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Ranking the best South Korean fighters

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  • Ranking the best South Korean fighters

    South Korea has always been one of East Asia's biggest boxing countries or centres. After Thailand and Japan and probably together with the Phillippines, they produced the most world champions in that large and densely populated part of the world. Koreans were always known for their fierceness and great durability and have produced some great punchers as well, such as In-Chul Baek, Chong-Pal Park and Sung-Kil Moon. So, let's start the history tour.

    1. Sung-Kil Moon

    Despite not having as many world title defenses as Myung-Woo Yuh or Jung-Koo Chang, Moon fought and beat stiffer competition. Moon was the bantam amateur world champion in 1986. In his 7th pro fight, he won the WBA bantam title in 1988 by beating Khaokor Galaxy by a technical decision 6. After making two successful defenses by stopping Edgar Monserrat and Chiaki Kobayashi, he lost the title in a rematch against Galaxy by UD12. In January 1990, he had a memorable war against Nana Yaw Konadu and scored three knockdowns and was down twice himself, before the fight was stopped in round 9 and he won by another technical decision, thus winning the WBC super flyweight title. He then beat Gilberto Roman by RTD8 in his first defense before again fighting Konadu in the third and this time winning by TKO4. He also beat world champions Greg Richardson (MD12), Carlos Salazar (SD12) and Hilario Zapata (TKO1) before losing the title in his tenth defense by SD against Jose Luis Bueno, in November 1993. That was his last fight and he retired with a record of 20 wins, 15 by ko, and 2 losses. He has never been stopped. Despite his achievements, Moon has been overlooked so far by the IBHOF.

    2. Myung-Woo Yuh

    This fantastic light flyweight has made 17 world title defenses in a single reign, which is a feat no other Korean can claim. He was only 18 when he debuted professionally in March 1982. After winning his first 13 fights on points, Yuh scored one ko and then won the OPBF light fly title by a KO3 against Edwin Inocencio. On 8 December 1985, he faced Joey Olivo for his WBA title at the Municipal Stadium in Daegu, his homeland, and beat him by SD15 to start an incredible reign. His first famous "victim" as a champion was Rodolfo Blanco, who would later end Dave McAuley's IBF title reign. Yuh knocked him out in 8 rounds. In 1990, he beat the future multiple-weight world champion Leo Gamez in back to back fights, winning the first one by SD and the second by UD. After making his 17th successful defense against Kajkong Danputhai by TKO10, he went for the first time to Japan to defend against Hiroki Ioka (uncle of Kazuto) and lost by a questionable SD, in December 1991. Almost a year later, in November next year, he beat Ioka by MD12, again fighting in Osaka, Japan. He thus avenged his lone defeat and then made one more defense by UD against Yuichi Hosono, before retiring in 1993. His record is 38-1, with 14 ko's. Yuh was a very clever fighter but also aggressive and a great mover. He was never a particularly hard puncher but broke down his opponents with constant and furiously fast assault. He was inducted into the IBHOF in 2013, the second and last Korean to have that honor so far.

    3. Jung-Koo Chang

    And this guy was the first. Although he made 15 defenses to Yuh's 17, he beat 10 world champions while Yuh beat 6. Chang was known as "The Korean Hawk" and was a guy who didn't shy away from brawls. He was one of the most entertaining of the great Korean champions. Although like Yuh he was not a very hard puncher, he hit hard enough to stop anyone if he landed enough. Chang was even younger than Yuh when he started out in the game, 17. His first fight was in November 1980. After going 18-0, he faced the great three-time world champion Hilario Zapata of Panama, who altogether has 16 world title defenses. Zapata was then holding the WBC light fly title and the fight happened at the Chongju Gymnasium 18 September 1982. The 19-yearold Chang produced a very good performance, especially considering the vast disadvantage in experience, but lost by a split decision. In March next year he faced Zapata again and this time won in great manner, stopping Zapata by TKO3. In his third defense, he beat Sot Chitalada of Thailand, a future two-time WBC flyweight champ. Despite being badly cut by Chitalada's butting, Chang held on to win by UD. He also beat another world champion, German Torres, no less than three times, all on points. In his 14th defense, he beat Isidro Perez by UD, Perez would later win the WBO flyweight title in 1990. After stopping Hideyuki Ohashi by TKO8 in the 15th defense, Chang vacated the title and retired in 1988, but came back the next year. After beating Armando Velasco on points, he again faced the new WBC champion, none other than Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez, 9 December 1989 in Daegu. He lost by a wide UD to the legend from Mexico. He continued as a flyweight after that, but lost in his first world title bid there against Sot Chitalada, also for the WBC title, by MD12 in November 1990. On 18 May next year, he had his fateful last fight against Muangchai Kittikasem at the Olympic Auditorium in Seoul. After first knocking down the Thai twice with a left hook in round 5, a brutal fight ensued in the next rounds. In round 11, Chang again caught Kittikasem and put him down by a straight right. He was then put down in the next round after crouching, with a flush left hook which hurt him. After he was down again shortly thereafter, the fight was over and he thus lost for the first and only time by TKO. Chang retired at the age of 28 and with a record of 38 wins and 4 losses, with 17 ko's. He was the first Korean to be inducted by the IBHOF in 2010.

    4. Chong-Pal Park

    Korea's first world champion at 168 and along with In-Chul Baek, the only one so far, Chong-Pal Park has had a very good career. He was known for his stamina, his power and good boxing skills and was also physically strong. Like his two compatriots above, he started as a pro young, aged 17. It was in late 1977 and he lost his fifth fight by KO1 against Hung-Wong Kang. In 1979, he won the OPBF middle title by KO2 against Cassius Naito. He defended it 15 times before losing it against Kyung-Min Ra by KO7 in May 1983. He recaptured it by knocking Ra out in 4 rounds in September. He also won the light heavy version of the title by KO9 against Garry Hubble before fighting Murray Sutherland for his IBF super middle title, 22 July 1984 in Seoul. Park became the second IBF champion at this weight by knocking the Scotsman out in 11 rounds. He made 8 defenses, beating Vinnie Curto first by UD15 and then by KO15, before fighting Lindell Holmes and retaining his title in a no-contest in 2 rounds in 1986. He beat Holmes by SD in the rematch next year. After making his eight successful defense later that year, he vacated the title for unknown reasons and instead fought for the WBA one against Jesus Gallardo in December '87, winning easily by TKO2. After making one successful defense against the unknown Polly Pasireron by KO5, he lost the title to Fulgencio Obelmejias in May '88, by UD12. He had one more fight in December and lost to his national rival In-Chul Baek by KO9 in a non-title fight. Park was 28 when he retired, with a record of 46 wins, 5 losses and 1 draw, with 39 ko's.

    5. Ki-Soo Kim

    Most known for taking Nino Benvenuti's zero away, Ki-Soo Kim was a very good technician who was strong and durable, never getting stopped in his 37 pro fights. Kim was actually born in North Korea but lived in the South. He was also the first world champion from the Korean peninsula. He turned pro in 1961 and won the national middleweight title in his first fight.He was 22-0-1-1 when he faced Nino Benvenuti in Benvenuti's second defense of the world junior middle title, 25 June 1966 in Seoul. Kim had a strong surge in the late rounds and it won him the fight, tho by split decision. He made two succcessful defenses, first beating Stan Harrington by UD and then getting a questionable split decision victory against underrated Freddie Little, who put him down twice in round 11. He lost his title the same way against Sandro Mazzinghi, this time fighting at the Stadio San Siro in Milan. It was a very close fight but Mazzinghi was also known for his strength and durability and had the crowd behind him. Kim would retire after avenging another loss to Hisao Minami, for the OPBF middle title, in 1969. He died in 1997, aged 57.

    6. In-Chul Baek

    One of the hardest hitters of his time and from South Korea, Baek however had a suspect chin, like most punchers. Like most other Koreans, he started out as a pro early, at 19. He was first a super welter and won 26 fights first, all by ko, before losing to Sean Mannion on points in 1985. Before that, he won the OPBF title by KO12 over Sang Ho Lee and defended it 5 times. After beating the former Donald Curry-challenger Jun-Suk Hwang by UD12, he was given a chance to win the vacant WBA title against Julian Jackson in November 1987 in Vegas. It was a meeting of two great punchers and Jackson prevailed by TKO3 after knocking Baek down twice. Baek then scored the aforementioned KO9 over Chong-Pal Park and then fought his conqueror Fulgencio Obelmejias for the WBA super middle title in May 1989 and won by TKO11. He defeated the American Ron Essett by another TKO11 and Yoshiaki Tajima by RTD7 before losing it in the third defense to Christophe Tiozzo by TKO6, 30 March 1990 in Lyon. Baek also retired at 28, like Chang and Park. His record is 47 wins and 3 losses, with 43 ko's.

    7. Yong-Soo Choi

    The super feather who captured the WBA title in 1995 and made seven defenses of it, making the top 5 list for SK fighters with most defenses. At 5'8, Choi was a tall super feather who also could hit and was aggressive, come forward fighter-a typical Korean fighter, in other words. Like his compatriots, he turned professional young at 18, in 1990. He lost two fights early on, one on points and one by KO2. He first won the OPBF title by KO3 versus Eun-Shik Lee in 1993 and after making one defense of it, he took on Victor Hugo Paz from Agentina for the WBA belt, in Salta, Argentina, 21 October 1995. He put Paz down once in the 5th and once in the 9th and stopped him in the 10th round by TKO. As mentioned, he made seven defenses, the most famous of them being against Orlando Soto (TKO8), Lakva Sim (SD12), Koji Matsumoto (UD) and Takanori Hatekayama (Split Draw). He lost the title in rematch against Hatekayama by MD in Kokukigan, Japan on 5 September 1998. He retired after losing in a WBC-title fight to Sirimongkol Singwancha in January 2003, but came back surprisingly in 2016. He however retired after a year, after winning two fights by TKO, over lesser opponents. That now makes his record 31-4-1, with 21 ko's.

    8. Yo Sam Choi

    Most famous for ending Saman Sorjaturong's long reign, taking his WBC light flyweight title in 1999 by UD. Choi was a rather tall light fly at 5'4 and could box and punch. He was also only stopped once, by Jorge Arce, TKO6. It is how he lost the WBC title. Sam Choi started fighting professionally in 1993, aged 21. He won the OPBF title on points against Kenzo Ando in December 1996. After defending it twice by ko wins, he faced Saman Sorjaturong, who had ended Humberto Gonzalez's reign and career and was making his 11th defense as the WBC champ. It was 17 October 1999 in Seoul when Choi defeated him by UD to become another South Korean world light fly champion. In his second defense, he beat Sorjaturong by KO7 and made three defenses overall, the last one by stopping Shingo Yamaguchi by TKO10 in February 2002. He then fought Jorge Arce on 6 July and lost by TKO6, as mentioned. In November 2003, he challenged Beibis Mendoza of Colombia for the interim WBA title, but lost by UD. He then moved to flyweight, but first lost to Federico Catubay by SD10 and then against Lorenzo Parra in a fight for the WBA title in September 2004, by UD12. Parra was 24-0 at the time. Choi would never win a world title again, but won the minor WBO Intercontinental flyweight title in September 2007 against Terdkiat Jandaeng by UD. In the first defense of that title against Heri Amol in December, he was ahead on points going into the last round, when he was put down with five seconds remaining. Although he got up and won the fight, he collapsed while still in the ring and was rushed to hospital. He had emergency brain surgery, but died on 2 January, 9 days after the fight. He had donated his organs before dying and thus saved 6 people, for which he posthumously got a medal of honor.

    9. In-Jin Chi

    One of the best, if not the best, Korean featherweights, Chi was a rather tall featherweight at 5'7 and could box and punch and take a punch as well. He turned pro in 1991, aged 18. He lost his first fight on points to Tae-Sun Park, in a 4-rounder. He was first a bantam and won the national title first and then the OPBF one in 1995, on points against Jess Maca. After going undefeated in 24 fights, he was chosen as Erik Morales' next opponent in 2001. Morales was back then holding the WBC feather title and Chi became one of the select few Koreans to go to America to fight for a world title. It was 28 July at Staples Center in LA when Chi made a good, albeit losing performance against the Mexican legend, losing by the scores of 111-116, 110-117 and 112-116. He was penalized once in the 10th. After Morales vacated his title to move up to 130, Chi got a chance to win it against Michael Brodie and again went to fight abroad, to Manchester. It was 18 October 2003 at the MEN Arena and this time Brodie got a point deducted for a head clash and in the end, the fight ended a draw. Chi got the verdict from the Japanese judge, but the other two had it even. A rematch was then mandated and it happened 10 April 2004, at the same place. This time, Chi would finally achieve his glory when he knocked Brodie out in 7 rounds. It was Brodie's just second loss and the first by ko. Chi defended the title twice, stopping Eichi Sugama by TKO10 and decisioning Tommy Browne, before losing it controversially to Takashi Koshimoto by SD, fighting in his opponent's country once again. It was in January 2006 and Chi was again penalized a point, which cost him a draw. After Koshimoto lost the belt in his first defense to Rodolfo Lopez, Chi fought Lopez for it in December that year and beat him by UD to become a two-time champion. It was his last fight and he retired after 15 years as a pro, with a record of 31 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw, with 18 ko's.

    10. In-Joo Choo

    Most famous as the man who took Gerry Penalosa's first world title away, Choo was a clever and tough, hardy fighter. He is one of only two boxers to beat Penalosa twice, at least on paper. The other one is Masamori Tokuyama, who proved to be his Kryptonite. Choo was a tall super flyweight at 171 cm or 5'7 and though he doesn't have too many ko's on his record, that is because he fought against quality fighters for most of his career. He turned pro uncharacteristically late for a Korean, at 23, in 1992. After winning 12 fights, 6 by ko, he fought against the ultra-slick Gerry Penalosa for his WBC super fly title, 29 August 1998 at the Ritz Carlton in Seoul. He got the nod after 12 rounds from two of the judges, all westerners, while the third, Dalby Shirley, had Penalosa winning by 116-112. He then fought Penalosa's last opponent before him, Joel Luna Zarate of Mexico, and beat him by MD in his first defense. In the second he knocked out the 18-0 Pone Saengmorakot in 8 and then beat the former WBA light fly champion Keiji Yamaguchi by UD after knocking him down twice in the last round. He again fought Penalosa in the fourth defense and after Penalosa got a point deducted for having his corner spill too much water on the canvas (!), Choo again won by a questionable split decision in January 2000. His last successful defense was against Julio Cesar Avila, by UD, 14 May 2000. On 27 August, he lost the title by UD to Masamori Tokuyama, who was born and raised in Japan but had gained North Korean citizenship and thus became the first North Korean to win a world title. They had a rematch 20 May next year and this time, Tokuyama knocked Choo out in 5 rounds, thus ending Choo's promising career in a brutal way. Choo was 32 when he retired, with a record of 18 wins and 2 losses, with 7 ko's.

  • #2
    --- Worth a memorial tribute to horrific tragedy of Duek Koo Kim that changed boxing...


    • #3
      Originally posted by LondonRingRules View Post
      --- Worth a memorial tribute to horrific tragedy of Duek Koo Kim that changed boxing...
      Yes...that was a tragedy.