On July 28, 1988, the IBF middleweight championship match between Michael Nunn and Frank Tate took place. Both fighters came into this fight undefeated. Nunn’s stats were 30-0 while Tate’s was 23-0.
From the first seconds, the course of the fight was dictated by the more relaxed and flexible Nunn. With his southpaw slips and boxing technique, he vaguely resembled Pernell Whitaker. And the point is not only that his height was 190 cm, but also because Michael did not cut himself with his counterpart, but played. He circled around him and constantly outplayed him, even at the ropes, dodging in the style of recognized masters of defense.
But Nunn was not going to bring the case to a judge’s verdict. And in the last seconds of the eighth round, he landed Tate with a blow to the liver, but Frank managed to get up. However, this only delayed his defeat – in the ninth round, Nunn, who caught courage, scored his opponent so that he did not answer. Therefore, the legendary Mills Lane stopped the fight. Nunn went to the title of champion for 3.5 years, during which he had 31 fights.
That triumph gave him a boost and the opportunity to fight the best. It was about Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran. Michael had a good chance to go down in history, as these legends were at the end of their careers, and Nunn, on the contrary, was at the peak. Moreover, his fighting style could bring them a lot of trouble. But a victory over ex-world champion Sumbu Kalambay by knockout in the first round scared them away. By the way, that knockout was recognized as the best in 1989 by The Ring magazine.
Sumbu Kalambay and Michael Nunn
Photo: The Ring Magazine via Getty Images
Therefore, all his talent had to be spent on applicants whom Michael beat in class. However, he lost motivation and narrowly lost to Airen Barkley, pulling out a majority decision by one round. For that performance, the champion got from the influential promoter Bob Arum:
“I gave Nunn $1.25 million for a 99 cent performance”
Of course, freshmen were approaching the well-fed champion, ready to overthrow him. And in 1991 the world learned about James Toney. 23-year-old Tony was not shy about the status of an underdog, imposing a very tough fight on the champion. Although at the same time the applicant was noticeably inferior to Nunn in size, but even then he was already insolent. However, James was losing the fight by a big margin until he shocked Michael in the 11th round to become the new world champion.
The video is available on the Top Rank Boxing YouTube channel. Video rights belong to Top Rank Boxing.
Since then, Michael Nunn’s career began to fade away. And this despite the fact that he managed to win the WBA belt. But the level of opposition also rolled down. However, he had problems in everyday life. Girls complained about him to the police, whom Nunn threatened. Therefore, it is not surprising that in 1994 he managed to lose two championship fights. After those defeats, Prime Nunn ended, but the problems remained.
In 1995, Michael declared himself bankrupt. But his former promoter Don King was unstoppable, and he complained to the court.
“Money is good, but you need to know how to handle it. Not everyone who shakes your hand is your friend, ”Nunn later admitted.
After the end of his boxing career in 2002, Michael got into a big story. He ordered a kilogram of drugs for $ 200. And instead of a dealer, he was met by a fake policeman. So Nunn was caught by the hand and then found guilty for as much as 24 years and 4 months. But later the term was reduced to 16 years.
Nunn broke the law at least 28 times between 1983 and 2002, according to police records. The category of violations was very different – from driving without a license to assaulting people. Although the fighter himself denied that he took drugs. However, police reports suggested otherwise, with witnesses claiming that Nunn had been involved in the drug business since 1993.
But in prison he converted to Islam and became a vegetarian. It was there that he realized his guilt for what he had done and radically changed for the better.
“I learned to play chess, played a lot of dominoes and read a lot. Mostly positive things – books about sports and business. I have learned a lot. There is no money in the world worth going to jail for, and I made the wrong choice,” Nunn said.
After being released from prison in 2020, Nunn returned to the ring, taking on established MMA fighter Pat Miletich under kickboxing rules. And following the results of a four-round fight, 57-year-old Michael defeated a 52-year-old opponent. It is a pity that he realized late how it was necessary to live, and squandered not only the entire fortune, but also a sports career that could become great.