|Thursday, December 11, 1997|
A WIN IN THE RING
McNeeley gets back to fighting ways
By BOB BUCKLEY
The irony was not lost on too many observers. Peter McNeeley had not been in a boxing ring for 14 months and the time leading up to that boxing had not been a positive experience for the Medfield heavyweight.
McNeeley returned to professional boxing last Friday night at the Roxy in Boston. The Roxy is the current hot spot for boxing in Boston, but it is also one of Boston's top night clubs. McNeeley has had fights at the Roxy before, but they have always come when McNeeley was visiting as a night club patron, not a boxer. But on Friday, McNeeley was a boxer, and a victorious one at that as he bested journeyman Doug Davis in a unanimous six-round decision. All three judges had McNeeley winning all six rounds.
The judges were with McNeeley but the jury may still be out in regards to the McNeeley comeback. The Medfield heavyweight was never in trouble against Davis and showed some spark in the middle of the six-round bout. Yet McNeeley showed fatigue at the end of the fight and still had plenty of ring rust to work out.
"You have to remember he had a 1 ½ year layoff," said Vinnie Vecchione, McNeeley's manager. "Davis has gone the distance with almost everyone he has fought. We need to get Pete some rounds and that is exactly what we got. I'm very happy."
McNeeley, who improved to 42-3 with the victory, was philosophical after the win.
"It was a good first step," said McNeeley. "I know that I need to do a lot more if I'm going to get back to where I was. I'm going to have to fight better. But for my first time out I did pretty well. [Davis] is a good opponent because he made me work for six rounds."
There are concerns that McNeeley did not finish as strong as some would have expected.
"I think it's only natural for Peter to tire at this stage considering it was his first fight in quite a while," said Vecchione. "Peter has gotten himself in excellent condition, he's in the gym six or seven days per week. But there is so much more when you are in the ring against a quality opponent and in front of a crowd. The adrenaline gets used up quickly when you don't fight before a crowd for a while. I'm not at all worried about his conditioning."
Vecchione saw one major fear alieviated last Friday. This was McNeeley's first fight in the city of Boston since McNeeley fought the immortal Michael Sam at the Fleet Center in October 1995. McNeeley destroyed a less than impressive opponent but was met with a chorus of boos and jeers and pizza crusts thrown in the general direction. It was not a warm homecoming for McNeeley, three months after his fight with Mike Tyson.
Last Friday without boos or jeers or airborne pizza crusts. The crowd was surprisingly enthusiastic and supportive of McNeeley.
"I thought the response of the crowd was terrific," said Vecchione. "We really didn't know what to expect. Peter still has name recognition but sometimes that works against you. That was not the case here. Peter felt good about the crowd reception."
The first step is over and the first hurdle has been conquered. McNeeley still has a ways to go before he can again get the attention of the Don Kings and Bob Arums of the world.
But one must walk before one can run. McNeeley will not fight before the end of the year but Vecchione did say that he will fight in Atlantic City on Jan. 16 against a yet to be determined opponent.
From this, McNeeley appears to be on a collision course with Massachusetts heavyweight Najee Shaheed. The undefeated heavyweight from Bridgewater has beaten Davis twice in his career, and like McNeeley, has always been dogged by questions of quality opponents.
"It would seem like it would be a natural fit," said Vecchione. "Both guys don't particularly like each other and it'd be great to get two top local fighters fighting for local pride."
There have been questions if a McNeeley-Shaheed fight would take place since the managers of the two fighters — Vecchione and Brockton-based fight promoter Rich Cappiello — have had a long standing feud.
However, the freeze between the two may be melting as McNeeley did fight on the Cappiello card at the Roxy last Friday.
Vecchione did say he did not see his problems with Cappiello being an impediment to this greatly anticipated fight.
See also: McNeeley Impressive In Return To Ring [The Boston Globe]
This story ran on page 18 of The Medfield Suburban Press on 12/11/97