Fifteen years after Tyson, McNeeley looks back
He had a good pro career. I think he had 115 pro fights. And he then taught boxing at the Cambridge [Mass.] Y for 36 years. My dad [
My dad ended up being managed by this millionaire here in Boston,
Back then, there was an old fight guy out of New York City,
Behind the scenes, Braverman was building up my dad's career. So when they got the shot against Patterson, Braverman said, "Don't do it. He's not ready." But Fuller had stars in his eyes and wouldn't listen and fired him, which was a mistake.
So my dad got knocked down something like 12 times, but he knocked Patterson down once. My dad was just 23 or 24, with a fat record, just fought for the title and knocked the champ down. But when it was over, Peter Fuller said to him, "Quit the game, kid." My father was in his prime and ready to get going. He said, "What are you, nuts?" And Fuller said, "If you go on, you'll do it without me."
I think in his heart, Peter loved my dad and didn't want to see him get hurt, but he could have maybe done it a different way. Obviously, it was just the way it was: My dad was going to keep fighting. He was young and he was hot. He went with a real [expletive] organized crime guy that didn't take care of him. He threw him in there with the wolves, fight after fight after fight.
When me and my little brother visited my dad, we'd go six Saturdays out of the year to a CYO boxing program in Newton that DeNucci ran for the kids, just to get our feet wet. We had a heavy bag and a speed bag in the cellar all our lives. I'd be home training and running and hitting the bag. Then the six Saturdays would be up. Eventually, [the CYO boxing program] got shut down because of liability. So I was basically a wannabe, but I studied, watched every fight on TV. I was buying the magazines and I became a bit of a historian myself.
This is July of '87. I'd been training only six weeks. I had no business being anywhere near a competitive boxing ring. But I said, "Dad, why don't you give me a fight?" My dad comes from the old school. Next thing you know, I'm the main event in an outdoor football stadium, live on NESN. I should have been tucked on an undercard somewhere, off TV, against Joe Bag of Donuts, and I ended up on the main event against a real tough kid and I got smoked. I didn't know what the [expletive] I was doing.
Vinnie basically taught me how to fight all over again. Between my heart and my determination and Vinnie's teaching, I got better even quicker now. I turned pro that summer -- in August of '91 -- and we racked up 26 straight wins, I believe. And then I got cut, I lost my first fight [to
I signed with King in June of '94 and had a couple more fights. Then September of '94 rolls around and now I'm in the house: I'm in Don King Productions. And you can see my rating get lower and lower and I'm winning fights and my record's now like 30-1 or 31-1. You're starting to see things happen.
I'd been with King for like only three-and-a-half months when
King brought us there for the big press conference with McCall coming in with the newly won belt. And King said that day, "Petey, you're going fight McCall for his first title defense." I signed it at the conference that day. It was scheduled for the old Boston Garden, the last event there. It already had a story: My grandfather opened [the Garden], my dad sold it out like 10 times, and now I was going to close it.
So I was like [
My brother was working with Showtime. And the head producer of Showtime boxing was
When Vinny stopped the fight [89 seconds into the first round], people were upset. I watched the films. I can't argue. People who have never had a boxing glove on, they say he stopped it too soon. Look at the video. You can see my eyes are completely dilated like I possibly had a concussion. The lights are on but nobody's home. I was knocked out but I was still on my feet.
I go into the ropes, my legs are gone. If the ropes weren't there, I'd be sitting on
Thank God my mom held on to my money. While I was living in that house, she sent my oldest brother, the producer for Showtime, to the bank. He looks so much like me, so she gave him my account number and they grabbed my money. At the time I was crying about it, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
My last fight was nine years ago, this past June 9. At the end, I was taking fights on short notice. "Have gloves, will travel." I fought in Copenhagen, Denmark, in '99 on short notice against
In regular boxing, Bernardo was a WBF champion. It's all about the alphabet now, and technically my last fight was for the championship of the world. For that fight, I was probably in the best shape of my career, because I'd battled with the booze/drug thing. I didn't realize it because I was young and I didn't get it. I started drinking and smoking pot when I was 10. I figure by the time I was 13, I was probably an alcoholic.
Mike has contacted me a couple times after the fight. He contacted me in 1998. If you remember, he bit [
I come home from the gym and Tyson's on my voice mail asking if I wanted to hook up. Next thing I know, the limo driver was banging on my door saying Tyson wanted to see me right now. Apparently, he wanted to take me out to dinner. Then he wanted me to go with him to this famous club in Boston and check out the local talent. So I went to his hotel room. He sat me down and we talked for a half-hour. It wasn't a press conference, it wasn't a weigh-in, it wasn't a fight -- it was just me and him alone in a room.
When he turned pro, it was still '84, '85. I was a senior in high school. I remember watching him fight, the Olympic trials, early pro fights on ESPN. This is back before I even had my first amateur fight and I hadn't even started training yet. I was still a wannabe and he was a hero to me. My freshman year of college, we would drive home to watch him fight on HBO or Showtime. He was one of my heroes.
He paid me respect. He didn't have to call me. He didn't have to leave a message or let me in his room.