|Thursday, August 17, 1995|
Residents in his corner
By LARRY BEAN
Maybe if you had been wrapped in a cocoon (of horror?) the past couple of months, the "Entering Medfield" sign facing the westbound traffic on Route 109 at the Dover line wouldn't ring a bell.
Only if you had been isolated from newspapers, radio and television would you not recognize this as the hometown of Hurricane Peter McNeeley, the heavyweight boxer who'll try to crash the coming out party for ex-champ/ex-con Mike Tyson Saturday night in Las Vegas.
But even if you couldn't draw the connection between Medfield and McNeeley as you passed that street sign, within a mile or so, Joyce Reeves would be reminding you that a storm watch was definitely in effect in this town.
Taped to the front window of Reeve's Donut Express shop in the Olde Medfield Square strip mall is a sign reading "We're in your corner, Peter."
I put it up four weeks ago and hoped that others would notice it and do the same," said Reeves, staking claim to setting the sign-posting trend that has swept down Main Street. "It's a little town, and if anyone does anything of value we should support him. And whenever Peter is interviewed on TV or in the paper, he always mentions Medfield."
Reeves' neghbor and her landlord soon followed suit with signs, as did a number of other businesses. Ziprint, located next door to Donut Express, has "Good Luck Peter" missives taped to two of its windows, and on the roof covering both businesses, the property's owner, Ralph Manganello, has erected a six-foot-long "Knock 'em Out Hurricane" billboard.
The signs in the windows stretch as far as the intersection with Route 27, where the Gulf station wishes a "Good Luck Peter" to McNeeley. Heath McAuliffe pumps gas at that station, which sits just around the corner from McNeeley's Laurel Drive home, and more than a few times he's spotted the Hurricane's white Nissan zipping by without stopping for a fill-up.
Not being the patient sort (just ask his last six opponents, all of whom were knocked out in the first round), McNeeley makes a habit of avoiding the light at the intersection by cutting through the Gulf station lot.
"I see him cutting through all the time," said McAuliffe, who'll be a high school senior at St. Sebastian's in the fall. "But he's a little bigger than me so I'm not going to say anything to him. Would you?"
In Medfield center, Lord's department store uses its window to wish McNeeley good luck, and to inform patrons that the store is now serving fresh doughnuts and pastries Sundays through Fridays.
Across the street from Lord's, the sign that would usually tell Designs by Lorraine customers the price for a dozen carnations is also extending good luck wishes to McNeeley.
"We're rooting for him all the way," said Lorraine Lee, the owner of the flower shop and a life-long Medfield resident. "I put the sign up a couple weeks ago. No one seemed to be doing anything at the time. I saw the sign in Donut Express and it prompted me to do something. I'm glad so many people are getting behind Peter now. This is a big thing for him."
The Medfield Board of Selectmen apparently agree that Saturday's fight with Tyson, which will be broadcast on a pay-per-view basis throughout the country, is a big thing for McNeeley. They are declaring Saturday as Peter McNeeley Day.
"We're proud of him, win, lose or draw," said Town Administrator Mike Sullivan. "No matter how he does, it's quite an accomplishment."
"It doesn't matter who does what, we should support each other," said Reeves, who, on a daily basis, serves one of McNeeley's supporters, his grandmother, Catherine Gray.
"I know her as Kay," said Reeves. "She comes in here just about every day and gets a big cup of coffee and a little treat for herself."
As much as Reeves would love to see Saturday's fight, she doesn't think she'll be able to. The time to make the doughnuts (3:30 a.m.) will arrive too soon after the fight's expected midnight starting time. "It's past my bedtime," said Reeves. "But I'm sure we'll tape it and I'll watch it the next day."
Four members of the staff at Palumbo's Liquors, which serves as one of McNeeley's local ticket outlets when he's fighting in Foxboro Park and the Whitman Armory and is now sporting a rooftop "BLOW 'M AWAY HURRICANE" message for McNeeley, will definitely watch the fight Saturday night — from Row F in the $400-seat section at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"I can't wait, I'm really excited," said Dennis Toubeau, who will be accompanied to the Bright Light City by co-workers Larry Giangregorio, Jimmy Falino and their boss, Rick Palumbo.
"Four hundred dollars is a hefty price, but I think it's worth it," said Giangregorio, who, like Toubeau, has his ticket tucked away in a safe at his house. "Just being there for the fight is going to be great.
By coincidence, Palumbo was in Las Vegas at a beer distributors convention in June when the official date for the McNeeley/Tyson fight was announced.
"He called us up and asked us if we wanted him to spot us some money for tickets," said Toubeau. "He couldn't get the $200 tickets, so he got the $400. I'm not sure where the seats are. I know they're in Row F, and I know they're behind the $800 seats. I'd be really upset if I was in the last row of the $800 seats."
When asked for a prediction, Toubeau didn't hesitate, and not surprisingly his forecast doesn't jell with that of the Las Vegas oddsmakers who have McNeeley pegged as a 25-1 underdog. "Pete's gonna knock him out," said Toubeau. "He's gonna win. I just hope it goes longer than 90 percent of his fights."
Giangregorio, who was on the phone with McNeeley from Las Vegas Friday night at Palumbo's, also likes McNeeley's chances. "Pete will do well," said Giangregorio. "He's just a tough kid and he's gonna go right at Tyson, and who knows. People think I'm crazy, but Pete sounds great. Sure he's nervous, but he's out there to do what he thinks he can do, and he'll do all right."
The crew from Palumbo's will be staying at the Hacienda, just down the strip from the MGM Grand. And they should feel right at home at their hotel, because according to Diane Culcasi at Medfield Travel, her company has made reservations for over two dozen other Medfield residents to stay at the Hacienda.
"People started coming in to book reservations at the beginning of July, right after the fight was announced," said Culcasi.
Those who aren't going to Las Vegas and who still want to watch the fight some place other than in their own living room can head over to the American Legion Post on Peter Kristof Way, where for a $20 admission fee ($30 less than the pay-per-view price) they can see the fight in a Tyson-fan-free zone and at the same time make a contribution to the Legion Scholarship Fund.
"I don't imagine there'll be any Tyson fans here. There better not be any," said Bill Reynolds, a bartender at the Legion, who remembers going to the Boston Garden some 30 years ago to watch the boxing matches of Peter's father, Tom.
"From day one we were planning on showing the fight here," Reynolds said. "An awful lot of people have been saying they're coming here to watch the fight, so that will be good."
Then Reynolds offered his prediction: "Without a doubt, Peter is going to take him out. No question."
Let him enjoy every second
By PAUL PRONOVOST
Felix is not the only Hurricane blowing this week.
"Hurricane" Peter McNeeley has been howling, and not just this week, but for the better part of the last month. He's making bold predictions — saying he will knock out Mike Tyson inside of three rounds.
It's rhetoric common in the sporting world, especially in boxing. So why are folks around these parts listening more intently to every sportscast sound bite from The Hurricane? The answer is obvious, and came out of McNeeley's mouth during a national television appearance where he was asked about his hometown.
"Medfield, Massachusetts, baby!"
That's right. McNeeley hails from our little town of Medfield. He shared that fact with David Letterman and his audience as he sat in the same chair Madonna, Hugh Grant and countless other celebrities occupied in the past. But this time, Peter McNeeley, local kid from Medfield, had his moment in the spotlight.
I remember him as a little kid. Well, make that a big kid. Peter, like most of the McNeeleys, was always big and strong. He was tough, but not a bully.
As he grew, this big kid became a big guy, and stories started that McNeeley, former Medfield High School football player, was following in his father's footsteps and taking up fighting.
Dan Howell, a classmate of McNeeley's and the former director of Medfield Cable 8, made a video of the young fighter in training a few years back. The film ended with McNeeley running down a dusty road, probably Causeway Street, looking every bit the part of a fighter on the rise. Images of Marvin Hagler training on the beaches of Provincetown flashed in my head.
It's strange to watch McNeeley on camera now, as he soaks in every bit of his newfound fame. He bobs and weaves with the press as well as he does with opponents in the ring. "If only he could land as many punches as words he's spoken about the fight this week," commented television anchor Brian Leary on a newscast this week.
Hey, you can't blame him for savoring his moment. The guy is having a good time with this chance of a lifetime. He busted his butt to get where he is, and deserves to enjoy it.
But if you think McNeeley is all talk, you may be in for a surprise Saturday night. Everyone says he's going to lose. He is the punchline to more than his share of jokes. The odds are against him, big time.
The thing is, this guy thinks he can win. He is a bull — a powerful, charging, unbridled force to be reckoned with, and he just may catch a rusty Tyson on the chin with an uppercut. If that happens, McNeeley's bold prediction may very well become a reality.
Regardless of the outcome, however, Peter McNeeley has brought some summertime excitement to this town. It was not too long ago that tickets to past fights were being sold over the counter of Casabella Pizza. Now if you want to see him fight, you have to fly to Vegas and pay top dollar.
The next best thing to being there is watching it on the tube. You can bet that many televisions will be tuned to the Pay-Per-View. By the way, if you want to get yourself ready for the big fight, tune in to Medfield Cable 8, which will have a Hurricane-a-thon, beginning Friday night. They will be running McNeeley's past fights and cable appearances. His visits to the Medfield cable studio for guest appearances on "Rock 'N Jock" are legendary, and got him ready for Letterman. Isn't that right, Mike Sweeney?
The fame, it seems, has not gone to McNeeley's head. He is still the same guy who hawked tickets to his friends and family. They supported him when no one knew his name — and he has not forgotten. You can bet that he'll be back in the sports pages with the Suburban Press and back on the air with Cable 8, even if Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports are trying to get a piece of him.
You have to love a hometown boy done good.
Good luck, Peter. Like the sign hanging on Palumbo's Liquors says, "BLOW 'M AWAY HURRICANE." You have your entire hometown behind you.
(Paul Pronovost is the former News Editor of the Suburban Press and now an occasional contributor to the newspaper.)
This story ran on page 1 of The Medfield Suburban Press on 08/17/95