|Serving Boston's South Shore Communities||November 9-10, 1994|
McNeeley Annihilates Former Champ
Medfield boxer battles for heavyweight title
By David McKee
The opening bell rang and boxer Peter McNeeley charged out of his corner with bad intentions.
With fists held tightly underneath his chin and head bobbing, the 6'2" 223-pound contender for the heavyweight title began firing punishing left hooks and roundhouse rights at opponent and former light heavyweight champion J.B. Williamson at an October fight in Whitman.
Two left hooks thundered into Williamson's ribs and a hard right lead hit him in the temple. Before Williamson could even mount any attack, he was on the canvas.
As the referee administered a standing eight-count, the sold-out crowd at the Whitman Armory went crazy for McNeeley, a Medfield born boxer who trains at the South Shore Boxing Club in Whitman.
Williamson managed to get on his feet by the count of eight but McNeeley was on him like a lion going in for the kill.
More lefts and rights followed from McNeeley. The sound of McNeeley's gloved fists hitting the face and ribs of Williamson carried throughout the entire Armory. It was a powerful, angry sound.
Williamson was on the canvas again after a clubbing right to the top of the head.
Another eight count was given and it was obvious that McNeeley was going to put an end to the fight before one round was complete.
More hammering blows followed. The end came at 1:01 of the first round as McNeeley sent Williamson to the canvas for good after a withering body-punching assault. McNeeley jumped around the ring waving to his many fans.
The win improved McNeeley's record to an impressive 31-1 with 25 knockouts.
The hard punching fight was the type of battle that earned McNeeley the 11th position in the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight rankings and caught the eye of boxing promoter Don King, a man who has managed the likes of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson during his illustrious career.
In fact King, who signed McNeeley to his boxing stable this year, is planning to match McNeeley with current WBC heavyweight champion Oliver McCall or with former heavyweight ruler Mike Tyson when he is paroled from prison after serving time for a rape conviction.
McCall, also a King fighter, was a Cinderella knock-out victor over former champ Lennox Lewis two months ago.
There are reports that McNeeley will fight the winner of McCall and former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes next spring. The proposed fight may even be held in the Boston Garden to draw many of McNeeley's local fans.
However, contracts have not been signed yet and McNeeley will stay busy by fighting in early November at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
McNeeley toweled off the sweat in his dressing room after the win over Williamson and told the many reporters and fans gathered that he is ready for the heavyweight title fight.
"I'm not afraid of anyone," he said. "Bring 'em all on. McCall, Mike Tyson, I'll beat anyone."
McNeeley is asked about risking a possible heavyweight title shot or big payday by losing an upset match. (Recent heavyweight boxers like Tommy Morrison, Lewis, and Riddick Bowe have seen millions of dollars in future matches washed away after unexpected losses in the ring.)
"I understand the risk but I have to keep sharp and be ready," McNeeley said. "I have a lot of confidence in my ability and the people who look out for me."
He was asked about putting Williamson away in one round.
"Usually I come out and get a feel for the guy I'm facing," he said. "But I've already boxed Williamson and I came out and went for a knockout right away. Why risk getting a cut from a head-butt or something? Besides, the crowd seems to like it that way."
Peter's father Tom was also a visitor to the locker room. The bear-like man hugged his son and told him he fought well.
The elder McNeeley ought to know. He fought heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson for the title in the early 60s.
McNeeley was a TKO victim in the fourth round but managed to send the champ to the canvas after a hard right. It was the highlight of a long boxing career for McNeeley.
Tom was not the first McNeeley to strap on the gloves. His father was a light heavyweight boxer on the 1928 US Olympic team and later fought on the first pro card in Boston Garden.
Tom was asked to compare his style to his son's.
"Peter has a great left hook and he goes to the body like I never could. I was more straight ahead as a fighter."
He was then asked about the rough and tumble world of professional boxing and if he worries about his son's health.
"Not at all," he answered without hesitation. "Peter is a smart kid and we have people around him who aren't going to let him get hurt. They know the boxing business and Peter is being well taken care of."
Peter McNeeley is indeed a smart man. He has a degree in Political Science from Bridgewater State and has a polite and unthreatening manner when talking to reporters and fans.
The stereotype of a monosyllabic pug with a crooked nose does not apply to this fighter. While he is a big, strong kid, he acts more like a graduate student.
He is also dedicated to his sport. With his trainer Vinnie Vecchione, he works out daily at the South Shore Boxing Club in Whitman. With its two sparring rings, workout equipment and booming stereo, the club is a mecca for local boxing talent.
McNeeley was even at the club working out on his 26th birthday, several days before the Williamson fight.
"I used to play football," McNeeley said. "But I always wanted to be a boxer. Ever since I saw my father on the cover of Sports Illustrated when I was little, it was a dream of mine."
McNeeley said the turning point in his boxing career was when Vecchione became his trainer. Vecchione is a former boxer from Boston who has worked hard on improving McNeeley's defense and ring savvy./P>
"Vinnie is the reason I've done so well," McNeeley said flat-out. "He knows boxing and we work together well."
Vecchione describes McNeeley as a "pure fighter."
"Peter goes out there trying to hit his opponent with everything he's got," he said. "He's ferocious. The bell rings and he starts punching and doesn't stop."
McNeeley has not let the sudden attention go to his head. He realizes he could be one bad match from being just another boxer with a distant dream.
He is also intelligent enough to realize that a lot of the attention given to him by the boxing world is due to the color of his skin and his marketability with ticket buyers.
He understands that he is a boxing promoter's dream, a good looking white heavyweight who can punch hard and put people in the seats.
The phrase "The Great White Hope" is not mentioned by McNeeley, but there are those who consider him that.
The heavyweight division has been dominated by African-American boxers since the time of Joe Louis in the 40s. The last great white heavyweight champion was Brockton's Rocky Marciano in the 50s.
"I have as good a chance as Oliver McCall to win the heavyweight title," McNeeley said. "And I think I can beat him. But I understand the marketing aspect involved. I know that I can help sell tickets, but I'm looking to get an opportunity that many boxers never receive."
There is also the possibility that McNeeley could fight Tyson, one of the most fearsome heavyweight champions in history.
McNeeley smiled at the thought of fighting someone like Tyson for mega-millions.
"That would be a great fight," he said. "But I have to take things one day at a time. Anything can happen in the world of boxing. And all I can do is work hard and keep winning."
See also: Former Champ Still No Match For McNeeley [Suburban Press]
This story was published in the November 9-10, 1974 issue of South Look.