Tate, Nunn Concentrating on Heavier Matters : Fight Over Weigh-In Time Ends; Tonight, They Fight for IBF Middleweight Title

Times Staff Writer

The great weight debate, an overblown bit of controversy that, pound for pound, ranks right up there with boxing's most ridiculous moments, has been resolved.

The result: Frank Tate, the International Boxing Federation middleweight champion, and challenger Michael Nunn weighed in Wednesday at 7 p.m., 25 hours before their scheduled 15-round title fight at Caesars Palace.

Culminating 72 hours of bickering over the time of the weigh-in, both Tate and Nunn weighed in right on the money at the 160-pound limit.

Nunn's people had wanted it the morning of the fight, as stipulated by IBF rules. Tate's side insisted on the earlier weigh-in, claiming it better ensured the safety of the fighters.

Caught in the middle were officials of the IBF and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who bobbed and weaved at every verbal punch, first moving the weigh-in to Wednesday, then back to Thursday.

In the end, a compromise was struck. Tate got the earlier weigh-in, but waived the right of the champion to choose the brand of gloves to be used.

Before the deal was struck, however, promoter Bob Arum, who holds the promotional rights to Nunn, had stormed out of a Tuesday press conference, and Dan Goossen, Nunn's manager, had threatened the State Athletic Commission with legal action.

"The issue was that the rule on the weigh-in was being waived without our agreement," Goossen said. "This compromise means something because now we've had a hand in the decision. Our voice was heard."

And the change in gloves, from Tate's choice to Nunn's?

"Boxers are funny people," said Bob Surkein, an adviser to Nunn. "They get used to a certain glove and then, if suddenly that glove is taken away, they worry. . . . A fighter doesn't like to switch."

So what does it all mean? Weigh-in times? Glove preferences? You get the feeling that if one side demanded blue gloves, the other corner would battle to the death for red.

What was going on was the playing of mind games. In a fight for which the odds have fluctuated, neither fighter has lost as a pro, and perhaps the undisputed middleweight title will be the winner's ultimate reward, any move by one side, no matter how seemingly insignificant, causes concern to the other.

Tonight's fight, to be seen around the country on pay-per-view television, has been labeled "Power Struggle." A better title might be "Identity Crisis."

In one corner, you have the 23-year-old Tate, a gold medal winner in the 1984 Olympics, holder of a 23-0 record, including 13 knockouts, and a world title, won on a 15-round decision over Michael Olajide here last October.

Yet those who know Tate, and that is still not a majority of the nation's boxing fans, don't seem particularly impressed with this Detroit native who now lives in Houston.

He was an underdog to Olajide, then considered among the hottest new prospects in the division, and, according to some odds makers, he is an underdog to Nunn.

Tate has had to work hard in both of his defenses since winning the title, beating Tony Sibson on a 10th-round knockout in February and Sanderline Williams on a 10-round decision in May.

Couple that with a quiet life style, a low-key personality and some doubts as to the extent of his talent and you have the Michael Dukakis of boxing, a man stressing competence over charisma.

"You can't please everyone," Tate says. "As long as I please Frank Tate, that's all I can do."

His opponent knows all about the difficulty of pleasing others.

Nunn, 25, was an alternate to the '84 Olympic team, then signed a professional contract with the Ten Goose Boxing Club of North Hollywood. Over the last four years, he has compiled a 30-0 record and won the North American Boxing Federation middleweight title.

Yet despite 20 knockouts, he has also acquired a reputation as a runner, a defensive fighter without punching power. But Nunn has knocked out 8 of his last 10 opponents with a more aggressive style.

Tate and Nunn know all about one another. They fought three times as amateurs, Tate winning the first two, Nunn the last.

The final decision will be rendered sometime after 8 tonight, assuming both sides can agree on a singer for the national anthem.

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