|Thursday, January 15, 1998|
McNeeley's comeback picks up speed
After boxing eight rounds his opponent is disqualified, Medfield boxer is the winner
By BOB BUCKLEY
It was not like old times for Peter McNeeley last Saturday night and that may have been the best thing about his conquest. McNeeley, the Medfield heavyweight, had based his boxing career on beating subpar opponents into submission in the time it takes most boxing patrons to find their seats. Last Saturday, it was much different and for the McNeeley entourage — much more satisfying.
McNeeley went eight rounds and dominated the fight before his opponent Larry Menefee was disqualified by referee Chuck Hassett for unsportsmanlike conduct in Studio City, Calif.
This was the second step in McNeeley's comeback from a battle with drugs and alcohol, first reported in the Medfield Suburban Press, and there were many positive signs to take away from the bout.
First, McNeeley went eight rounds for just the second time in his career and has now fought 14 rounds of boxing in his last two fights. McNeeley's usual modus operandi had him fighting 14 rounds over a series of 13 fights, often against substandard opposition. His opponent Saturday night, however, did not fall into this category. Larry Menefee was the 1994 and 1995 US amateur champion in the 201+ pound weight class — a title formerly held by Mike Tyson. Prior to his bout with McNeeley, Menefee had only lost once in his professional career.
"I am very happy with Peter's performance," said Vinnie Vecchione, McNeeley's manager.
"He was only scheduled to fight six rounds but when Wayne McCullough pulled out of his fight (with Lupe Rangel), the promoters turned Peter's fight an eight rounder and made it the main event. Peter did a good job of pacing himself which he hasn't been able to do because his fights are usually over by the third round."
McNeeley was in complete control of this fight which was arguably one of the best of his career. He threw a series of body punches throughout the evening and was awarded one knockdown, although Vecchione argued with Hassett that two other "slips" by Menefee should have been ruled knockdowns.
It turned out to be a moot point as Menefee put McNeeley in a headlock midway through the eighth round. Menefee had been warned repeatedly that such behavior would not be tolerated, thus Hassett stepped in and stopped the fight awarding McNeeley his 43rd professional victory in 46 fights.
"Considering the kid took 1½ years off, I thought he looked pretty sharp," said Vecchione. "Peter boxed more in this fight than he had in any other fight he has had, which is what he has to do because we want to move him up the ranks as quickly as possible."
It was like old times for McNeeley as he returned to California for the first time since the promotional tour in 1995 to hype the McNeeley-Tyson affair. The crowd in Studio City was filled with celebrities as it was the night of the Tyson fight. The Los Angeles Times ran a cover piece on McNeeley in its Saturday edition and a number of California newspapers and television reporters covered the fight to catch up with the man who was the first boxer to fight Tyson after Tyson's release from jail three years ago.
"I am a different guy now," said McNeeley. "Before I got caught up in all the craziness, appearing on television with Letterman and Leno and the [garbage] that goes along with that. I am a fighter now and I don't have much time left to make my mark. So now my focus is just getting into that ring and doing my best. I'll leave that other stuff alone for now."
The McNeeley fight on Saturday turned out to be the headline bout on the America Presents card with McCullough being sidelined by a late injury. McNeeley had originally signed with America Presents six months after the Tyson fight but his contract was voided when McNeeley ran into trouble with drugs, alcohol and the law. McNeeley has been in the gym on almost a daily basis since July, and passed two drug tests in that time frame. Therefore Vecchione was able to get McNeeley back in America Presents' good graces.
"They were very impressed with Peter [on Saturday]," said Vecchione.
"There were a lot of people talking about Peter out in California. He still has that name recognition. We have a lot of things in the works for Peter and America Presents back in our corner; it will be easier to get things done.".
See also: McNeeley Passes Tests [The Boston Herald]
This story ran on page 12 of The Medfield Suburban Press on 01/15/98