DAVENPORT, Iowa — Dale Jackson and Michael Nunn decided not to wait for the opening bell of tonight's 10-round middleweight fight. They already are waging a battle of words.
Nunn (25-0), fighting under the guidance of Ten Goose Boxing in North Hollywood, returns to his hometown for the second time in his professional career in the main event. The fight will be televised on the cable ESPN network at 6 p.m.
Jackson (17-2-2), a Chicago native working out of the New Jersey gym of prominent trainer Carmin Graziano, is threatening to quickly quiet what is expected to be a loud crowd of about 3,000 in Palmer Auditorium.
"I've been fighting in people's backyards my whole career," Jackson said. "It doesn't make any difference to me. The crowd won't be in the ring with Michael Nunn. It will just be us and the crowd won't help him.
"I'll be like Marlon Starling when he went into Breland's backyard and knocked him out. I'm going to try and knock Mike out." Starling recently won the World Boxing Assn. welterweight title from Mark Breland, the gold medal winner in the 1984 Olympics.
Jackson said his only strategy would be to show up.
"I'm going to be like Madonna. I'll dress him up, dress him down and put him to sleep cheap," Jackson said.
Nunn, who has been busy all week with appearances and public workouts, said Thursday he is tired of the talk. He is confidently predicting victory.
"I'm just waiting for Friday to get here," he said. "I'll prove that I'm the superior man. Dale Jackson will not have an offense or a defense to stop Michael Nunn.
"I'll be the dictator in the fight. I'll be the general. He won't be talking so loudly when he leaves Iowa."
Concealed in the verbal sparring is the fact that there are observers, including fight promoter Bob Arum, who are giving Jackson a good chance of handing Nunn his first professional defeat. Although comparatively inactive in the past two years--three fights since 1984 compared to Nunn's 24--Jackson is considered to be a quality opponent.
"This is a very, very dangerous fight for Michael Nunn," said Top Rank's Arum. "Dale Jackson is as good a middleweight as there is out there except for those at the very top level.
"This would be a dangerous fight for any middleweight. Dale Jackson is a serious opponent with a chance to win."
Jackson, who is similar in both size and style to the elusive, quick Nunn, is evasive about his inactivity. He didn't fight in 1985 and had two bouts last year. His latest outing was a fifth-round knockout of Israel Cole in July.
"I've been a little bit of everywhere," Jackson said. "It was a combination of personal problems, management problems, a combination of a lot of things that kept me out."
Graziano maintains that Jackson has been a model student in preparation for the Nunn fight.
"He's in tip-top shape," Graziano said. "He will be looking at this fight as a steppingstone to a championship fight. He has tremendous discipline."
Nunn's trainer, Joe Goossen, said the inactivity tells him that Jackson hasn't been ready to fight mentally or physically.
Said Goossen: "I saw Jackson fight his last fight in Las Vegas and to me he is an ordinary fighter. He beat a guy who was mediocre at best."
The fight is more important to Nunn than to the underdog Jackson. Doors to a world championship, which are just opening for Nunn, would close with a poor performance.
Nunn already is scheduled to fight Darnell Knox on Oct. 29 in Las Vegas for the North American Boxing Federation title. Victories in his next two fights would make Nunn the top middleweight contender, according to Arum.
Jackson is given an edge in punching power, but as Goossen said of Nunn's style, "First you have to find him, then you have to stop him, then you try to hit him."