Leominster Cop Hopes To Handcuff Idle McNeeley

Friday, June 16, 2000

By Bud Barth
Telegram & Gazette Staff

LEOMINSTER -- This is the start of Peter McNeeley's road back to respectability. Or at least he hopes it is.

PETER McNEELEY "Hurricane" Peter McNeeley

When the kid from Medfield, now a worldly and worn 31 years old, climbs into the ring against 38-year-old Leominster cop Joe Siciliano tomorrow night at the Leominster Armory, it will be a battle on a couple of fronts: boxing, where McNeeley's stock has recently plunged, and sobriety, a war he wages every day.

The two headstrong heavyweights collide in the four-round feature bout of an eight-fight card that will get under way at 7:30 p.m. before what is expected to be an overflow crowd of more than 1,200. Doors open at 6:30. Tickets are $30 (ringside) and $20 (general admission).

Not only does Siciliano, a popular amateur boxer hereabouts, have his own four-figure entourage of supporters, but to be going against a boxer of McNeeley's notoriety and reputation just ensures a sellout in the minds of the promoters. About 500 tickets had been sold as of yesterday afternoon.

McNeeley, best known for his 89-second waltz with Mike Tyson and the accompanying $600,000 payday in the summer of 1995, has fought 13 times since then. However, “The Hurricane” hasn't fought since November, and before that, he hadn't fought since June.

“Basically, this fight for me is what people would call a tuneup. It's the perfect fight for me,” McNeeley (46-5, 35 KOs) said yesterday. “I've had a good amount of inactivity due to my out-of-the-ring extra-curricular activities, and I need a tuneup like this to get back on track with a win.”

McNeeley's problems have largely been pharmaceutical. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder is battling the double demons of cocaine addiction and alcoholism, currently enjoying a streak of sobriety that goes back to January. It's a one-day-at-a-time battle, and this is just the latest of several attempts at kicking the habits.

It's therefore fitting that Siciliano, 5-foot-10 and about 250 pounds, is in the drug-enforcement unit of the Leominster P.D. He just doesn't want McNeeley to make a habit of landing big punches.

Siciliano is a former member of the State Police Boxing Team and an experienced amateur who has had only a handful of professional outings (1-0 with several exhibitions). He said he's in the best shape of his life for this fight, and that he doesn't feel like a warmup fighter -- although McNeeley wants to do to him exactly what Tyson did to McNeeley: squash him early to step up in the pecking order.

“He's predicting a short fight. I believe he thinks it'll be quick,” Siciliano said. “He has a history of KOs in the first round (24 of them).

“This isn't going to be one of his quick, first-round KOs. Win, lose or draw, he's going to know he was in a battle.”

Both are pretty much plodding, straight-ahead guys who like to move forward and throw punches. But John Zablocki, who will be in Siciliano's corner along with Sean Fitzgerald, said that won't be the game plan against McNeeley.

“We're gonna keep it real simple,” Zablocki said. “We're not looking to mix it up. We want to establish the jab. All week, I've been having Joe train in extra sweatshirts and wool caps because it's gonna be unbearable in there -- all that humidity with no air-conditioning and all those people.”

McNeeley's last bout was a first-round KO victory in November, but the one before that was a controversial first-round loss to Butterbean, that 311-pound cartoon of a boxing figure, last June.

“That fight left such a bad taste in my mouth that it set me off in a bad (drug) relapse that pulled me into my second treatment (program) in late August,” McNeeley growled. The bout was stopped with one second left in the first round and awarded to Butterbean as a TKO, even though McNeeley hadn't been knocked down and said he was still protecting himself from what he called punches from Butterbean that “can't break an egg.”

Now, though, his attentions have turned to northern Worcester County and the little bout -- in terms of purse as well as visibility -- that can keep him on the comeback road. He said he's not looking at Siciliano as a patsy.

“I think we're gonna surprise a lot of people,” Siciliano said. “A lot of people think this is gonna be a real mismatch. We don't think so. I think I have a real good shot to beat him.”

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette