|Thursday, June 20, 1996|
McNEELEY RETURNS TO PRIME TIME
New contract calls for nine televised fights
By BOB BUCKLEY
After a rough year that began with the Tyson fight, Peter McNeeley now has reason to smile. He has a new two-year promotional contract with Prime Sports Network. (Staff photo by J. Kiely Jr.)
For Peter McNeeley, it is a chance at redemption. For Vinnie Vecchione, it may be the crowning glory of his managerial career.
The memory of that 89 seconds of infamy in Las Vegas last summer is fading fast.
McNeeley's two-year contract with Prime Sports Network became official over the weekend. The agreement will put McNeeley in the ring nine times over the next two years, and all nine fights will be televised by Prime Sports. McNeeley's first bout in the Prime agreement is scheduled for July 13 and is scheduled to be televised by CBS television.
"I think all the credit in the world has to go to Curley [Vecchione]," said McNeeley. "There was a time not too long ago when people said I'd never make it back [after the Tyson fight] but I think this [contract] proves them wrong. Vinnie has always had faith in me and I have had faith in him. This is great for me but I think [the Prime contract] shows what a great manager he is."
This is the second contract McNeeley has signed with a major boxing promoter. McNeeley signed a four-year contract with Don King three years ago, and last summer he was the first heavyweight to face Mike Tyson after Tyson's release from prison. That fight lasted 89 seconds and ended in controversy when Vecchione hopped into the ring, automatically disqualifying McNeeley in the process.
King said after the fight he would no longer associate with McNeeley as long as Vecchione continued as his manager. McNeeley kept Vecchione as his manager, and King failed to put McNeeley on any other of his pay-per-view specials. That voided McNeeley's contract with King and allowed McNeeley to sign the Prime contract.
The Prime contract will pay McNeeley in the area of $5,000-$10,000 per fight when he is on an undercard and $25,000 and up when he is the headliner. However, Vecchione believes the money is not the best part of the deal.
"[The contract] gives Peter a sense of security," said Vecchione. "There are very few fighters who are Peter's age  who are assured of getting a paycheck for the next two years. It is not the big money we made with the Tyson fight but it gets Peter back into the national picture and gets him a consistent paycheck."
The contract may also open the door for McNeeley to fight for the Irish heavyweight championship in September against current title holder Kevin McBride. Vecchione also stated that he will have the final say on all of McNeeley's opponents, and the contract allows McNeeley to pursue other fight opportunities.
Vecchione said he was contacted by famed matchmaker Ron Katz last week in regard to a Butterbean Esch-Peter McNeeley fight. The two were supposed to fight earlier this year, but Esch was upset by a New York journeyman, and the $100,000 offer was taken off the table. Vecchione said Katz's initial offer is "Nowhere near the money talked about before." However, Vecchione would not rule out the Butterbean-McNeeley fight taking place in Las Vegas before the end of the year.
It has been a long and often ugly road for McNeeley since his first Las Vegas excursion. McNeeley lost part of his Vegas fortune battling two different legal problems, one stemming from an incident in a Boston bar and another involving a restraining order filed against him by a Franklin woman. Although McNeeley was eventually vindicated in the latter case, the false accusation still caused considerable damage to his reputation.
"There is no doubt Peter made some mistakes," said Vecchione. "But how many 26-year-old kids go from total obscurity to being the center of national attention and handle it without any problems. The one thing McNeeley did was get his butt back into the gym and refocused all his energies on boxing."
The result has been three straight wins since the Tyson loss including a USBF title match against Mike Sam last October at the FleetCenter. However, the ascension to the title was tainted when McNeeley was booed by many in the hometown crowd still angry over the Tyson fight.
McNeeley's final local appearance before his Prime Sports Network debut will be this Saturday at the Whitman Armory. McNeeley will headline an eight-fight card that will include Massachusetts super middleweight champion Mike Culbert, undefeated fighters Ed McAloney of Pembroke and Charles Warren Livingstone III of Brockton. For ticket information, call (617) 447-0031.
|This article appeared in the Medfield Suburban Press on 06/20/96.|