Friday, January 29, 1993

New phase in boxer McNeeley's career

By Jay N. Miller
For The Patriot Ledger

Heavyweight Peter McNeeley is the pride of Whitman's South Shore Boxing Club, but elsewhere in the boxing communit his 13-0 record elicits smirks and raised eyebrows.

That's all right with McNeeley and his brain trust, though, because they believe they'll have the last laugh.

Since turning pro in August 1991, McNeeley has been cranking out those 13 victories while finishing his last year at Bridgewater State College. Ten of those victories came by knockout, eight in the first round.

Peter McNeeley works the heavy bag in preparation for his six-round bout tomorrow.   (Jay N. Miller photo)

That's basically the problem. The opponents have had shabby resumes. Though the 24-year-old fighter has some serious punching power, it takes more than that to build a successful career over the long haul.

Boston trialhorse Jimmy Harrison went the distance twice against McNeeley this year, in four- and six-round bouts. In another meeting, McNeeley battered Harrison and stopped him on cuts, but even his trio of bouts against the slick survivor led to criticism as Harrison is seen as being about five years past his prime.

This year will mark a new phase in McNeeley's career, according to manager Vinnie Vecchione of Braintree, with gradually upgraded competition. To that end, McNeeley meets Ron Drinkwater of Providence tomorrow night at the Chelsea Armory in a six-rounder. Drinkwater is 34, and his best days were about a decade ago, but he has a sturdy chin and a record of 22-2. Drinkwater, even after a lengthly layoff, could most likely have defeated all the names on McNeeley's record also.

Vecchione, who works closely with SSBC trainer Cliff Phippen in guiding McNeeley's progress, has a long-range plan for the youngster's development. Rich Melchin, president of Braintree's Independent Medical Examinations, has also become involved, helping set up a corporate entity to push McNeeley's career.

The new company is "In Motion Enterprises," which both depicts "Hurricane" McNeeley's style and retains the IME acronym.

Melchin and Vecchione were Braintree High School classmates, class of 1963. "Rich Melchin is a millionaire businessman, and I'm still carrying a spit bucket," Vecchione chuckled, "but we're still friends." Melchin and Vecchione also share a belief that McNeeley can become a title contender in the heavyweight division.

McNeeley's career has already garnered an inordinate amount of press attention, since his father is Tom McNeeley, the popular New England champ in the early 1960's who challenged Floyd Patterson for the world title in 1961.

McNeeley was also a finalist for the role in "Rocky V" that eventually went to Tommy Morrison. McNeeley's mother is on the faculty at Mount Ida College, and he took some additional courses there. As a young, good-looking white heavyweight who is intelligent and articulate, McNeeley is a guaranteed box office draw, so the temptation to rush him is there.

Tomorrow's boxing program at the Chelsea Armory begins at 8p.m. and all tickets are general admission at $20. In addition to McNeeley versus Drinkwater in a six-rounder, there will be another six bouts featuring Boston-area boxers. The main event matches Somerville welterweight Franco DiOrio, 24-3-1, with Hartford's Julio Torres, in a rematch of their October meeting in Waltham, a DiOrio decision.

Chelsea cruiserweight John Ruiz puts his 5-0 mark on the line against Hartford's Tony Daley, and Chelsea middleweight George "The Animal" Heckley will also see action among other bouts.

See also:
'Hurricane' Leaves A Path Of Destruction   [The Suburban Press]
Veteran Foe No Deterrent To McNeeley   [The Boston Patriot Ledger]
'Hurricane' Flattens His 14th Foe   [The Suburban Press]

This story ran on page 19 of The Boston Patriot Ledger on 01/29/93