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From Tyson to Tumult, McNeeley Is Back Again

January 07, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

While watching on television last June as Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear, Peter McNeeley was snorting a line of cocaine.

He told himself that it might be time to begin a serious comeback because boxing's heavyweight division appeared as if it would be open to all comers, even a used one like him, and then rewarded himself for his rediscovered commitment by snorting another line.

It was some months later before he accepted the reality that such a commitment would require giving up alcohol, cocaine and, finally, marijuana.

But here he is, Hurricane Peter McNeeley, insisting he's clean and ready to fight anonymous Oklahoman Larry Menefee on Saturday night at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Sherman Oaks.

It will be McNeeley's fourth fight since his brief fling with fame, having emerged from cards at the Whitman Armory and Wonderland Dog Track to become Tyson's first post-incarceration opponent.

That fight, on Aug. 19, 1995 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, lasted 89 seconds.

McNeeley's trainer, Vinny Vecchione, couldn't watch any more before stopping it, but the fight could have gone the entire 12 rounds and Tyson wouldn't have inflicted the damage on McNeeley that he was about to do on himself.

"I really started trying to hurt myself," he said this week.

Wandering aimlessly after the Tyson fight, McNeeley returned to his refuge since high school--alcohol--and chased it with about $1,000 a day worth of cocaine. It wasn't difficult for him to obtain. His residence for a while in 1996 was a Brockton, Mass., crack house.

McNeeley admitted himself later that year to a drug rehabilitation center in Minnesota, where comedian Chris Farley was a member of his therapy group.

"Chris told me one day, 'Peter, you've got to forget about boxing and concentrate on getting sober,' " McNeeley said. "I said, 'Chris, that's like telling you to stop being funny.'

"Chris' weight was his best friend and his worst enemy. He had no self-esteem because of it, but it was the basis for his comedy. He was killing himself with humor."

McNeeley said he wasn't surprised when Farley was found dead last month of an accidental overdose of cocaine and morphine.

McNeeley, dedicating this fight to Farley, can list a number of reasons for his own addiction, which he continued to succumb to for months after completing rehab.

"One is that, after the Tyson fight, I didn't like being Hurricane Peter McNeeley," he said.

He believes now that he can go the distance with himself. After another fight or two, he'd like to be matched against Axel Schulz, then maybe George Foreman if he comes out of retirement. Ultimately, McNeeley wants another chance against Tyson.

"I've already got a name for it," he said. "Unfinished Business."


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