Plymouth Memorial Hall. Whitman Armory."

Still pocket money to be made. But maybe not much longer.

"I'm in a good position with Don King," says Hurricane Peter McNeeley.

Time to let somebody else put up the posters and chase down the ticket money. Time to be a star.

See also:   McNeeley Pounds Away   [The Boston Patriot-Ledger]


This story ran on page 1D of The Middlesex Daily News on 08/21/94