By Victor Lee
Photos: Aaron Jang
Six women and six men did battle under scattered clouds in the outdoor arena in Incheon, Korea yesterday, with the women leading the way.
The main event featured Hyun-Mi Choi (7-0-1, 2KO), a former Olympic hopeful who fled North Korea at the age of 13 and seized the vacant WBA Women’s Featherweight crown in October 2008 at the age of 17. Coming off her seventh defense of this title in May against power-punching Australian Shannon O’Connell, Choi moved up to face former WIBA, IFBA and OPBF champion Emiko “Fujin” Raika (25-7-1, 10 KO) of Japan for the interim WBA super featherweight title. Raika—whose record looks like a “Who’s Who” of female boxing over the past ten years (having crossed gloves with Layla McCarter, Sharon Anyos, Melissa Fiorentino, Jelena Mrdjenovich, Ann Saccurato and Chevelle Hallback, among others)—appeared to pose the greatest threat yet of ending Choi’s winning streak.
From the outset, the twenty-two year old Choi made good use of her three-inch height and reach advantage, boxing from the outside and connecting with an assortment of jabs, double jabs, one-twos, right uppercuts to the head and strong lefts to the body. The thirty-seven year old Raika, tough and compact, worked better on the inside, bruising and occasionally rocking Choi with sizzling rights and lefts. The pattern of Choi controlling from the outside and Raika on the inside continued throughout the fight. Choi made an impression with her straight punches, landing a cracking one-two in round four. Raika displayed good power and stamina, firing on all pistons until the final bell.
All three judges scored the bout for the hometown “Defector Girl” Choi, 96-94, 97-93, 97-93. Having repelled challengers from China, Korea, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Thailand and Canada, it will be interesting to see how long Choi—now a champion in two weight classes—can hold on to this belt and her undefeated record.
In the semifinal bout, former IFBA minimumweight champion Dan-Bi Kim (7-2-1, 2 KO) came off a two-year layoff to face the very tough Thai contender Yokfah Sitkhrusin (9-5) over ten two-minute rounds. The 4’11” Kim, known for her superb conditioning and bulldozer-like offensives, went to war in the trenches with the solid 5’0″ Sitkhrusin, who didn’t give up an inch. Both fighters displayed class, skill, power, valiance and endurance in this crowd-pleasing battle.
With an edge in clean hits, Kim got the nod by scores of 98-93, 97-92, 97-91. Dan-Bi Kim rises to 8-2-1 (2 KO) and back into contention, ready to take on all comers from minimum to light flyweight. The durable Sitkhrusin, a very worthy opponent, sinks to 9-6.
In the second title bout of the day, two-time national flyweight title challenger Hye-Soo Park (2-6-1, 1 KO) met Airada Sithsonram (2-0) of Thailand for the vacant PABA female super flyweight title. Park, previously content to box and counter from the outside, displayed competent infighting as well. This was a very even and entertaining bout from rounds one through three. However, from round four, likely due to the incessant pressure and body attack of Park, Sithsonram experienced a sudden loss of energy. From then on, Park stepped up her attack, landing more and more clean shots. In round five, Park trapped Sithsonram in the neutral corner, unloading a barrage of blows on target until referee Michael Lee wisely stepped in to save the weary Sithsonram, awarding the victory to the new champion Hye-Soo Park at the 1:57 mark.
Park, for whom the third time proved the charm, rises to 3-6-1 (2 KO). Sithsonram drops to 2-1.
In the premier men’s bout of the afternoon, cruiserweight Young-Don Um (4-1, 1 KO) ended a four-year period of inactivity with a stunning one-round stoppage of Sang-Il Lee (1-4, 1 KO). Southpaw Um dominated this scheduled eight-rounder from the outset, backing Lee up and depositing him on the canvas with a hard right hook. While Lee managed to rise by the count of eight, the concrete-fisted Um pounced on him immediately, forcing referee Jang-Sung Kim to intervene for the TKO stoppage at 2:24 of the first stanza. Um, whose only loss came in his pro debut in the first round of the 2005 Korean Rookie Tournament to slick-boxing Canadian transplant Joe Pineault (Rookie Champion turned rap artist), rises to 5-1, 2 KO. Lee drops to 1-5.
In a six-round super welterweight encounter, Won-Young Jung (2-4) defeated Boo-Hyun Baek (3-3, 1 KO) by fourth round TKO. After three rounds of back-and-forth action, Baek had nothing left in the tank. Catching Baek in the neutral corner, Jung struck with a series of one-twos, prompting referee Byung-Moo Kim to issue a standing count, tolling ten at 1:27.
In the opening four-round super lightweight clash, Yong-Hwan Jo, making his debut, inadvertently butted Jin-Wook Lee (1-1, 1 KO) in round two. Severely injured, his nose gushing blood, Lee was ruled unable to continue, and the bout called a draw at 1:26.
Promoter: Bumjin Promotions (Jung-Pyo Kim). Venue: Incheon Wolmido Outdoor Arena. Date: August 15, 2013