Unfortunately, due to technical issues, the audio for our interview with Peter McNeeley is unavailable. This is unfortunate for two reasons, firstly it’s difficult to represent in written format the full passion to which Peter still talks about the sport of boxing. Secondly, it does not display the humour of ‘Hurricane’ McNeeley, which is bolstered by his spirited Boston Massachusetts accent.
With 54 bouts spanning 10 years, McNeeley knocked out 36 opponents in his 47 wins, with 14 unable to beat the count in the first round. However, most will remember McNeeley from his energetic press conference prior to stepping in the ring with ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson on the 19th of August 1995. McNeeley claimed he would “kick Tyson’s ass”, a man synonymous with ass-kicking. After a full-frontal assault, the Bostonian would lose the bout early, but had cemented his name amongst the brave souls who were willing to share a ring with ‘The baddest man on the planet’.
Before I asked Peter any questions, he pointed to a cross above his head in his living room and explained that everything in his life had stemmed directly from God. Faith was always a key part to McNeeley.
He then went on to explain that his boxing career and life stemmed from the deep roots firmly planted by those before him in the McNeeley clan. “I’m a third-generation professional boxer. Tom McNeeley Sr, my Grandfather, fought his first pro fight on the opening night of Boston Garden. The very first night, can you imagine that?”
(Jack BBTV)- And your father, he fought for the world title? – “Sure! My dad (Tom McNeeley Jr) fought against Floyd Patterson in 1961 in Canada. He got put down a lot but sure did knock Patterson down before he lost!”
Peter got up and displayed pictures of his grandfather in the 20’s and his father in a powerful boxing stance in the 50’s. Before I even had time to ask him why he wanted to follow them into the sport, he eagerly explained- “You see I grew up in the house in the attic. I grew up there and I came across all this stuff from dad’s career. I came across his Sports Illustrated copy where he was on it. Only the top guys are ever on that magazine, world champions, the greats…. He was even on Time Magazine!…….from then on I was obsessed…..I couldn’t get anything else in my head.”
Despite this fixation, McNeeley managed to go to college and graduate, attaining a degree in political science from Bridgewater State College.
(Jack BBTV)- How did you first meet Don King? – “I worked with Vinnie Vecchione, he was my manager, and we meet when I was in college. Vinnie knew everybody in boxing, he was smooth and knew how to get in with guys and make fights. We were fighting all the time, I had 20 or something like that, straight wins before I was noticed by Don King. I was only taking a few weeks here and there between fights. Don King signed me before Tyson even got out of prison. I was supposed to fight Oliver McCall before Tyson was even talked about. He stopped Lennox Lewis in England and we signed a contract. It was a done deal!”
(Jack BBTV)- What happened there?- “We got it signed, ready and the WBC said because I wasn’t a top 10 guy I couldn’t fight him…… but no point in talking about what or who I could have been. God decided.”
(Jack BBTV)- How did you manage to get through college and compete professionally as a boxer? “Man, I just had 21 fights as an amateur. But my mom always said I need to get an education. So, I had to work extra hard. I come from Brockton. Home to the Rock (Rocky Marciano) and Marvin Hagler. It is the home of boxing…. champion city we call it! So, I was going to sparring every day, plenty of people to spar all the time in Brockton. I’d come into campus at night and ask, ‘have a good night at the library?’ to the other students with my face beat up.”
(Jack BBTV)-So why Don King? – “Basically you had a choice in the 90’s. Don King, Al Haymon or Bob Arum.” Peter then drew in close with a wry grin, “and he paid the most!”
“Don then set me up with Tyson coming out of prison. I got a lot of attention and we made a lot of money and we did the dance! I can’t change anything about the outcome but that’s life and I’m glad I did it.”
“You see I was a Tyson fan! We were at the weigh-in and I was stood there ‘is that really Tyson?’ I was like a kid in a candy store.”
(Jack BBTV)- So from someone who shared a ring with the man, how do you see this fight playing out at the weekend?
“You know Roy Jones is one of the best of all time. Pound for pound he just the shit! One of the best middleweights in the 90’s. But he’s shot. He should have quit after he beat John Ruiz. He should have quit. After he was beaten by Antonio Tarver and knocked out, he was shot. He’s never been the same. He only won the heavyweight cause he had one last push in him to be champ before he moved back down to light heavy. Mike is a natural heavyweight; he doesn’t need one final push.”
Peter paused for a moment. “He’s just fast man. He is so fast and strong. And you seen those videos? Every day I am online I see videos of him. He’s just too big and fast for Jones.”
The eyes of McNeeley appeared to ignite with an intense conflagration of memories and residual fervour. I asked him if he would be watching, he replied with a simple but resolute ‘yes’.
This prompted me to ask if he had any desire at the age of 52 to dust off his gloves himself.
“We were getting ready to fight an exhibition against Tony Tubbs this year in September! (Tony is a former WBA Champion who was a mutual opponent of Mike Tyson) I was training for 5 weeks, but it’s a gone deal. Just didn’t work out. We were going to do it for charity but just couldn’t straighten it out.”
After wishing myself and my family good health and God bless, I could not help but reflect on Peter McNeeley story. We often remember snapshots of a fighter’s career which misrepresent them as people. McNeeley is remembered as a footnote in the Mike Tyson epic or perhaps for his press conference poem. But in truth, he is interlinked with so much more in a fascinating era than what most of us superficially attribute.
Whatever your opinion on Mike Tyson vs Roy Jones Jr on Saturday is, it is probably wise to consider Mr Peter McNeeley’s prediction in your own estimations. After all, he has been there and done that.