Will It Be a Hit Or a Mis(Match)? : Undefeated Michael Nunn, in Biggest Bout of Career, Faces Tough Veteran

Times Staff Writer

By some accounts, it promises to be a classic matchup: North Hollywood's Michael Nunn, the up-and-coming kid fighting for national recognition, versus Marcos Geraldo, the aging veteran fighting time in hopes of getting one more shot at the title.

By other accounts, it promises to be a whopping mismatch.

Not that anyone doubts Nunn's potential. The 21-year-old middleweight topped off an amateur career by earning a spot as an alternate behind silver-medalist Virgil Hill on the 1984 Olympic team. And all seven of his professional fights have ended in knockouts, none lasting past the fourth round and most being two-hit affairs--Nunn hitting his opponent and his opponent hitting the canvas.

It's just that, when the unbeaten Nunn steps into the ring at the Country Club in Reseda Tuesday night, he will face his first world-class opponent. And although Geraldo is 31 years old, he is also the middleweight champion of Mexico, a fighter with some 60 pro bouts and 40 knockouts who has gone the distance with the likes of Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.

"Geraldo's not as good as he was, but he's still an excellent fighter and he knows he's fighting a young, uppity kid." said Jimmy Gilio, a Los Angeles promoter and matchmaker who has followed Geraldo's career for the last 10 years. "If Marcos Geraldo is in the mood, he'll go right through Michael Nunn."

Several boxing experts mentioned Geraldo's moods, noting that his career has been marked by unexplained ups and downs. Nevertheless, he was one of the top middleweights in boxing from 1979 to 1982. In three of his most famous nationally televised bouts, he lost a 10-round decision to Leonard in May of 1980, lost a 10-rounder to Hagler a year later and was KOd by Thomas Hearns in the first round in February of 1982.

Since the Hearns fight, Geraldo has slipped from the limelight. Last March, he fought at the Forum in a technical draw against Prince Mohammed, the World Boxing Council's No. 2-ranked cruiserweight. Otherwise, he has been laboring in relative obscurity, fighting in such locales as Tijuana and Stockton against the Carl Hesses and Yaqui Meneseses of the world.

But Joe Lopez, a San Diego trainer who began working with Geraldo two months ago, insists his fighter's career is not on a downhill slide. He said the Nunn fight will serve as a warm-up, the first punch in Geraldo's fight to get back to the big time.

"It'll be just a workout for us. The kid is supposed to be pretty good, so a win over him will get us some recognition in the United States, get us some better fights up here. We're looking for bigger things," Lopez said in a telephone interview from the Fifth Avenue Boxing Club in San Diego. "Nunn's a young kid, not much experience, so we're not afraid of him."

Promoter Bob Arum, an admitted Michael Nunn fan, said he, too, thinks Nunn may be in over his head.

"This kid could be the real goods," Arum said, "but this is going to be a very tough fight for him."

Dan Goossen, Nunn's manager, loves to hear talk like that. Goossen arranged the fight knowing that a win will give his fighter the kind of boost that launches championship careers.

"I wouldn't put him in that fight if I didn't think he was ready," Goossen, of the Ten Goose Gym in North Hollywood, said. "To us, Marcos Geraldo is a step toward the championship of the world. Michael's going to show the boxing world that he is a legitimate contender. People will take notice."

Herb Goldman, managing editor of Ring magazine, agreed that this could be the perfect fight at this stage of Nunn's career.

"Geraldo's a very tough, durable Mexican fighter, but I think he's over the hill," Goldman said. "I think (Nunn's management) is looking for a recognizable name for the fight crowd to see ... and one who is over the hill. They don't want to get their man beat."

If common opponents are any measure, Nunn has the edge. Last May, he knocked out I. W. Johnson of San Francisco at 2:57 of the first round, before Johnson was able to land a single solid punch. In December of 1983, Johnson KOd Geraldo in the sixth round.

"I'm not worried about this guy," Nunn said. "With my amateur career combined with my professional career, I have experience. When I beat this guy it'll put an extra feather in my cap."

Country Club doors open at 6:45 p.m. with the first fight scheduled to begin at 8:15.

Also on the card: junior welterweights Curtis Baker of Las Vegas and Juan Carrera of Mexico; welterweights Larry Ponce of La Puente and Al Mack of San Diego; junior lightweights Lamont Baker of Las Vegas and Gene Salazar of Bakersfield; bantamweights Manny Olivas of North Hollywood and Juan Hernandez of East Los Angeles, and light heavyweights Mike Lynch of North Hollywood and Mondo Martinez of Los Angeles.

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