Don't Count Nave Out

by Matt Morrison is a reporter/anchor for SportsNet Central on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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The Story

I recently met a guy I’d known for about 35 years.  Growing up in Marin, I’d first been aware of Paul Nave when we were in middle school and played Pop Warner football on opposing teams.  He was a tough kid from San Rafael and one of those guys you remembered from the other team.   In high school, Nave made a name for himself as a standout wrestler and a good football player too; I recall him grabbing an onside kick and bolting for a touchdown in one of those Friday night games everybody showed up to because whoever was playing, it was an event.  And I remember Paul as one of the few amateur boxers of distinction making his way up through the ranks in a sport that wasn’t exactly nurtured in the rugged suburbs of Marin County.

I knew of him, he didn’t know me, and when I read about him making a boxing comeback at the age of 48, I called him up and we spoke for the first time.  I told him I’d read about him in the Marin Independent Journal, explained the back story of my familiarity, and said I’d like to do a story for Comcast SportsNet, which hadn’t yet hit the air with our current array of programming.  Paul couldn’t have been more inviting, which I would expect from someone who needed publicity to promote a boxing card.  But what I found as we became better acquainted, and finally sat down to do an interview, was a genuine good guy who’s self interest could easily be inferred from all he’s been a part of, but who truly has an affinity for those around him and producing something positive.

In the years beyond high school, I’d been marginally aware of Paul’s rise in professional boxing.  Certainly coming out of Marin County, he was one of the very few, along with his contemporary Andy Nance, who made a name for themselves in the sweet science.  Without following closely, it seemed to me Nave achieved a measure of mid-level professional success.   Then his fortunes flipped.

From the boxing ring to the big house, the next I knew Nave was making his biggest headlines for his arrest and conviction on cocaine charges.  This was the late ‘80’s, and unfortunately his story wasn’t atypical.  He served half of a six year sentence in San Quentin and survived to fight again.    With an interest in politics and several business ventures along the way, Paul never gave up his boxing.  Inspired by his time in prison, and a few administrators that doubted him, he continued his climb and ultimately earned a title shot at the age of 37.  Nobody expected Nave to beat Greg Haugen back in 1998, except maybe Paul himself.

And when he stunned Haugen with a unanimous 12-round decision, Paul Nave was a World Champion.  No one can ever deny him that.

What I found refreshing about Paul is that when discussing his past, he didn’t pull any punches.  Doing time in prison isn’t on the top of anyone’s favorite subject list, but Paul was very open and candid about it with me.  With the camera rolling.  And when it wasn’t.  The point is, he’s the same down to earth guy whether he’s promoting something or not.   Typically he’s promoting himself, not because he’s some shameless self-promoter, but because he’s a businessman, and right now he’s simply his own best product.  Nave won’t deny that a chance at another title shot, and more to the point, a big pay day is certainly a big part of his motivation.  But so is his sport, and the opportunity to help other local fighters move up the ladder.  Boxing can be a tough sell, especially in an age of sports saturation on television.  The rise of ultimate fighting and continuing popularity of pro wrestling has the entertainment dollar for combat sports stretched extremely thin.   The fact that Nave is out there promoting fight cards through his company Liberty Boxing, and bringing live events to his home town of San Rafael, says a lot about a guy that’s gotten up off the canvas more than once, and made good for himself and others around him.  You have to root for a guy like that.

******Paul “The Marin Assassin” Nave won his four round comeback fight in March, and followed that up with a 6-round split decision victory over Derrick “The Thumper” Thomas on Friday, May 22nd at the Marin Center Exhibit Hall.  Nave’s record as a professional fighter is now 17-8-3.