Nunn Turns It On--but He Can't Turn Out the Lights on Watts

Times Staff Writer

Michael Nunn has learned that winning time is not enough.

Despite going undefeated through his first 27 fights, the North Hollywood middleweight has been unable to get a world title shot.

So Saturday afternoon, for his 28th fight, he went to Plan B: Showtime.

Defending his North American Boxing Federation title against Kevin Watts, 160, of Pleasantville, N.J., before a capacity crowd of 900 at the Reseda Country Club and a national television audience, Nunn, who also weighed 160, entered the ring like Apollo Creed, went through the prefight introductions like Mr. T and fought much of the bout like Muhammad Ali.

Watts couldn't touch him, not as a performer nor as a boxer.

Nunn thoroughly dominated, winning a unanimous 12-round decision by scores of 120-106, 120-108 and 119-108. He failed to win just one round on one scorecard while dropping Watts to 17-4.

And throughout, Nunn clowned and taunted. After entering the ring to a musical fanfare, he pointed at his NABF belt and shook his head at Watts, indicating the challenger had no chance to get it. After the bell ending one round, Nunn pushed Watts in the head in mockery. And he talked to Watts throughout, asking him why he wasn't tough.

"I just wanted to put on a show for the network," said Nunn, who has been called a boring, defensive fighter in the past. "I wanted Kevin Watts to remember Michael Nunn."

Yet, despite all the histrionics, the fight ended with scattered boos from the crowd because it had gone the distance.

Nunn appeared to have a knockout victory within the grasp of his fists in the fifth round when he cornered Watts and bombarded him with one combination after another. The 25-year-old Watts staggered away and hit the canvas. He got to his feet at the count of eight, but Nunn got him back on the ropes and picked up where he had left off. However, the bell sounded, and Nunn was never again able to inflict serious damage on Watts.

So, Nunn was satisfied using strong body shots and effective combinations to rack up the points. Watts spent much of his time employing the rope-a-dope. But he turned out to be the dope when Nunn just kept pounding away, never seeming to tire.

"I was just delighted to win," said Nunn, who earned $55,000. "I didn't want to overextend myself. The guy was in good shape."

Watts saw it a little differently.

"I don't see him as a big puncher," Watts said. "He gives you those combinations--bop, bop, bop--and he's gone. He did what he had to do, but he was not overwhelming.

"My plan was to dig to his body and slow him up, but he gave me a lot more movement than I expected. I wanted to cut off the ring on him, but before I knew it, the rounds had piled up."

Watts, who earned $22,500, said there were several fighters in the middleweight division he'd rank over Nunn--Thomas Hearns and Frank Tate, to name two. This is despite the fact that Watts lost a one-point majority decision to Tate just over a year ago.

Nunn, ranked no lower than third in any of the three world boxing organizations, wants to fight Hearns or Tate or Sumbu Kalambay, the three middleweight titleholders. But Hearns is waiting for a possible fight with Marvelous Marvin Hagler in the spring, Kalambay is fighting Mike McCallum in March and Tate turned down an opportunity to fight Nunn, signing instead to meet England's Tony Sibson next month.

"Our goal now," said Dan Goossen, Nunn's manager, "is to get the No. 1 ranking in all three organizations, to make it mandatory that Michael gets a shot. We can't demand that now. When we're No. 1, we can."

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