Tom McNeeley, heavyweight boxer November 13, 1961

July 06, 1998
July 06, 1998

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July 6, 1998

Tom McNeeley, heavyweight boxer November 13, 1961

Others might see Tom McNeeley's life differently--that because
of years of alcohol abuse, it hasn't turned out as it could
have. But McNeeley, a former heavyweight contender, doesn't
dwell on his darker days. "I've had the chance to make a
difference in people's lives," he says in a thick Boston accent.
"That's the greatest gift I've ever been given."

This is an article from the July 6, 1998 issue

Three decades after ending his boxing career with a 37-14 record
and a reputation as an alligator-tough brawler, McNeeley, 61,
works for the stress unit of the Massachusetts Department of
Corrections in Concord, helping guards cope with their
anxieties. He has been with the department for 20 years. "A lot
of these guys encounter drugs, alcohol and family problems," he
says. "I've seen the bottom, so I can understand and help."

On Dec. 4, 1961, McNeeley took on Floyd Patterson for the
championship in Toronto, earning a prefight cover feature in SI
(left). Like his son Peter, who three years ago faced Mike
Tyson--and got waxed in 89 seconds--Tom was an unknown pug with
dreams of glory. Unlike Peter, Tom showed up, brawling until
Patterson knocked him out in the fourth round. "He was too
quick," Tom says. "There were a few times I thought the ref was
slipping in punches too."

McNeeley never had another title shot. After retiring, he
started to drink. "I had seen so many guys with ability let
alcohol consume them," he says. "But once boxing ended, I
figured I could open the bottle and go." His marriage of 19
years ended in 1980, and his work suffered, first during his
eight years as the Massachusetts boxing commissioner, and then
while he was a car salesman and trucking-company sales

Now sober for more than 12 years, McNeeley feels renewed. He
remarried, to Gloria, in 1983, and says relations with his five
kids have never been more solid--especially with Peter, who is
battling an addiction to cocaine. "I'm surrounded by the stories
every day, and it reminds me of what it was like," he says.
"Most important, it reminds me of what I have. I don't want to
make the same mistakes again."

--Jeff Pearlman

"Patterson was too quick. At times I thought the ref was
slipping in punches too."