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World-class heavyweight contender of the 1950's and 60's
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Hands cocked a few inches in front of his face, Tom McNeeley stalked his sparring partner into a corner of the ring. Faking a right, he jabbed quickly with his left, snapping back his opponent's head, then followed with a crushing straight right-left hook combination. The sparring partner was hurt, but McNeeley suddenly pulled back. "There's no point in eating up sparring partners," explained the heavyweight contender in his dressing room after the two-hour workout at Boston's ancient New Garden Gym last week. "You can be sure I won't pull back when I have [Floyd] Patterson in trouble. I save my fury for my fights."


For heavyweight McNeeley... ... 'every fight is a war'

To boxing men crowded around the ring, McNeeley's reasoned self-control was somewhat surprising. In three years as a professional, McNeeley, 24, who is easygoing and amiable outside the ring, has butted, elbowed, and hit after the bell in winning 23 bouts (eighteen knockouts) without a loss. For three months he was under psychiatric treatment to temper his temper.

The Jungle: "Every fight is a war," says McNeeley, who will match his brutality, courage, and good left hand against Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title in Boston this fall. "I've got to destroy the other guy before he destroys me. No one ever criticized Dempsey for being too mean."

McNeeley's period of psychiatric adjustment began in 1959 when two New York boxing commissioners warned him — after a vicious defeat of Lou Jones — that he would lose his license if he didn't learn some self-control. The heavyweight's millionaire manager, Peter Fuller, 38, a Harvard graduate and son of a former Massachusetts governor, persuaded McNeeley to visit a doctor. "I saw this psychiatrist for three months and finally he told Peter he thought he had solved my problems," the fighter said. "He said that I got so excited that I forgot where I was in a ring, and that two incidents when I was a kid — when bigger kids beat me up — made me strike out wildly as soon as I was hurt. Since then I've been pretty good but it's not the doctor. I just didn't want to lose my license. Who knows how I'll react the first time Patterson hits me?"

Son of a former boxer and Cambridge, Mass., bricklayer, McNeeley was an outstanding amateur fighter and All-American high-school football player. After sorting out more than 80 scholarship offers, he chose Michigan State but quit after his sophomore year when the school dropped boxing. Returning to Boston, he signed with Fuller, a onetime amateur boxing champion who has brought him along slowly — much the same way as Rocky Marciano was handled — fighting men he could beat but who would teach him specific lessons.

Although he is probably still a year away from reaching his potential — particularly in developing leverage with his right hand — the 6-foot-2, 208-pounder seems the ideal opponent for Patterson, who wants a workout to sharpen him for his big fight with Sonny Liston in 1962. But the champion goes down frequently and easily, and McNeeley, rugged and determined, could give Patterson trouble. "My left is better than [former champion Ingemar] Johansson's and I think my right is just as good," said McNeeley, putting on his button-down sport shirt. "And I don't quit. Once I get a man in trouble, he doesn't get away. I'm going to surprise a lot of people."

This article appeared in the August 28, 1961 issue of Newsweek.