Friday, February 23, 2001

Akinwande vs. McNeeley Set

By St. Clair Murraine

A heavyweight fighting for a chance to be taken seriously and one waiting for his shot at a world title will meet in a 12-round fight that will be the most significant bout ever to take place in Tallahassee.

Henry Akinwande Peter McNeeley The bout for the World Boxing Council Intercontinental heavyweight championship matches Peter McNeeley against Henry Akinwande on March 17 at The Moon.   Contracts for the fight were signed on Thursday.

McNeeley gained national attention for his 1995 loss to Mike Tyson and parlayed it into other business ventures.  ; He became known as the guy knocked out by a pizza in a popular Pizza Hut commercial that still runs in some markets today.

Taking this fight is a move that McNeeley's manager thinks can change public perception of his fighter.   The 32-year-old McNeeley comes into the bout with a 47-5 record that includes 36 knockouts.

“He is very excited about this because it's a very serious bout for him,” said McNeeley's manager, Vincent Vecchione.   “He knows he has to give a really creditable showing because Akinwande is rated very high.”

“It will be a big thing for Peter if he goes out there and wins.”

McNeeley's only other fight against a top-rated fighter was the first-round loss to Tyson. The bout ended in 98 seconds after Vecchione threw in the towel.

In McNeeley, Akinwande will be facing an opponent who is coming off two straight wins. This will be McNeeley's fourth appearance in Florida, where he has not lost a bout.

Akinwande, the No. 7-ranked heavyweight, has never lost in three Florida fights.   His most recent fight was on Dec. 8 when he scored a first-round knockout over Kenny Craven to improve to 40-1-1.

Just as he did with the Craven fight, Akinwande, 34, is taking on McNeeley to stay busy while he waits for the winner of next month's title bout between champion Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz.

Vecchione thinks McNeeley can be a spoiler.

“I think that Akinwande is a boxer, and I think boxers usually back up,” he said.   “That will give Peter the momentum to control the flow of the fight.

“I'm not knocking Akinwande.   He has good attributes, but if things go as they are planned Akinwande should back up.”

The supporting bouts on the card will include a rematch between Tallahassee's Robert Davis and Mike Coker.   Freddie Willis of Cairo also will be on the card, as will Blountstown's Jodi Kombrinck against an opponent to be announced.

Related articles:
McNeeley Fights Back   [Tallahassee Democrat]
Heavyweights Akinwande, McNeeley Get Serious   [Tallahassee Democrat]
Akinwande vs McNeeley   [Tallahassee Democrat]

This story was published in the Tallahassee Democrat on 02/23/2001.