THE BOSTON HERALD - SPORTS Thursday, July 18, 1991

Fighting in his footsteps

Peter McNeeley makes pro debut as father beams

By Ed Gray

Born after his father retired from fighting, Peter McNeeley didn't have any vivid childhood memories of the exciting and glamorous world of heavyweight boxing to seduce him into the ring.

Most of what the 22-year-old college student knows about the heavyweight career of his father, Tom McNeeley, he has gleaned from films, which he would share with his friends.

SONSHINE OF HIS LIFE — Ex-heavyweight contender Tom McNeeley plants a kiss on his 22-year-old son, Peter, yesterday, after the announcement that Peter will begin his pro career in a preliminary bout on the Aug. 23 outdoor fight card at BU's Nickerson Field.   (Staff photo by Jim Mahoney)

"My earliest recollection was when I brought a film of the Patterson fight to school," the younger McNeeley recalled yesterday. "The teacher, myself and a couple of my friends watched it while we ate lunch."

Even though his father was knocked down eight times before being stopped by the legendary world champion Floyd Patterson in the fourth round on Dec. 4, 1961, in Toronto, Peter McNeeley still had the stomach for boxing.

"I enjoy watching boxing. I'm a big fan," he said. "It's the most competitive sport in the world — it's one on one. There is no bigger thrill."

What he saw in the films of his father's 53-9 career was a man who had the courage, heart and power to climb to the top of his profession, a man in whose footsteps he's honored to follow.

Peter McNeeley will take the first step of his professional career on Aug. 23 in a preliminary bout on an outdoor fight card at BU's Nickerson Field, promoted by Al Valenti in association with radio personality Eddie Andelman.

McNeeley, who's only a few credits shy of a political science degree at Bridgewater State College, is, indeed, modeling his moves after his father's.

"He's a boxer-fighter. He comes to fight," said the elder McNeeley. "He doesn't pose around and look to go the route."

His son will step into the ring with some sound advice from his father.

"I told him to work hard, that conditioning is 90 percent of it. A fighter in shape is a winner," said the former heavyweight contender, who did drive Patterson to his right knee before being stopped by the champ in the fourth round. "Fights are won on conditioning."

Peter McNeeley, a Golden Gloves champion who had a 15-8 (10 KO's) record as an amateur, packs a punch like his old man once had.

"He's got a tremendous left hook," said New Bedford heavyweight Paul Poirier, who'll fight for the New England heavyweight title on the Aug. 23 card. "He has a left hook I almost can't escape."

The outdoor fight card, which will feature seven N.E. title fights, will provide McNeeley with unusual exposure for a pro debut.

"That's why we took it," said the elder McNeeley. "The plan was for Peter to stay an amateur until he gets his degree. But when this came along, we took it. It's just six months ahead of schedule."

Indeed, "An Outdoor Evening of Championship Boxing" is a unique opportunity for all the fighters on the card, topped by the N.E. welterweight title fight between Johnny Rafuse of Malden and Miguel Santana of Worcester.

Other bouts on the card, which will benefit the Jimmy Fund, the Joey Fund and BU athletics, will be Poirier vs. Marc Machain for the heavyweight title; Drake Thadzi vs. an opponent to be named for the light heavyweight title; Shawn Fitzgerald vs. Harold Suther for the middleweight title; Ray Oliveira vs. Junior Rodriguez for the lightweight belt; and Manny Santiago vs. Derek Sheppard for the bantamweight championship.

In an effort to give boxing more family appeal, no alcohol will be sold at the fights and children under 12 will be admitted free with a parent who purchases a $6 general admission ticket. Other tickets range from $9 to $100 and can be purchased next week at Ticket Pro, Hub Ticket, Pat's Ticket, Concourse, Open Door Ticket and Valenti Ticket Agency.

Related articles:
Son Of Tom McNeeley To Make Pro Debut   [Boston Post-Gazette]
McNeeley Wins Pro Debut   [The Lowell Sun]
McNeeley Launches Boxing Career With A Bang   [The Suburban Press]

This story was published in the Boston Herald on 07/18/91.