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Nunn Faces German for WBA Title

February 6, 1998 GMT

BERLIN (AP) _ Michael Nunn had hoped the high-profile fight he’s been hungering for in long career would come against Roy Jones Jr. for the WBA light heavyweight title.

Instead, after Jones relinguished it, Nunn fights for the title Saturday against Graciano Rocchigiani _ Germany’s bad boy of boxing and a man he’s got a lot in common with.

Both Nunn and the German fighter are 34, lefthanders, former champions and have a history of trouble outside the ring.

Nunn has had a few scrapes in civilian clothes, while Rocchigiani made headlines last year for breaking a house custodian’s nose. Both men number among their escapades being arrested for insulting police officers.

Now, both say they’ve matured.

``I’ve grown up. I’ve got three kids now. I’ve got my career going,″ Nunn said.

``I’ve quieted down and gotten more stable,″ Rocchigiani said.

Neither Nunn or his German opponent are boasting much before the fight.

``I’m not predicting if the fight is going to end early _ just that I’m going to win,″ said Nunn, whose record is 52-3 with 34 knockouts.

``Same old crap,″ said the moody Rocchigiani of the pre-fight hoopla.

Nunn is still looking for the respect that he didn’t get when he was the IBF middleweight champion and later the WBA super middleweight champion. Despite beating Iran Barkley and Donald Curry, he’s never gotten a chance to prove his worth against a Sugar Ray Leonard or Roy Jones.

``I wanted to fight the top people _ they didn’t want to fight me,″ said Nunn, who believes boxing’s biggest names have been ducking him.

The enigmatic Rocchigiani’s chances against the faster Nunn might depend on motivation. He gave up his IBF super middleweight title in 1989 without defending it, then spurned two other title bouts before agreeing to face Nunn.

``I’m fighting because there’s not enough money in my bank account,″ said Rocchigiani.

But proof that Rocchigiani, 39-4-1, with 19 knockouts, takes his profession more seriously than he lets on came last year when he showed up unannounced at Detroit’s famed Kronk gym with a suitcase in his hand.

He impressed Emanuel Steward enough that he’s now in the German fighter’s corner. And the trainer has handled many of boxing’s big names like Thomas Hearns and Lennox Lewis.

``For both fighters this means a lot. Rocky has had some bad luck with his title fights, but he wants this one with all his might,″ said Steward.

``That’s why we’ve set our tactics so that he’s going to win by knockout,″ said Steward.

All four of Rocchigiani’s losses came in title fights, three controversially. The last came in 1996, when he knocked out IBF light heavyweight champion Dariusz Michaczewski, but was disqualified for a late blow.

Despite Rocchigiani’s popularity in Germany, ticket sales at the 9,000-seat Max Schmelling Halle have been slow. But there was expected to be a late run on tickets when people realize the German fighter won’t pull out as he has in the past.

Nunn weighed in officially at the class limit of 175 pounds. Rocchigiani weighed 174.