The Great White Nope?

Paul Nave, a polite, well-spoken product of upscale Marin County, has climbed out of boxing obscurity to fight for a world title. He's a polished fighter, but he's probably going to get his ass kicked.

Two days later, the pair met in the parking lot of the Belli-Deli in San Rafael. According to court documents, Nave got in Napier's Porsche and told him to drive around awhile. They pulled up at a stop sign and did the deal -- $1,000 for an ounce of blow in a brown paper bag. Napier dropped Nave off, then drove to meet police and gave them the goods.

In the future, Napier would call the limo service and say he wanted to "rent a limo." Each "limo" would represent an ounce of blow. On July 24 Nave answered the phone and took an order for "six limos." Later that day, Napier stopped at the San Rafael police station, picked up $6,000 in cash, and met Nave at a Burger King in Ignacio, where they negotiated price.

Nave drove off with the money to count it, then returned and told Napier 6 ounces of cocaine were at the bottom of a tree on a frontage road. Napier picked up the coke and brought it back to police.

In October, Nave was again arrested. In all, he was charged with five counts of dealing drugs and one other offense, possession of a deadly weapon (a sawed-off shotgun found at the limo business during the prior arrest). The local headlines were not pretty: "Ex-councilman's son arraigned in drug case."

After a lengthy fight in the courts, Nave pled guilty to all charges. And on June 25, 1990, the man voted most likely to succeed in high school changed his mailing address to San Quentin prison, where he was sentenced to sit in a cell for the next six years of his life.

How Paul Nave became a boxer, and a convicted felon, and a boxer contending for a world title is a story so laced with the ups and downs of success, failure, and survival that had it not actually occurred, it would be necessary for cable TV to invent it.

Paul Nave's great-grandfather immigrated to San Francisco in the 1880s from a small town outside Genoa, long a trading center for the business and industry of northern Italy. The hustle always seemed to be in the Nave genes, and it's still there today. On the site of Pietro Nave's original vegetable garden in Novato now stands the Nave Shopping Center, a large strip of storefronts including a post office, a Thrifty, and a separate annex across the street, owned by Pietro's descendants. A short distance away is the Nave Lanes bowling alley. Nave Drive is one of the oldest streets in Novato.

The sixth of eight athletic children, Paul Nave learned a few basic fighting moves from his father, who boxed in college, but his interests leaned more toward football and wrestling; in fact, he won the county league wrestling championship three times. But during junior high school, he began spending hours after classes at the home of Jack MacPhee, a local boxing enthusiast and owner of a plumbing supply company.

The basement of MacPhee's home constituted the only boxing gym in the area. Later, his plumbing warehouse provided the same service. Once a boxer himself, MacPhee, like many a boxing trainer, was a father figure for the kids he taught.

"If you could do 100 sit-ups with a 10-pound weight behind your head," says Nave, "he'd give you a banana split."

Along with his buddies Andy Nance and Peter Howes, Nave learned how to throw basic punches, and when MacPhee took the boys to participate in weekend "fight nights" at local boys clubs, Nave shone.

In his midteens, Nave entered the local Golden Gloves competition at San Francisco Civic Center -- back then, in the late 1970s, it was sponsored by the San Francisco Examiner -- and won in the 119-pound weight class. He participated in local "smokers," where young fighters pair up based on weight and slug it out for three two-minute rounds. He won those too, beating guys who supposedly trained year-round, even though Nave didn't. Then he won the Golden Gloves again.

But there was money to be made, and Paul had the Nave business head. He worked during high school, driving produce delivery trucks to Bay Area restaurants and bars. He spent one semester at San Francisco State University, studying business and joining the wrestling team. But what was the point of commuting twice a day to learn about business, when he was already making $500 a week with the Teamsters?

Nave continued to work and fight, winning some 30 amateur bouts, before turning professional in 1985. During his early pro career, he knocked out so many opponents in the first round that a Petaluma sportswriter dubbed him the "Marin County Assassin."

As his boxing career grew, so did his business interests. In 1984 he purchased a beat-up Cadillac and started Nave Limousine Service, which would swell to a fleet of nine cars and 30 drivers. Eventually, he drove a Mercedes convertible, owned and flew his own Piper Archer four-seater airplane, and dabbled in the lucrative local real estate market.

More money meant a faster lifestyle -- especially fast in Marin, one of the most affluent counties in the nation. Nave says he never blinked at running up $100,000 on credit cards, expanding his businesses, and gambling on football, basketball, or whatever other sport was on television.

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