Two terrific fighters don’t always produce a terrific fight.
On April 14, 1990, Michael Nunn successfully defended his IBF middleweight title for the fourth time by posting a 12-round majority decision over former two-time welterweight champion Marlon Starling at the Mirage in Las Vegas. The official scores were 118-110, 117-111 and 114-114.
The 34-0 Nunn was a super-skilled lefty, who was being groomed for superstardom, but he could blow hot and cold. The Davenport, Iowa native had wrenched the title from Frank Tate (TKO 9) in July 1988 and defended successfully against Juan Roldan (KO 8) and Sumbu Kalambay (KO 1). However, Nunn’s momentum stalled when he adopted a safety-first approach against Iran Barkley (MD 12).
Starling’s welterweight championship career was full of ups and downs. His first reign ended controversially when he was knocked out after the bell to end the sixth round by Tomas Molinares. The result was later changed to a no-contest, but the WBA inexplicably continued to recognize Molinares as champion. Never one to give up, “The Magic Man” bounced back brilliantly to win the WBC 147-pound title from Lloyd Honeyghan (TKO 9) and he defended successfully against Young Kil Jung (UD 12).
It was an audacious choice for Starling to jump all the way up to 160 pounds for the Nunn challenge. He was competitive in spots, but the fight failed to dazzle and fans were left disappointed.
Nunn, however, was very impressed by his opponent’s determination.
“[Starling] gave up a lot of weight to fight me,” acknowledged the former two-weight world champ in a recent interview with The Ring. “He was really never a threat, because I was the bigger guy and he couldn’t hurt me. He fought hard and he fought with a lot of tenacity.”
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