With a message of hope and a story of success, boxer Paul Nave paid a visit to San Quentin, the prison where he spent three years of his life.
The 49-year-old Marin County native regaled a group of about twenty-five men with stories and anecdotes about his years growing up in Marin, doing time in San Quentin, his determination to succeed, his experiences in the ring and his rise to become a Welterweight champion.
Nave, who visited on April 6, came to promote an upcoming June 6 bout with an as-yet unnamed opponent. He shared details of his storied rise to boxing prominence.
BEEN HERE BEFORE
Dressed from head to toe in black shirt and slacks, Nave is a diminutive but stocky man with dark hair and a resonant voice.
Standing before a group of enthusiastic fight fans, Nave proudly displayed his five championship belts and revealed to his captive audience the details of his own stay behind the bars in the prison by the bay.
“San Quentin was a rude awakening for me,” said the self-employed Novato businessman.
Nave was convicted in the late eighties of possession of cocaine for sale, and was sentenced to six years in prison. He served his three years right here at the Q.
During the tenure of longtime Warden Daniel Vasquez, Nave worked for Lieutenant Al Silva in I.S.T. It was during his stint here that the former Golden Gloves Junior Division Champion came to the attention of prison officials.
ENCOURAGED TO FIGHT.
Because of Nave’s talent in the squared ring, Lieutenant Silva convinced the warden to allow Nave the chance to fight. After some wrangling with Sacramento, a match was set up at the Marin Civic Auditorium, and on a warm night in September of 91, Nave was escorted by officers out of the prison to box. Wearing a pair of black and white striped shorts he fought Enrique Moreno, who had a record of 6 wins and 0 losses. Nave scored a first-round knock out over Moreno.
Nave donated his winnings to a Marin City rehabilitation program. He said he was glad he’d won, because he knew that if he didn’t “the fellas would clown me to no end.”
Nave waxed nostalgic about his incredible boxing experiences. He fought Jose Hererra (3-16) for the Southwest Welterweight Championship and won the title in a draw. He’s sparred with the likes of Julio Ceasar Chavez, Tony Lopez and Oba Carr. In 1996 Nave fought Jose Luis Madrid for the WBO Welterweight title in a slugfest culminating in an 11th round knock out for Nave.
The highlight of Nave’s career featured a trilogy of fights with well-known brawler Greg Haugen. The first two ended in split decisions, with each fighter earning a win. The last was fought to a draw.
Nave fought his last professional bout on December 17th, 1999, forced to retire because of a back injury.
Last year at the age of forty-eight, Nave, having recovered from his injuries, returned to the ring. He fought three exhibition matches, winning each by decision.
Nave said he came back San Quentin to demonstrate that men and women in our position can succeed. After he began serving his sentence he realized that doing drugs had no future, and only led to ruin.
“What good’s going to come out of it? None,” he said of the negative behavior that landed him behind bars.
But, “It doesn’t mean you’re done!”
He talked candidly about the time he spent behind bars and how his life was put on hold while he did his time, and about how he planned to change. “I put some goals together,” he explained.
While in prison, Nave hit upon a couple of ideas. A gourmand of countless prison “spreads”, he knew from first-hand experience how bland the food in prison is. Ever the entrepreneur, Nave decided to start a business selling sliced jalapenos in plastic containers to several prisons. He succeeded for a while, until economics made it too costly to continue.
Nave decided he was going to fight for the world title—a goal he succeeded at as evidenced by the five shiny belts he’d brought with him.
He decided to build his dream house on a hill in Marin. It took him twelve years to do it, Nave said, but he accomplished his goal. Where the single father now lives with his six-year-old son.
INMATE GIVES BACK
After his release and during his rise in the ring, Nave served the community. First on the board of the Marin City Boxing Club to mentor at-risk youths, then in state government. Nave ran as a democrat for the 6th District seat in the state assembly but lost the election to Joe Nation. He also ran in the Gubernatorial recall election, to gain name recognition for another try in the Assembly. As we all know, the governor’s chair went to the rehabilitation terminator.
Asked if there was a possibility of seeking public office in the future, Nave responded “I might.”
Paul Nave brought a positive message to the prison. “Goals, it’s all about setting goal.”
Nave has demonstrated that prisoners can succeed after their release. We need more role-models, like Paul Nave, to show society at large that prisoners and former prisoners are not unredeemable, that we can pay for our mistakes and go on to contribute our efforts in a constructive and positive way.