“Hey, Marin County, are you ready for boxing?” With those words KRON 4 sportscaster Vern Glenn warms up the crowd of 800 at the Marin Center Exhibition Hall. The crowd responds with hearty enthusiasm. After three preliminary bouts, the mostly-Marin gathering is ready to rip off the roof for their hometown hero—Paul Nave (“Nah-vey”), as in Novato’s Nave Drive, Fairfax’s Nave’s Bar & Grill and San Rafael’s Nave Shopping Center, owned by various members of Marin’s Nave clan.
Let’s back up. Paul Nave isn’t what you’d imagine a professional boxer to be. When Izzy’s Steakhouse in Corte Madera is suggested for a pre-fight interview, the former World Boxing Association welterweight champion counters with Comforts, a mostly ladies’ popular breakfast and lunch place near his home in San Anselmo.
On meeting Nave, your first impression is—what a nice guy! He’s about five-foot-nine, a bit stoop-shouldered, and he readily admits to being almost 49 years old, and—you’re not going to believe this—to having a bad back. “A few years ago, doing construction, I ruptured two disks,” he says while grimacing and occasionally blinking, “Since then, I’ve just never been quite the same.”
Three nights later, bad back and all, Nave, “the Marin Assassin,” climbs into the ring at the Marin Center to go six rounds with Derrick “the Thumper” Thomas, a boxer from Orange County who’s 10 years younger. “Nah-vey, Nah-vey, Nah-vey,” the crowd chants as the local favorite circles the ring. Frankly, the Marin Assassin doesn’t look up to the challenge. His red, white and green robe is a size too big, which makes him appear smaller. His hair is starting to turn gray. And his complexion could use some sunshine and Vitamin D.
Meanwhile, across the ring, the Thumper is glowering as he takes off a sleeveless T-shirt to reveal a torso only Michelangelo could have sculpted. Remember Mr. Clean? That’s the Thumper, only smaller and without the earring. Ringside, guys are covering their eyes, glancing sideways and muttering, “Oh Paul, this isn’t looking good.”
In round two, Nave slips and falls to the mat, then musters a smile as he gets up. Following the bell for round three, a fan walks by saying, “Paul’s ring experience is keeping his ass alive.” Midway through round four, Nave’s face is red and puffy, yet he’s displaying amazing courage. He’s deflecting most of the blows Thomas is throwing at him. Halfway through round five, Paul lands a right, then a left and the crowd erupts, “Nah-vey,” “Nah-vey,” Nah-vey.” Amazingly, in round six Nave seems to have more energy than Thomas. The final bell rings and the fighters embrace.
Then it’s Glenn’s turn again. He announces a split decision. “Judge Michael Tate scores the fight 58 to 56 favor of Nave,” he intones. “Judge Marshall Walker has it 58 to 57 for Thomas.” And finally, “Judge Jack Campbell has it 59 to 55 in favor of Paul…” Cheers, applause and a bit of amazement coupled with relief fill the hall. “And remember,” shouts Glenn as a closer, “the after-fight party is at Izzy’s Steakhouse.”