McNeeley No Punchline
(c) 1996 Copyright Nando.net
By Mark Wolf
DENVER (Jul 10, 1996 - 08:23 EST) — Peter McNeeley wants to be taken seriously as a heavyweight boxer.
"Hurricane" Peter McNeeley
Don't wait for the rim shot.
McNeeley has a good sense of humor, but he's not joking around about this.
Not like he did in that pizza commercial. Not like he did on David Letterman's show.
McNeeley had his 15 minutes of fame, and now he's willing to settle for the relative anonymity of the undercard Saturday when he fights Louis Monaco of Denver in a scheduled eight-round heavyweight bout at Mammoth Events Center while he tries to climb the heavyweight contention ladder.
"I'm just tucked away in there behind Wayne McCullough (who defends his World Boxing Council bantamweight championship against Duke McKenzie)," said McNeeley. "I had the center of attention last summer. Now I'm happy to cruise into Denver and cruise out with a victory."
McNeeley cruised into the sporting world's spotlight last August as the first opponent for the paroled Mike Tyson. McNeeley was chosen for his moment in time after compiling a 36-1 record against opponents with a limited history of resisting aggression.
For his part, McNeeley talked a good show, promoting the bout ceaselessly and promising to carry the fight to Tyson. When McNeeley's trainer stopped the fight after McNeeley had been knocked down twice in 89 seconds, fans who'd paid $49.95 for the pay-per-view show were ready to hurl bean dip at their TV sets.
"As soon as somebody brings up how much money they spent, my defenses go up," he said. "We've just had to have a good attitude about it and bite the bullet."
McNeeley's recollection of the encounter goes like this: "I hit him with a couple of shots. I head-butted him. I roughed him up. The first knockdown was more me being off-balance, and I jumped right up. The second one, I got hit with his best punch, and Vinnie felt at that time Mike was at his most dangerous."
The entire affair was roundly panned, but McNeeley hunkered down and was back in the ring training a month later. He has had four successful fights since then, the most recent a first-round knockout of Mark Machain last month.
"There's been some ups and downs since the (Tyson) fight, but basically it was the greatest moment of my sports career," McNeeley said. "I get asked for autographs wherever I go, and 90 percent of the people have been supportive. I give out my picture for free.
"I know a lot of fun has been poked at me, but I'm a competitive athlete. I didn't get into it because I wanted to be laughed at. I wanted to be successful, to excel. I want to prove I'm here and a well-respected boxer who can punch with either hand."
McNeeley is a glib, good looking guy with a college degree in political science and history. He has a contract with Prime Sports and plans to fight once a month. Boxing's nose always is tuned to the scent of a white heavyweight who can punch, and McNeeley figures if he keeps fighting, winning and talking, another high-profile fight eventually will come his way.
"I want to use these fights as a stepping stone to get a fight with a 'name' heavyweight or a title fight," he said. "I think the Tyson fight will help me. There's no better promoter in the sport of boxing than me."
McNeeley's grandfather fought in the 1928 Olympics and his father, Tom, was a pro heavyweight who was knocked out by Floyd Patterson in a 1961 heavyweight title bout.
"I didn't know my dad was a fighter until I went up in the attic and found his picture on the cover of Ring and Sports Illustrated," McNeeley said.
Even if McNeeley never again finds himself at his sport's center stage, he had his 89 seconds with Mike Tyson and his 30-second TV commercial.
"That's what America is all about: making money and having fun at the same time," he said. "The 15 minutes just keep getting dragged on."
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