Michael "Second To" Nunn: What Happened?

17.10.06 - By John Howard: He's inmate number 11772-030. His address has changed from the San Fernando Valley in Southern California to the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. His release date is scheduled for June 16, 2024. This wasn't the way Michael Nunn dreamed it would be after capturing the middleweight title on July 28, 1988 by totally outclassing former Olympic gold medalist Frank Tate with a shocking TKO in the ninth round at Caesar's Palace Pavilion in Las Vegas. I can still remember the buzz from the boxing fans in attendance that night. I was sitting in an elevated section of seats a few rows behind ringside.

At that point in his life, Michael was a good looking, articulate athlete who was on top of his game, and it appeared, the world. "Michael Nunn's a class act." I remember that quote from Sugar Ray Leonard when asked about Nunn during an interview.

After his win over Tate, Michael went on to defend his title against Juan Roldan, Sumbu Kalambay (Michael's first million dollar payday and 88 second first round KO! It was Ring Magazine's Knockout of the Year for 1989), Iran Barkley, Marlon Starling, and Donald Curry, all former world champions.

Then, on that fateful night of May 10, 1991, in his hometown of Davenport, Iowa, in front of 10,000 fans, he was caught with a left hook by James Toney and TKO'd in the eleventh round. Up until that round, Michael was dominating the fight and giving Toney a boxing lesson. It appeared he was going to cruise to an easy victory and retain his title. Toney put an end to that plan quickly with one of the biggest left hooks you'll ever see in boxing (see You Tube - Toney vs. Nunn Round 11). It's ranked right up there with Joe Frazier's classic left hook that caught Muhammad Ali in the fifteenth round of their epic battle "The Fight of the Century."

After the Toney defeat, the Cinderella story of Michael's life began to unravel. Although he did capture a super-middleweight title against Victor Cordoba in 1992, all was not right with Nunn. He was involved with drugs and charged with various offenses dating back to 1983. These included drug possession, traffic violations, unlawful use of weapons, driving with a suspended license, assaulting a police officer and interfering with official acts (see ESB's "Michael Nunn Given 24 year Prison Sentence," 1-31-04).

But the offense that landed Michael in the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary was the conviction of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was convicted of buying one kilogram of cocaine from an undercover FBI agent, at a Davenport hotel, that had an estimated street value of $24,000. He was given the 24 year sentence because of his past history.

I have no hidden agenda regarding Michael Nunn. I've seen several of his fights, met him briefly at the weigh-in prior to the Tate fight, and whatever happens to him has no bearing on my life whatsoever. Having said that, I do feel a need to share an observation I have on Michael's sentence. It's mind-boggling to see a fighter currently out of prison that committed rape and served, what, three years? Another, along with his crew, took a nine-iron to an unlucky soul and got 100 hours of community service and three years probation.

There's no way I'm condoning the past behavior of Michael Nunn. Drugs have destroyed the lives of the addicted and their families, and have created a major problem in the U.S.

However, if you compare a sentence of 24 years for $24,000 worth of perceived drugs, verses the violence committed and the light sentences received with the two prior cases I've mentioned above, in my opinion, the sentencing doesn't add up.

One last comment. I've followed Michael's career since he turned pro and fought at the Reseda Country Club in the San Fernando Valley. I've heard comments from boxing fans throughout his career. "He has a pity-pat, tap-tap, move, unexciting style of boxing." I've also heard "He can't punch." They're mistaken. The name of the game is boxing and Michael did it well.

For those of you who never saw him fight, he was a tall, rangy left handed boxer who was both quick and slick. His style reminded me of a cross between current fighters Winky Wright and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. As far as the knock on his punching power, let's compare Michael's power stats with some other great fighters of his era. Michael's career KO percentage ranks above that of a couple of the greats.

Before you jump on the comments section about what I've just said, let me share something with you. Michael Nunn's career KO percentage of 60% is greater than the career 56% for James Toney, and also tops Roberto Duran's career 58%, respectively. Both Toney and Duran's stats are beyond reproach, and both fighters are thought of as being godlike by many boxing fans on this site!

I don't know what happened to send Michael down the wrong path, but for his sake, I hope he gets paroled one day so he can salvage what's left of his life and put this behind him. I found him to be one of the good guys in the sport.

Article posted on 17.10.2006

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