Sunday, May 28, 1995


McNeeley brother prefers rink to ring

By Jack Craig

TOM McNEELEY IS the son of the fighter by the same name who fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title 34 years ago, and the older brother by seven years of Peter McNeeley, who last week was chosen to offer the first test for Mike Tyson in his boxing comeback.

Producing for ESPN

For a decade, young Tom also has been deeply involved in sports, but virtually anonymous, as a television producer. For two seasons he has been the No. 1 producer of the National Hockey League on ESPN.

"I boxed, too, as a kid, but Peter was the only one dedicated," said Tom, who like his brother is a strapping 6-foot-2 heavyweight. Soon after graduating from Ithaca College in 1985, he walked into the developing New England Sports Network and was hired as an intern at $7 a day. Two months later, he became full-time at $5 an hour.

Over the next four years, McNeeley would produce a variety of events at NESN, including a boxing show in which brother Peter fought and father Tom worked as ringside analyst. As a hockey fan, he was especially observant of the Bruins telecasts on NESN before being hired in 1989 by ESPN, a somewhat common advancement route.

McNeeley produced college football and basketball, but after ESPN reacquired the NHL for the 1993-94 season, he stepped up to produce the top games, and the NHL is now his year-round occupation at ESPN.

About this time last spring, he oversaw the historic game in which the Rangers brought back the Stanley Cup to New York.

"We had 34 cameras that night, including those in Times Square and everywhere else," McNeeley said Friday from New York, where he was preparing to produce the fourth game of the Rangers-Flyers series.

McNeeley, who lives in Easton, will begin a two-month vacation after the Stanley Cup finals. He has one committed date, Aug. 19, to be in Las Vegas with his two other brothers, landscapers Shawn and Bryan, and his father and mother to watch Peter take on Tyson.

"Pity my mom," he said. "She had to go through it when my dad fought Patterson,"

That fight, in 1961 in Toronto, was brutal. In four rounds, his father was knocked to the canvas nine times, and in between decked the champion once.

His father had come out swinging, and Tom envisions his brother dowing the same thing against Tyson.

"Peter's got a puncher's chance — if he catches him," said Tom. "One thing's for sure, someone is going down."

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This story was published in the Boston Globe on 05/28/95.