|Thursday, January 19, 1995|
McNeeley spars with new style
By George Kimball
BIG BOYS — Heavyweight boxer Peter McNeeley gets a playful tap on the chin from sparring partner Garing Lane after their workout.
As he sparred with Garing Lane, it was difficult to escape the feeling that some impersonator had taken up residence beneath Peter McNeeley's headgear.
As even his detractors admit, McNeeley in the ring is the epitome of unleashed fury. The modus operandi that has carried him through 33 professional bouts calls for him to rush out of the corner at full tilt and, with utter disdain for defensive postures or other fistic niceties, hammer away at his opponent as if sent outdoors to chop wood on an icy morning with the promise of a hot breakfast when the job is finished.
Or, as his manager Vinnie Vecchione has put it more than once, "This kid only knows one way to fight."
The McNeeley who went four rounds with Lane at the South Shore Boxing Club the other day seemed dangerously close to being under control. Flicking out with a snappy jab he rarely reveals in combat, McNeeley (32-1) almost danced on the balls of his feet as he waltzed gracefully about the ring with his wide-body sparring partner.
Peter weighs a solid 220," the bemused Vecchione said, "and when he's on the other side of Lane, you can't even tell he's there."
We mentioned to McNeeley's father, Tom, the former heavyweight contender, how strange it seemed to watch his son performing with what bordered on restrained dicipline.
"I know," said the senior McNeeley. "But it's something I think you'll see more of — that second gear of his you're seeing right now."
"He looks better every day he works with this guy," said Vecchione, who paid Lane's way to New England and was now very proud of the fact.
Although he boasts a modest 13-12 professional record, Lane is widely respected for his abilities as a sparring partner.
Two years ago at the Homestead in Virginia, we watched him work with then world champ Riddick Bowe. Lane hit Bowe more in one round than he did McNeeley in four last week. And since the offensively-minded McNeeley, particularly in his passive state, shouldn't be especially difficult to hit, there was at least the suspicion that he, too, might have been holding something back.
Lane, who sparred with Lennox Lewis before September's Oliver McCall fight in London, lost to Corrie Sanders on the Wembley Arena card that night, but not before surprising the highly regarded South African with a fourth-round knockdown. Lane subsequently lost to Buster Mathis Jr., a fight he appeared to be winning, when he dislocated his shoulder after eight rounds and was unable to continue.
Having dropped two straight, he passed up a chance for a hat trick against Frank Bruno in England next month. The slot went to Puerto Rican Rodolfo Marin. "The payday wouldn't have been bad," said Lane, "but my record is deceptive, and I'm looking to revive my career."
At this juncture, Lane evidently reckoned he needed a few wins even more than he needed the money. And, in showing up at Vinnie Vecchione's front door, he has probably come to the right place.
Peter McNeeley and Garing Lane pose for a photo after the sparring session.
Lane will face Holyoke's hapless Luis Oliveira on tomorrow night's card at Foxboro Park, a bill whose feature will be McNeeley's attempt to turn Kevin Wyrick into Victim No. 33.
Oliveira, who has lost all 13 (and finished just one) of his fights, will undoubtedly keep his record perfect against Lane.
Wyrick, who fights out of Grandview, MO, is not expected to pose much of an impediment to McNeeley despite his 16-6-1 professional record. Known as a tough campaigner on the Midwest circuit, ex-con Wyrick has perhaps made his most noteworthy accomplishments in some spectacular weight fluctuations.
In June 1992, he weighed just 163 pounds in being knocked out by middleweight Heath Todd. Only months later, Wyrick was 218 and 220 for a pair of wins in Kansas City, but shortly thereafter appears to have started hitting the Oprah juice again. He weighed 190 and 188 for his last two fights, against Terry Ray and Sean McClain, respectively. He has again bulked up to heavyweight status to take on McNeeley.
While he said he is impressed with McNeeley, Lane didn't seem ready to rush out and endorse his candidacy for a heavyweight title fight just yet.
"Peter's a big hitter. He's a good fighter now and he'll get even better with time," Lane said. "Every young fighter has to be groomed. He's still in the grooming process, but he's making progress."
It was the sort of diplomatic praise that called to mind the late A.J. Liebling's recollection of Ignace Jan Paderewski being asked to evaluate an arch rival's performance.
"Well," said the great pianist, "he plays with all his fingers..."
This story was published on page 80 of the Boston Herald on 01/19/95.