|Monday, August 14, 1995|
McNEELEY: TYSON'S HURTIN'
By Steve Serby
LAS VEGAS — The Peter McNeeley Camp yesterday told The Post it has obtained confidential information from inside Stalag Tyson. McNeeley believes Mike Tyson may have suffered a rib injury in one of his behind-closed-doors sparring sessions.
'Nothing to lose'
"If it's true," McNeeley said yesterday at the MGM Grand poolside, "it's gonna be bad for him. I'm known for my body attack. That's my bread-and-butter."
McNeeley and his manager, Vinnie Vecchione, say they have heard that Tyson's injury is on the right side, which would make him especially vulnerable to McNeeley's left hook. Neither would reveal the identity of their informant.
"I saw some footage of him running," McNeeley said. "He seems to be favoring his right side."
Don King spokesman Mike Marley was asked about Tyson. "Is he saying that because Tyson didn't work out today?" Marley wanted to know. Then Marley said of Vecchione, "He's an imaginative guy and a brilliant manager. Mike's in 100 percent perfect physical condition."
While Tyson rested, McNeeley ran in the morning and sparred in the afternoon and appeared to be in 100 percent emotional condition. He stopped to pose for pictures with fans and well-wishers at poolside and seems to genuinely revel in the attention.
"I was ready to fight yesterday, wasn't I?" McNeeley asked Vecchione.
The 17-to-1 underdog was asked to characterize his frame of mind. "Very confident," McNeeley said. "Highly confident and determined. I'm in the best shape of my life, as you can see.
"I'm not gonna be intimidated. I'm gonna make him feel the four years."
McNeeley promised he would be a Raging Bull once the bell rings. "I'm going right at him," he said. "I've got nothing to lose."
Indeed, McNeeley and Vecchione have nothing to lose with their rib story. For one, it could serve to energize and embolden them. For two, it cannot possibly hurt pay-per-view sales.
McNeeley has been heartened by the support he has received so far, and while Vecchione worries about how the magnitude of the moment will affect his fighter, so far so good.
"I love it!" McNeeley said. "You've seen me on TV, haven't you? I haven't been fazed. I'm not rattled. I feel like I'm the champion of the people. I'm a people person.
"I'd say 99 ½ percent have treated me very positively. Every now and then you get one knucklehead who says, 'Ahh, you're going down.' I laugh at that.
"I've already won."
Vecchione swears that McNeeley has a good chin and wonders how Tyson, following three years in jail, will react should McNeeley somehow land an early bomb. Should that happen, Vecchione is counting on some ugly thoughts entering Tyson's head. "Somebody's lying to me," was how Vecchione put it. "Who's he gonna trust?"
Expect a short, violent fight for your 50 bucks. "Pete's gonna have to stand up to him, look him in the face," Vecchione said. "They're both made for each other."
This story ran on page 51 of The New York Post on 08/14/95
THE COLOR OF MONEY
KING KNOWS FIGHT IS ONLY SKIN DEEP
By Wallace Matthews
LAS VEGAS — Saturday night at the MGM Grand, home of Dorothy, Toto, and the convicted rapist, a couple of fight guys were arguing the fistic merits of one Frans Botha, a white heavyweight from South Africa who will soon fight Axel Schulz, a white heavyweight from Germany, for the IBF title belt relinquished by George Foreman.
The general consensus was that Botha, who calls himself "The White Buffalo," was so bad his nickname denigrates both a species and a color, and that Schulz, who beat Foreman last April but did not get the nod, was not much better.
"It's not about whether or not these guys can fight," said Aaron Snowell, who trains Botha. "It's all about one thing — M-O-N-E-Y. Why else do you think we got two white boys fighting for the title?"
The fight between Mike Tyson, fresh out of the Big House, and Peter McNeeley is the ultimate exercise in cynicism, orchestrated and color-coordinated by Don King not in the red, white and blue he loves to wrap himself in, but in the far more cherished black, white and green he has made his living from.
While McNeeley is a likeable, good looking and articulate young fighter who handles himself well with the media (and is not a convicted rapist!), he is relatively untested in the ring and was unknown outside of New England prior to his selection as Tyson's opponent. Therefore King has chosen to maximize his marketability by exploiting what he perceives as McNeeley's greatest asset: his Caucasian pigmentation. Tyson-McNeeley is all about skin color and racial divisiveness and the way both can be used to generate millions of dollars.
The same way King sells himself to black athletes by stressing the importance of loyalty between African-Americans, he sells fights to White America by promoting hostility between the races.
If you have been around King long enough, you are aware of his warped view of the white race, his belief that all white people are born to privilege and money and attend Harvard and Yale on scholarships.
And yet, as Jack Newfield reports in "Only in America," his newly published expose of King, that did not stop King from accepting $1 million from the apartheid government of South Africa to promote a black-white heavyweight title match between Greg Page and Gerry Coetzee when virtually everybody else was boycotting South Africa.
To King, skin color is a ploy to be used in order to generate green, as in cash.
His anti-white press conference diatribes, had they been delivered by Bob Arum or Dan Duva with the word "black" substituted for "white," would have gotten either man vilified and scorned by people of all races, and rightfully so.
And yet, King gets only chuckles and bemused shakes of the head by those of us who have become numb to him.
When he says, "He's white, but he can fight," it is considered cute, harmless podium rhetoric.
He is doing it again with Tyson-McNeeley. At the Harlem news conference in June, King babbled about McNeeley "training on Irish stew," and that "they'll be singing Toora-Loora-Loora and Danny Boy when he steps into the ring on August 19."
What would have been the outcry had Bob Arum promoted, say George Foreman-Tommy Morrison by claiming Foreman was training on fried chicken and watermelon and that his fans would be singing "Mammy" on fight night?
King benefits by the current double standard that makes black racism acceptable but white racism just profitable.
There are any number of black fighters just as limited or inexperienced as McNeeley who would have been safe opponents for Tyson's first comeback fight, but who would have paid to see them?
In McNeeley, King is selling more than a fight.
He is selling hope to a segment of the population for which skin color is the most important factor.
And surprise, surprise, it seems to be working. Tickets sales and pay-per-view buys are exceeding expectations and a considerable portion of the buzz is being generated by McNeeley.
"I would like to see McNeeley win because he is white," said Andy Smith of Charlotte, NC. "I mean, we haven't had a good white fighter in a long, long time."
Just moments earlier, Smith had been so overcome with excitement at encountering Peter McNeeley at the MGM Grand pool he left $86 in change at a souvenir counter in his rush to snap a photo of him.
"I'm pretty shaky right now," said Smith. The night before, he and his girlfriend Carol, had gotten married, but that was not the cause of his tremors.
He was excited by the prospect of seeing McNeeley in the flesh, all 6-2, 225 pounds of him, ready and willing to duke it out with Tyson in the face of odds that say he should take the next plane out of town.
He has never seen McNeeley fight, in person or on TV, nor has he ever attended a professional fight. But based on his brief encounter with McNeeley yesterday, coupled with the fact that he and McNeeley share the common bond of skin color, Andy Smith will shell out $50 for what most boxing experts predict is a one-round fight.
"He looked pretty mean when he balled up that fist at me," Smith said. "I think he's definitely got a shot. He's a big kid and he looks really tough."
This is not to imply that Mr. Smith is a racist, only to demonstrate that when selling pay-per-view telecasts, the power of wishful thinking always overrules good clear logic.
"I mean, it's obvious who the black fans are rooting for. Is it wrong for me to say that I want to see the white guy win?," Smith asked.
Wrong? As Don King might say, it is awfully white of him to feel that way.
And that, sadly, always translates into plenty of green.
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