Michael Nunn's fight against Orlando Paulding at the Reseda Country Club on Tuesday night ended quickly.
Too quickly, said Paulding, his handlers and several ringside officials.
A solid left from Nunn sent Paulding crashing into a corner at 2:09 of the first round of their scheduled 10-round middleweight main event. Paulding did not appear to be seriously hurt, but by the time he got to his feet, referee Ken Davis had counted him out.
"I was staying on my knees like I was told to clear my head," Paulding said. "When the ref said, 'Eight,' I got up, but he said it was over."
Several ringside officials agreed that Davis had halted the fight prematurely by two seconds, but Davis insisted that he counted to 10, and that Paulding's knee was still on the canvas at that point.
"It was a judgment decision," said Marty Denkin of the California State Athletic Commission, on hand at ringside. "The fighter could have avoided it if he had gotten off his knees. He paid the price by taking the alternative of staying on his knees during the count. The fighter made the fatal mistake of staying on his knees."
That argument did little to soothe the hurt in Paulding's dressing room.
"He did what he was told by staying down," said Tony Rivera, Paulding's trainer. "I'll tell you something, they can protect Michael Nunn all they want, but they are doing him an injustice. People out there are paying money and they want to see the fighters box, not the referee take over the fight."
Said Joe Goossen, Nunn's trainer, "If anyone was protected, it was Paulding. If the fight had gone on, he could have gotten seriously hurt. It was not the Country Club protecting Michael Nunn, but the referee protecting the fighter."
Added Denkin, "No one was protecting Michael Nunn. No one was hitting Paulding but Michael Nunn."
In what little there was of the fight, it was Nunn, at 161 pounds, who was doing all the hitting. He was the aggressor from the start, throwing crisp jabs and overhand lefts.
The win left the unbeaten North Hollywood middleweight at 19-0. It was his 12th knockout, but his first in four fights.
"I was definitely pleased," Nunn said. "Michael Nunn has been waiting on a knockout for a long time.
"The kid was hurt. If the fight had gone on, it wouldn't have made no difference. It was up to the ref to stop it. If not, I was prepared to keep working, but I don't want to kill nobody."
Paulding, 159 pounds, fell to 10-6-1 with 8 knockouts.
In the locker room of the Birmingham, Ala., fighter, his manager, Ben Montabama, was morose.
"I don't know if it's worth boxing anymore," he said.
Paulding had won five of his last six fights, all five by knockout.
The sellout Country Club crowd of around 900 was clearly on the side of hometown favorite Nunn, but even they booed the early decision. They wanted to see more.
They won't have long to wait.
Nunn will be back in the Country Club ring in less than a month to fight Fred Hutchings (30-5, 19 knockouts), pending approval of the California State Athletic Commission. Hutchings, from Stockton, was California middleweight champion until losing the title recently to Alex Ramos.
The Nunn-Hutchings card will be on Nov. 21 when the Country Club fights go national via ESPN, the cable sports network.
And early in 1987, Nunn's busy card is expected to list a fighter ranked among the top five in the world.
Nunn is ranked No. 8 by the World Boxing Assn. and 19th by the World Boxing Council. Two of those ranked ahead of him--James Kinchen and Doug DeWitt--have recently lost.
In the night's first preliminary fight, middleweight Charles Wilson of Pasadena, 162 pounds, made his professional debut a successful one by winning a unanimous four-round decision over Cliff Jackson, 157 pounds, of San Diego. Jackson's record fell to 1-3-1.
Light heavyweight Don Wilson, 175 1/2 pounds, of Beverly Hills dominated the first round of his scheduled four-rounder against Tim Jones, 175 1/2 pounds, of Sacramento. Dominated all but the last few seconds, that is. In those closing moments, Jones landed a solid right hand that closed out Wilson at 2:58 of that opening round.
Michael Nunn's Fights
Date Opponent Site Result Round Dec. 20, 1984 John Borman Las Vegas W-KO 1 Feb. 8, 1985 Ismael Templos Lake Tahoe W-KO 4 March 26 Robert Jackson Reseda W-KO 1 April 11 Carlos Campos Las Vegas W-KO 1 May 21 I.W. Johnson Reseda W-KO 1 June 27 Larry Davis Las Vegas W-KO 2 July 29 James Waire Reseda W-KO 3 Aug. 27 Marco Geraldo Reseda W-KO 5 Sept. 25 Charles Campbell Las Vegas W-D 8 Nov. 13 Jorge Amparo Las Vegas W-D 8 Dec. 10 Billy Robertson Inglewood W-D 10 Jan. 28, 1986 Alvaro Granillo Reseda W-KO 2 Feb. 10 Charles Carter Inglewood W-KO 3 March 9 Carl Jones Las Vegas W-D 10 May 19 Felipe Vaca Reseda W-KO 3 June 25 Randy Smith Inglewood W-D 10 July 25 Charlie Boston Las Vegas W-D 10 Sept. 19 Mike Tinley Atlantic City W-D 10 Oct. 28 Orlando Paulding Reseda W-KO 1 TOTAL 19 wins, 0 losses, 12 KO's