|Sunday, January 11, 1998|
McNEELEY PASSES TESTS
By George Kimball
STUDIO CITY, Calif. — Peter McNeeley passed the first of two tests last night when opponent Larry Menefee was disqualified by referee Chuck Hassett for "constant fouling and unsportsmanlike conduct" at 2:19 of the eighth round of their inelegant fight before a star-studded Hollywood audience at the Sportsmen's Lodge. Menefee had been knocked to the canvas just prior to the stoppage.
A few minutes later, McNeeley was in the process of passing his second when actor and former boxer Tony Danza popped into his dressing room to offer congratulations. McNeeley, who did a recent hitch in a drug treatment center, was struggling to produce his postfight urine sample under the watchful eye of a California Boxing Commission deputy when Danza arrived.
"Hey, Tony, can you loan me some?" cracked McNeeley.
McNeeley, who pounded former US amateur heavyweight champion Menefee with hard body shots all night, was handily in front, and in truth, Hassett should have awarded him two knockdowns in the eighth before the disqualification.
Earlier in the round, McNeeley floored Menefee with a left hook, but when the Oklahoman got back up, the referee was content to rule it a slip. Then, moments later, a McNeeley barrage drove Menefee through the ropes and nearly out of the ring.
McNeeley immediately pounced on his reeling foe. A seemingly desperate Menefee, who had already been warned and had a point deducted for repeated holding, grabbed McNeeley in a headlock and the ref then invoked the DQ. McNeeley was ahead on all cards at the time of the stoppage.
"I came to fight," said McNeeley, who ran his career mark to 43-3 with the win.
"My performance? Well, I think everybody knows my history by now. I'm on the way back. Yeah, I was a little rusty, but I blocked all his punches and was never hurt."
McNeeley's South Shore Boxing Club stablemate and sometimes sparring partner, Dedham heavyweight Jason Yarosz (10-0), defeated Salt Lake City's Willie Chapman (3-4) in four rounds on the undercard.
McNeeley dedicated last night's fight against 10-1 Menefee to the memory of his pal Chris Farley, the recently deceased comedian who was his roommate at a Minnesota drug rehabilitation facility last year. The Medfield heavyweight said he has been clean and sober for nearly seven months.
McNeeley's fight, originally scheduled as the co-feature, was elevated to main event status after Irish Wayne McCullough pulled out of his 10-rounder against Lupe Rangel on short notice. In addition to the television coverage, McNeeley also reaped a bonanza in prefight publicity, finding himself the subject of features in USA Today and the Los Angeles Times. The story was later sent over the AP news wires and picked up by ESPN SportsCenter. For McNeeley, most famous for his 1995 bout with Mike Tyson, this was his biggest exposure since his Pizza Hut commercial went off the air.
The future of McCullough's career, however, was cast into some doubt. The former bantamweight champion had not fought out of anger since losing to Daniel Zaragoza in Boston a year ago tonight. Last night's bout with Rangel, a relatively unthreatening opponent, was supposed to be a tuneup for a February challenge to 122-pound WBC champion Erik Morales. McCullough's withdrawal - the fifth such cancellation in six months - caused promoters to scrap the lucrative Morales fight. The slot on the HBO telecast has already been allocated to a Keith Mullings WBC junior middleweight title defense.
See also: McNeeley's Comeback Picks Up Speed [The Suburban Press]
This story was published in the Boston Herald on 01/11/98.