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Nunn Faces First Major Test Tonight

March 25, 1989|EARL GUSTKEY

LAS VEGAS — Michael Nunn has swept away 32 consecutive opponents, won a piece of the middleweight championship, become a million-dollar fighter and shown that he's a gifted athlete.

But is he a great middleweight?

There are many skeptics, and tonight they'll get their best chance--and maybe their last--to sneer at this mobile, quick-handed boxer who could step up to much bigger paydays.

Nunn will fight his toughest opponent yet, at the Las Vegas Hilton. Sumbu Kalambay is perceived as Nunn's first opponent capable of inflicting pain.

Said Angelo Dundee, who used to be Muhammad Ali's trainer, from Miami: "If (Nunn) licks Kalambay, I'll be convinced.

"One thing I know that's going to happen Saturday night is that Nunn is going to get hit. . . . Kalambay throws those short shots and he'll nail Nunn.

"And that's what I want to see--what kind of a fighter is this guy when he gets hurt?"

This one was to have been a double title fight--Kalambay defending the World Boxing Assn. title, and Nunn the International Boxing Federation championship. But Kalambay was stripped of the WBA title earlier this month.

Promoter Bob Arum sued the WBA after it had stripped Kalambay, but there have been indications that the WBA will "re-award" Kalambay the title before fight time and that Arum will drop his suit.

Kalambay, 32, a 4-1 underdog, is 46-3-1 with 26 knockouts. Nunn, 25, is 32-0 with 22 knockouts. Nunn will be paid $1.1 million, Kalambay $400,000.

But at stake tonight are even bigger paydays. If Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns can make $13 million and $11 million, respectively, for their fight June 12, what would an undefeated Nunn earn against a Leonard who has just beaten Hearns and Roberto Duran?

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