By Victor Lee
Photos: Aaron Jang
Professional boxing in South Korea—a powerhouse boasting multiple formidable world and regional champions (such as Jung-Koo Chang, Ki-Soo Kim, Chan-Hee Park, Soo-Hwan Hong, Myung-Woo Yuh and others) from the 1960s through the 1980s—has been in decline since the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Today, without a single male world champion and only three (Ji-Hoon Kim, Min-Wook Kim, Jung-Oh Son) listed in the world rankings, Korean boxing has indeed fallen on hard times.
Today at Junggu Sports Hall in Seoul, the last of the world champions mentioned above—Myung-Woo Yuh, recently inducted into the Hall of Fame and now a promoter—directed our attention to OPBF Super Lightweight champion Min-Wook Kim, perhaps the brightest of these three stars on the desolate horizon of Korean Boxing. And he did shine.
Making his fourth defense of the title he acquired via second round TKO against Filipino Romeo Jakosalem in May 2012, WBC #6, OPBF Super Lightweight champion Min-Wook Kim (10-1, 7 KO) squared off against OPBF #12, Japan #4 Valentine Hosokawa (16-3-3, 8 KO). With an impressive string of title defenses against countryman Pan-Soo Kim (TKO 2), Filipino Dan Nazareno, Jr. (TKO 2) and former Japan champion Shinya Iwabuchi (UD 12), the 5’9” Kim—a prodigious, strategic puncher—appeared the prohibitive favorite. Drawing attention to both the Korea vs. Japan rivalry and his pride as a Japanese, the 5’4” Sugar Ray Robinson look-alike Hosokawa—whose father hails from Nigeria and whose mother is Japanese—stated at the weigh-in, “Although I don’t look Japanese, I want to win the belt as a Japanese.” As a point of comparison, Kim and Hosokawa had a common opponent in their most recent bouts: Shinya Iwabuchi, who Kim defeated on points in April in Tokyo, and to whom Hosokawa lost by eighth round TKO in his bid for the Japan title in February.
Kim, a fast-starter, landed the cleaner punches in round one, though Hosokawa connected with a few counter rights of his own. In round two, the champion threw a left-right combination; the challenger blocked the left, but was knocked backward and down through the bottom ropes by the right. Confidence soaring, in round three Kim—sharp-shooting for another knockdown—picked away at Hosokawa, who continued to keep his hands low. The rhythm of the bout changed in rounds four and five, when Hosokawa kept the champion at bay, taking away his right hand by landing several preemptive jabs between Kim’s gloves. The champion regained his rhythm in rounds six and seven, stepping up the pace and again landing the cleaner punches. Both fighters took a breather in round eight, and Hosokawa began to seize the initiative again in rounds nine and ten. Hosokawa’s offensives in round ten seemed to rouse the dormant champion, who came alive in round eleven with a powerful flurry, connecting with several crisp, clean shots to the head of the challenger, driving the crowd into a frenzy. Referee Kwang-Ki Kim stepped in at 1:26 to save the valiant challenger just as the towel fluttered overhead from his corner.
Min-Wook Kim, his only loss in the professional ranks coming in his debut (TKO 5) against former PABA super featherweight champion and current Korean Super Lightweight champion Taek-Min Kim, rises to 11-1 (8 KO) on his road to a world title shot in the near future. Kim will get a taste of world class competition next month when he joins Manny Pacquiao’s training camp in the Philippines as a sparring partner for two months to help Pacquaio prepare for his bout against Brandon Rios in Macao on November 23rd. The gallant Hosokawa, having acquitted himself well but coming up short in two title bouts in a row, falls to 16-4-3 (8 KO).
In the semifinal bout, also a Korea vs. Japan affair, Su-Yun Hong (8-0, 5 KO) edged former WBA Atomweight champion Mari Ando (10-6, 5 KO) of Japan by a highly controversial split decision, making her second defense of the WBO female minimum title she won in June, 2012 in Macao. Southpaw Hong started out strong in round one, controlling the fight with straight punches. Hong again took the first minute of round two, after which Ando fought back to make it an even round. Ando came out much more aggressively in round three, dominating the round. Hong made adjustments in round four, keeping her distance and spinning off the ropes to avoid Ando’s bull rushes. Despite continued pressure from Ando, Hong landed the cleaner blows in round five. However, that was the last round Hong was able to cope with Ando’s relentless attack. From round six on, Ando applied intense pressure, landing copious, booming shots. Hong hung in there, but was visibly tiring by round seven. In round eight, under bombardment, the referee paused the action to have the ringside physician inspect Hong. The doctor allowed the bout to continue, and Ando continued to control the last two rounds.
The battered and bruised Hong, who was announced the winner by quizzically disparate split decision scores of 99-91, 98-92 for Hong and 96-94 for Ando, rises to 9-0, 5 KO. The unscathed Mari Ando, who appeared to have swept the last five rounds, falls to 10-7, 5 KO.
In a middleweight four-rounder, Joo-Young Kim (1-0, 1KO) defeated Hoo-Rak Kim (0-1) by knockout. Joo-Young Kim, aggression embodied, came out feinting with his jab and throwing right hand power shots to the body, putting Hoo-Rak Kim on the defensive. Joo-Young Kim sent Hoo-Rak Kim to the canvas twice with body shots, prompting referee Kyung-Han Lee to stop the bout at 1:45 of the second stanza.
In a four round super featherweight encounter, precision-punching Tae-Il Kim (2-0) dropped Hyuk-Tak Joo (0-1) in round one. After good exchanges from both fighters in round two, Kim took advantage of Joo’s high guard to land several solid body shots. Kim maintained his edge over the last two action-packed rounds, getting off first and ending every exchange to cruise to a 40-37, 40-37, 39-37 decision.
In a super welterweight bout scheduled for four, Hyun-Kyum Park (4-0, 3 KO) and Joon-Chul Kim (1-1) slugged it out for plenty of back and forth action in round one. Kim displayed some good defensive skills, ducking and slipping several of Park’s punches. In round two, Park connected with a solid left hook, freezing the weaving Kim in mid-motion, resulting in a delayed-reaction knockdown. Up by the count of eight, Kim went on the offensive, was whacked down again, and stopped at 2:13.
In a four round rematch of a bout which ended in a draw in June between tall and rangy super lightweights, Sung-Tak Joo (3-0-2, 1 KO) defeated Woo-Shin Kim (3-1-1, 1 KO) by unanimous decision. Both boxers came to fight, and Joo scored a knockdown at the end of round two with a right hand. Kim retaliated with sizzling body shots in round three. In the final stanza, both boxers let it all hang out. The judges tallies read 40-36, 40-36, and 40-35, all for Joo in a bout that was much more competitive than these scores indicate.
In a very entertaining bout completely devoid of defense, female super bantamweights Jong-Sun Park (2-0, 1 KO) and Ji-Eun Yang (0-1) battled furiously over four rounds. Park got the better of Yang in most of their exchanges, coming out on top by scores of 39-38, 39-38 and 40-37.
After both fighters received warnings from the referee for inactivity, Ja-Ik Goo (1-0, 1 KO) swung into action, dropping Jung-Hoon Go (0-1) twice with straight lefts, impressively stopping him at 1:43 of round one in a super lightweight four rounder. Both fighters were making their debuts.
Moon-Sun Jung (1-1-3) and Sung-Joon Park (2-0) boxed to a majority draw over four rounds at bantamweight. It was Jung’s third draw in a row.
Promoter: YMW Buffalo Promotions.
Venue: Junggu Sports Hall, Seoul, Korea.