Happy Birthday Michael Nunn; The Former Two-Weight Champ Hits 60

By James Slater - 04/14/2023 - Comments

Some day, they may write a book about Michael Nunn and his up and down life story. Today, the former ruler at middleweight and super-middleweight celebrates his 60th birthday. It wasn’t too long ago that Nunn was in prison, sent there for the far too long term of 292 months, this for distributing cocaine. As was pointed out at the time, murderers are given lesser sentences.

The jail time he served aside, Nunn was a super boxer in his day. Tall, sleek and a southpaw to boot, Nunn was a fine amateur before he turned pro in 1984. Nunn boxed his way to a 27-0 record before he won the NABF middleweight title, this by stopping Darnell Knox in October of 1987, on the under card of Tommy Hearns’ win over Juan Domingo Roldan. It wouldn’t be long before Nunn was calling out the likes of Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard; with neither legend seeming to be too keen on facing him.

Nunn put on a masterclass in stopping Frank Tate to win the IBF title, this in July of 1988, and Nunn then retained his belt some five times, with “Second To” Nunn defeating Roldan, Sumbu Kalambay (this via stunning first-round KO), Iran Barkley, Marlon Starling and Don Curry. After the wins over former welterweight champs Starling and Curry, the knock on Nunn was that he was “too boring,” and “too cautious.”

Nunn then signed on to defend against a relatively unknown fighter named James Toney. The fight, held in Nunn’s home town of Davenport, Iowa, gave us The Upset of the Year. Toney, way behind on points and knowing it, roared to a sensational 11th round TKO win. Nunn was beaten for the first time and he was now 36-1.

Moving up in weight, Nunn soon captured the WBA belt at 168 pounds, this by beating the underrated Victor Cordoba via debatable split decision. In the rematch, in January of 1993, just four months after the first fight, Nunn won a much wider decision to retain the belt. Nunn then boxed on the massive Julio Cesar Chavez-Greg Haugen card in Mexico, halting an over-matched Danny Morgan in a round, before Nunn, now aged 30, defeated British warrior Crawford Ashley. There was talk around this time of Nunn facing the likes of Nigel Benn and/or Chris Eubank, but unfortunately neither fight happened.

Instead, after scoring a close win over the dangerous Merqui Soso, Nunn was shocked by huge underdog Steve Little, who decisioned Nunn in the UK on the Nigel Benn-Henry Wharton card, taking his title. Nunn then failed in an attempt to become a three-time champ, when he was decisioned by Frankie Liles in December of 1994. Nunn fought on and he eventually moved up in weight again, this time to light heavyweight.

In his last shot at becoming champion again, Nunn was beaten by close, debatable split decision in his fight with Graciano Rocchigiani, the fight that contested the vacant WBC 175 pound belt held in Germany in 1998. Nunn looked to have outworked and out-punched Rocchigiani. Nunn, now 52-4, and aged 35, fought on for almost four years, with him winning his last six fights. Then, after his 2002 win over Vinson Durham, Nunn fell foul of the law, falling into a sting operation as he did when he sold drugs to an undercover police officer.

It was a terrible fall from grace, but Nunn showed real strength of character as he dutifully served his time in jail. Released, finally, in August of 2019, Nunn actually fought a kick-boxing exhibition upon his release, this at age 57. And Nunn won. Today, enjoying his freedom, Nunn is happy to shake a fan’s hand and recall his great days in the ring.

Nunn did come close to true greatness. He was, for a time, quite special.

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