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Exclusive Interview With Peter McNeeley
By: Allen Beneli

As a hard-hitting Irish kid from Boston, Peter "Hurricane" McNeeley has been around the fight game nearly all his life. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and got into the sport at the age of 18. As an amateur, he won the New England Golden Gloves in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1989 and the New England Diamond Belt Tournament later that year.

Peter's grandfather Tom Sr. was the national amateur champion and a member of the 1928 U.S. Olympic team. As a professional, Tom Sr. was the New England light heavyweight champion. He was also part of the first fight card ever held at the Boston Garden in 1928. Having dynamite in both of his hands McNeeley was known for dropping bombs and electrifying the crowed. Boxingtalk was able to sit down and speak with McNeeley and here is what he had to say:

Beneli: When did you first get into boxing?

Mcneeley: I started after my freshman year in college. I didn't win my first amateur fight until I was 19.

Beneli: What was your biggest amateur win?

Mcneeley: It would have to be James Johnson who was ranked number one in the world. He also made it to the Olympic finals. I also beat Bobby Harris who was ranked number 1 in the amateurs and made it into the Olympics trials.

Beneli: Did you ever pursue the Olympics?

Mcneeley: I made it on Team USA one time. It was a great experience to be there with some amazing talent.

Beneli: What was the most difficult part about boxing for you?

Mcneeley: I'd definitely have to say the fact that I held a part time job, went to college, and had to train and box all in 1 day. It is very difficult to stay consistent like that. But people saw I loved it so much and that I would pursue it professionally one day.

Beneli: How did a working guy like you get into boxing? What was it about boxing that made you say," I'll take a crack at this?"

McNeeley: Well it all happened one day when I went to the attic and I was 7 years old and I picked up a magazine and it was a picture of my father. It was Sports Illustrated. My father Tom Jr McNeeley and my grandfather were both boxers. I am a 3rd generation fighter.

Beneli: Why was your father on Sports Illustrated?

McNeeley: He was going to fight the heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson. He fought him and my father knocked him down. One of very few men to knock down Floyd Patterson. Then my father got knocked down 13 times! It was a great fight. He also sparred with Muhammed Ali. I've loved boxing every since. It's in my blood.

Beneli: And your grandfather?

McNeeley: He fought on the opening night in the Boston Garden. He was also on the Olympic Team in 1928.

Beneli: Your father fought for the titles how many times?

McNeeley: Three times.

Beneli: When did you hear the name Mike Tyson?

McNeeley: I heard about him and saw him in the amateurs. He was amazingly fast and strong and I was a huge fan of his.

Beneli: Did you ever think you'd fight him?

McNeeley: It was always a goal of mine, but remember when I was just starting out as an amateur he was already on his way to winning his second world title.

Beneli: Have you always been a Tyson fan?

McNeeley: Always, I remember back in college I told a girl in my class that I'd fight Tyson one day. No one believed me but it was a goal of mine. I promised myself I'd fight him one day.

Beneli: So when he went to jail it must have put a damper on your dreams.

McNeeley: It somewhat did but I knew in my heart I'd fight Tyson some day and it kept me motivated.

Beneli: When did you turn pro?

McNeeley: I Turned pro Aug 23rd, 1991 against Van Doresey. I knocked him out in 1 round.

Beneli: Did you win any titles in your career?

McNeeley: I knocked out Mike Sam in 2 rounds to win the USBF Heavyweight Championship belt.

Beneli: Who was your favorite fighter of all time?

McNeeley: My favorite fighter was Muhammed Ali. He came around right when I was young so he influenced me so much in my choice to become a boxer.

Beneli: So tell me how did you get chosen to fight Tyson? Did you get a call from Don King or what happened?

McNeeley: No, it all happened in 1994. I signed a promotional deal with Don King Productions. Tyson was just about to get out of jail. Then I was the USBF heavyweight champion. I was stripped of those titles for fighting the New Engalnd Heavyweight Champion Juan Quintana. It was a political thing. Then right after McCall knocked out Lennox Lewis I was supposed to fight him. However, I didn't get that chance since I wasn't ranked as a top 10 fighter by the WBC. So I was stripped of my contract right to fight him. But it was a blessing in disguise. Then Don King, rather than focusing on either of those guys, began to focus on me to fight Tyson on his comeback fight.

Beneli: Are all the rumors true that Don King is a crook and a thief? A horrible man who doesn't care for his fighters?

McNeeley: Not at all! Don King is a good man. My experiences with him were great. He cares for his fighters. He has to - he has a huge promotional company. He's a good man. Some may not like him but that's their choice.

Beneli: Ok, now your about to fight Tyson. What was your game plan to take him out?

McNeeley: Back him up. Stand right in front and keep backing him up. His ring rust was my greatest weapon because he hasn't tasted a punch like mine in years.

Beneli: So what went wrong with the gameplan? You got knocked down in the first few seconds of the fight.

McNeeley: Na, na, that first knockdown wasn't a real knockdown. It was more of an off-balance slip and the punch pushed me down too. I backed him up so fast and I was suprised so I began to go lower to punch him. He is alot smaller than me. So when I went low I tripped and he got a punch in on me too.

Beneli: So how did you lose the fight?

McNeeley: The right uppercut that hit me right on the chin! I'm telling you that's Tyson's greatest punch. He landed that and it was amazingly strong. His right uppercut the best in his arsenal of weapons. Something I never expected was how fast Tyson was. I couldn't believe how fast he punched. It was out of this world fast.

Beneli: But you never gave up. Your manager Vinnie Vecchione jumped in and stopped the fight.

McNeeley: That's right! Vinnie Vecchione is the most underrated manager of all time.

Beneli: He got manager of the year in 1995.

McNeeley: That's right! He deserves more.

Beneli: Now what do you think about Tyson losing to Lewis?

McNeeley: It wasn't the same Tyson I fought back in '95. The Tyson I fought was full of rage. Just came out of jail. And was a trim 220 lbs.

Beneli: Tyson is fighting again in November. Do you like that or should he retire?

McNeeley: ( happily) Good! He will be back. I think now he realizes how much he loves boxing. He needs consistency. He needs to get back to 215 or 220. He shouldn't be a pound more. If he can get that stamina back then watch out. His problem is he isn't fighting enough. He needs 3 fights a year at the least. See Lewis fought several good fighters so it kept him sharper. Tyson didnt fight enough. I thought the fight against Nielsen was great for him. I fought him. Nielsen is the type of guy who can't crack an egg but he can sure take a hell of a beating. So Mike gave it to him.

Beneli: So if you were Mike's manager what fight would you recommend he take?

McNeeley: Well, I thought the fight with Ray Mercer would have been good for Mike. It would have helped him so much against Lewis. But I don't know now. Ray is one tough SOB and he has nothing to lose at this point. If he stepped in there with Mike he'd throw bombs. He'd fight knowing it is his last good fight. Mike is vulnerable now. He needs a good fight to get sharp.

Beneli: Don't you think he needs Rooney back? To keep him focused?

McNeeley: No, anyone can get into his head right now. Whether it be Emanuel Steward, my manager Vinnie, or Ronnie Shields. It doesn't matter because in the end Tyson is the guy who fights, not the trainer.

Beneli: But Peter, everyone around him is a yes man. They all want his money. Mike is a great fighter but being ruined by those guys around him who just care about the money.

McNeeley: I see where your going with this. I don't agree. Listen, Mike's people are good for him. I think Finkel is a good manager for him. Especially now that Mike has lost he's going to be very cautious and helpful to Mike. Like I said on fight night who's fighting - Finkel or Tyson?

Beneli: Intresting point. Ok, now you got knocked out by Tyson. He was angry, vicious, in amazing shape for a man who was in jail for 3 years. He beat you. Then all of a sudden you were a living joke. Why?

McNeeley: Well it was such a huge PPV event that some people thought I was destroyed and a lot of people were pissed that my manager Vinnie threw in the towel.

Beneli: Name a few endorsments you had and a few people who mentioned you.

McNeeley: I was on Leno all the time being made fun of. I made it on his show 1 time. I was on the David Letterman show and Larry King Live. I did commercials for Pizza Hut and AOL.

Beneli: What was the Pizza Hut commercial all about?

McNeeley: I got knocked out by the stuff crust and my manager Vinnie threw in the towel hehehe.

Beneli: It must have been difficult at times. It had to get under your skin.

McNeeley: Hey, I'm human so it was flattering at first. But you gotta have tough skin in this business. You can't walk around and be sensitive. Just take everything lightly and you'll succeed. I was also mentioned on the movie Bullet with Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler.

Beneli: What did they say?

McNeeley: The two threatened each other to fight like Peter McNeeley!

Beneli: Hey then the Simpsons made that episode where "Dredrick Tatum" fought Homer Simpson. Was that about you?

McNeeley: Yes of course. The episode was released a few days after the bout. I thought it was funny. Alot of people consider that the classic episode of the Simpsons.

Beneli: The promo in the episode came on and it showed a clip of "Tatum" ( coincedentley the same amount of letters as Tyson) coming out of prison. The background voice said," Society put away Dredrick Tatum for his brutal crimes. But now he's paid his debt. And he's going to get revenge on Homer Simpson." Did you ever feel that way? That it was Tyson against "THE WORLD".

McNeeley: Yes. I knew he was very angry at the world and wanted to destroy something. And it was me he wanted. But hey, that's the name of the game.

Beneli: Hey now something happened after all this. All was fun and going well. But your drug problem caught up with you? You checked into rehab and you met a famous celebrity.

McNeeley: Yup, Chris Farley. Alot of the media made the mistake of saying that we dormed together. That's not true. We just lived next to each other and ate breakfast together. The clinic thought we should be together as friends since we were both celebrities.

Beneli: How was Chris?

McNeeley: A really good guy. I have a place in my heart for him.

Beneli: So now your both released and a year later you hear the news. Chris Farley has died from OD. What was your reaction?

McNeeley: Oh man. It was one of the hardest pills to swallow of all time for me. My first question was why? What shocked me was he died a year exactly after he was released from rehab. I was getting ready for a fight at the time and the news really made me think about everything else except boxing.

Beneli: Do you feel like Chris quit? Do you feel like he failed the fight against drugs.

McNeeley: You know what? I can only say there but for the grace of God go I.

Beneli: Is that how you feel about the whole thing?

McNeeley: Yup, I've seen it happen over and over.

Beneli: Do you have any upcoming fights?

McNeeley: I got one in September - no name yet. Well, there is sorta a guy I want to fight named Tom Lydon. But it's still all up in the air. I am in my best weight in 10 years! I'm at 210. That's 14 lbs less than my last fight.

Beneli: Do you work really hard at that? Like wake up at 4:30 and go running?

McNeeley: Na, I don't do that. I just do what I've always done.

Beneli: Oh, is it only Tyson and Frazier that did that?

McNeeley: Everyones got their own way, ya know?

Beneli: Now I was on your website and you go to juvenille facilities and give motivational speeches?

McNeeley: Oh yeah. I've been doing that for a long time. Just when I got into boxing.

Beneli: What do you talk about?

McNeeley: Boxing, my life, my struggles in the ring and with drugs.

Beneli: It must be nerve wrecking to stand in front of a bunch of juvies who dislike everyone and capture their hearts huh?

McNeeley: No, after boxing nothing is nerve wrecking. Once your out there everything else is boring.

Beneli: How are you doing with that? Alchol and drugs?

McNeeley: GREAT! I'm taking it one day at a time.

Beneli: How much longer are you going to box?

McNeeley: I promised my mother I wouldn't take a hit to the head after the age of 35. I won't break my promise.

Beneli: But what if it's worth your while?

McNeeley: Then she would understand, but it would have to really be worth it.

Beneli: So if Vladmir Klitscko called tommorow and said your style is similair to his next opponents and he wents to fight you you'd say? It would be for the WBO titles.

McNeeley: YES!! OF COURSE!!!

Beneli: What does the future hold for you?

McNeeley: I'm just taking life one day at a time. Spending time with my lovely girlfriend. I want to marry her soon.

Beneli: If you have kids will you get them into boxing?

McNeeley: Maybe....

Beneli: How much damage has boxing done to you?

McNeeley: I had a hip injury since I was a kid and that's the worst thing going for me, I have arthritis in my right hand, have broken my left hand, had 14 broken noses, and 42 stitches on my left eye. But let me tell you. I've hurt myself much more out of the ring than I ever could inside the ring.

Beneli: After boxing what job will you pursuit?

McNeeley: I really want to be a drug and alchol counselor. But I still have alot of money left from the Tyson fight.

Beneli: Peter, I really appreciate you taking your time.

McNeeley: No problem! Thank you Boxingtalk.net

Beneli: Thank you very much, Peter. Good luck with life.

Email: ron@boxingtalk.net

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