Michael Nunn in the Boxing Hall

michael nunn(Michael Nunn, pictured on right, having words with James Toney in their 1991 bout) 13.04.07 - By Ted Sares: Here we go again. Over the past year I have done related articles on Vinnie Paz, "Boom Boom" Mancini, "Macho" Camacho, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Virgil Hill, Dariusz Michalczewski and others. Now it’s time to look at Michael "Second To" Nunn.

Style: When you think of Nunn, you think of words like stylist, speed, sharp reflexes, great technique, and solid defensive skills...but he also had an unappreciated ability to take out his opponents with power punching….and the record bears this out. He was a rangy and slick left-handed boxer who gave his opponents fits and was a master of the slip and slide move. These were his trademarks in the ring and provided great entertainment. Unfortunately, his career defining fight ended by a sudden and brutal knockout at the hands of James Toney in a fight that affirmed Toney's nick name of "Lights Out."

Let's look more closely at his chronology and see how his body of work stacks up insofar as his being a prospective inductee into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.

Record: An outstanding one at 58 - 4 with 37 ko's and a surprisingly impressive ko percentage of 60%. He became the IBF Middleweight Champion by icing Frank Tate 1988. Tate was undefeated at the time. In 1989, he defeated former world title-holder Sumbu Kalambay via a one-punch left hand knockout that was named the first ever Ring magazine KO of the Year. He followed this win with successful title defenses against rugged Iran “The Blade” Barkley, Marlon “Magic Man” Starling, and Donald "The Cobra" Curry, all former world champions. He was considered one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters and would go on to earn a total of $6 million.

Early on, he had beaten tough fighters like Alex Ramos (for the California State Middleweight Title), porcelain chin but heavy handed Marcos Geraldo, Mike Tinley, Willie Harris, Cecil Pettigrew, Dale Jackson and Kevin Watts...all of whom had outstanding won-lost slates.

He won the NABF Middleweight Title by stopping Darnell Knox, 25-1 coming in, in 1987 in perhaps what was his peak performance. A year later, he stopped the aforementioned Tate for the Middleweight Title at Ceasers Palace in Las Vegas. He then knocked out and retired tough Juan Domingo Roldan, 67-4 at the time.

As an aside, Michael had a knack for ending and/or negatively impacting the careers of many of his opponents and this “opponents post-fight” measurement, though an arduous one to compute is, in my view, a valuable one in evaluating a fighter worth.

His fateful fight with James Toney in May 1991 took place at the unlikely location of the John O'Donnell Stadium in Nunn’s home town of Davenport, IA. Leading on the cards by 97-93, 99-91 and 98-92, he got caught by a left hook from hell in the 11th round and just like that, it was lights out. A huge upset.

Regrouping, he won the NABF Super Middleweight Title with a solid tko win over Randall Yonker, 23-1, in 1991. In September 1992, he won the WBA Super Middleweight Title with a decision over Panamanian Victor Cordoba, 23-3. With a record of 42-1, he met Steve Little in London in 1994 and lost his title by a razor thin upset SD. Shortly after, he lost a bid to regaining his title when Frankie Liles, 25-1, beat him by a close decision in Ecuador

Michael then put together a 9 fight win streak including nods over contenders John Scully, 35-4, and Booker T. Word, 23-4-2. He also ko’d and sent into retirement Lonnie Horn, 26-3. This positioned him for a shot at the vacant WBC Light Heavyweight Title against Graciano Rocchigiani in Germany. Unfortunately, he lost a SD with a scoring disparity that could only happen in Berlin, or so it seemed. After this disappointment, Nunn closed out his fine career with 6 straight wins including victories over Glen Thomas, 26-4, and former World Champion William Guthrie, 24-1, by ko. His last fight was in January 2002 at age 39. It is noteworthy that of his 4 defeats, only one was decisive and his record could well have been 61-1. It is also noteworthy that a long anticipated fight with Roy Jones was never made.

The rest of the story is, of course, history, but this has been about Michael's boxing career. Suffice it to say that as he now sits in the U. S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, his path must now be one of redemption. But that part of the story warrants separate treatment.

Whether Michael Nunn gets into the International Boxing Hall of Fame remains to be seen, but if he fails, it will not be because of his lack of providing indelible memories for boxing fans throughout the world. He was an outstanding fighter who possessed a rare combination of size, speed, punching power and technical boxing. He should not be forgotten by boxing aficionados and purists.

What do you think?

Article posted on 14.04.2007

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