|Thursday, July 13, 1995|
McNeeley's work conducted under unusual surroundings
By Bruce Brown
It's not your usual training camp site.
Just a few doors down from Lafayette High on Arnaud Blvd., with the afternoon sun beating down and a dozen or so interested onlookers in local manager Beau Williford's front yard or peering from parked cars, heavyweight Peter McNeeley sparred on Wednesday with Garing Lane and Broussard's David Rabon.
McNeeley, a few weeks away from an August 19 battle with Mike Tyson and a $750,000 payday, was wrapping up the last of six days of conditioning work in Lafayette — work that coincided with some of the hottest days of the year.
And, since there was a fire in Williford's gym last Thursday on the morning McNeeley arrived, the ring had been set up in Williford's driveway. That has made for quite a show for local motorists on their way home in the afternoon.
More importantly, the heat and humidity have put McNeeley through the test.
"I'm pleased, most definitely," said McNeeley, a heavy underdog who has vowed to drop Tyson in three rounds in the fight in Las Vegas. "This trip has pushed me to another level. I'm in tremendous condition now.
"Riddick Bowe came down here to lose weight, but I've actually gained weight (4-5 pounds) since I've been here," McNeeley added. "The more work I do, the more I eat. I've been on a program of health foods for five or six weeks now.
"They say that if you can train here, you can train anywhere. I'm in the best shape of my life."
As a testament to that, McNeeley covered his customary three-mile morning run in 18:09, a brisk pace for a 225-pounder.
"I ran hard this morning," he said. "Tonight, I didn't look as sharp in the ring. I think I left some fight on the road this morning."
"He wouldn't admit it, but I think the heat is finally starting to get to him a little," said manager Vinnie Vecchione. "He was a little off this afternoon, (but) we've gotten what we wanted to out of this trip."
"It's as hot at night here, inside, as it is back home in Boston during the day," said McNeeley.
Peter McNeeley autographs a boxing glove for a young fan (Photo by Brad Kemp/THE ADVERTISER)
McNeeley is headed back home this morning with promotional stops on tap for the fight on his agenda. He will return to Lafayette on July 31 for a boxing exhibition to benefit Special Olympics to be held at the Best Western-Hotel Arcadiana.
His last day in the Hub City was a typical one — the early run, breakfast, rest, draining afternoon work — with partners Lane and Rabon giving him different looks in the ring.
"Garing is as close as we can get to Tyson," said Vecchione of the stocky Lane, a McNeeley sparring partner for all of 1995. "I don't like strange things. I don't like surprises. I like consistency, and Garing gives us that. We've still got 30 days to go."
"Basically," said Lane, "I work with Peter on basic skills — I throw an uppercut and he moves, he works on eluding pressure. We're mainly focusing on conditioning right now. We haven't picked up the boxing yet. We have quite enough time."
"Peter has gained much more experience," Lane added. "It's best for him to fight Tyson now. Tyson will be out to prove he's still the master, and subsequently I think he'll make a ton of mistakes."
"I've been working against Garing since last December," McNeeley said. "He resembles Tyson. He's short and stocky. If I can push him around, I'll be able to bully Tyson."
While Lane offered the Tyson-like build and bull rush, light heavyweight Rabon was on board to present McNeeley with a speedy target.
"They're looking to me for my quickness, for head movement and hand speed," Rabon said. "For a big man, McNeeley is quick. Working against him has helped me a lot. It helps to have a bigger guy coming at me."
The 31-year-old Rabon, now 10-0 as a pro, will face Atlanta's James Gatlin in the July 31 card at the Hotel Arcadiana.
In the meantime, McNeeley will take his training elsewhere as he focuses his energy on Tyson.
"Instead of Iron Mike, he'll be Rusty Mike," said McNeeley. "He's shown a lack of focus. He's taking me lightly."
The McNeeley camp — driveway ring and all — claims that's a mistake.
This story ran on page C-1 of The Lafayette Daily Advertiser on 07/13/95