By Victor Lee
Photos: Aaron Jang
Spirits were high on this unexpectedly sunny day during the rainy monsoon season here in Yesan, Korea. Held in the local Yesan High School gym, fans were treated to a special display of fisticuffs as the show opened with lively amateur bouts between high school students.
Fighting in his native country in front of a vocal, supportive crowd for the first time since February, 2011, perennial contender and exciting brawler, former IBO super featherweight champion and IBF lightweight title challenger Ji-Hoon Kim faced off against Indonesian Super Lightweight champion Roy Tua Manihuruk over 12 rounds for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. Both fighters exchanged well in round one, providing plenty of fireworks. In round two, pressing the action as usual, Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim dropped Manihuruk with a short right hand to the jaw. A flash knockdown, Roy was up quickly, and the two continued to trade blows at close quarters. In round three, Kim and Manihuruk tested each other’s wills with furious salvos on the inside. Kim had the edge, landing sharp combinations, including a triple left hook. The trench warfare continued, and just as Manihuruk leaned in closer, Kim erupted with a well-timed overhand right to the head. Manihuruk went down like a lead zeppelin, so hard that the referee immediately stepped in at the 0:57 mark and stopped the bout without a count.
Ji-Hoon Kim, always a crowd pleaser, rises to 25-9 (19 KO). Roy Tua Manihuruk drops to 14-8-2 (11 KO).
In the semifinal attraction, former PABA and Korean Super Featherweight champion and rugged ring warrior Taek-Min Kim squared off against former amateur standout southpaw and rising prospect Jin-Soo Kim for the vacant Korean Super Lightweight title. This was a crossroads match, as Taek-Min Kim was coming off three straight losses to Japanese opposition—the last two by stoppage—while Jin-Soo Kim was riding the wake of his spectacular first round knockout of Japan-based Ghanaian Peter Quaye in Tokyo in April. Early in the opening round, Jin-Soo Kim made an impression with his stinging right jab, but Taek-Min Kim rallied to take rounds one and two with several big right hands and lead left hooks, rocking Jin-Soo’s head back and cutting him under the left eye. The tide changed in rounds three and four, with Jin-Soo hitting the aggressive but defensively challenged Taek-Min at will with his jab and following it up with some sizzling straight lefts of his own. After absorbing a few of these southpaw straight shots, Taek-Min’s eye began to swell. In round five, the momentum shifted back to Taek-Min, whose best defense appears to be his offense. Re-engergized, Taek-Min consistently struck first, not allowing Jin-Soo to get off his jab. In the middle of round six, Taek-Min had Jin-Soo out on his feet, landing multiple left-right combinations with Jin-Soo pinned to the ropes. Taek-Min kept the pressure on in round seven, and with ten seconds left in round eight, maneuvered Jin-Soo into the corner, landing clean punch after clean punch, until the referee jumped in to stop the carnage at 3:00—an exciting ending to this see-saw battle.
Rocky Gym, located in Gangnam, now boasts three Korean champions, as Taek-Min Kim, rising to 15-6 (10 KO), joins stable-mates Jae-Sung Lee (super bantamweight) and Jong-Seok Lee (cruiserweight) as national belt holders. Still a bright prospect, Jin-Soo Kim—a protégé of former WBA bantam and WBC super flyweight champion Sung-Kil Moon—drops to 6-3 (3 KO).
In the dirtiest match of the day, a six-round battle of light heavyweights, comebacking Jae-Hoon Lee—inactive for over eight and a half years— maintained steady pressure on Young-Kyoon Lee, controlling every round. In round one Jae-Hoon—who owns his own boxing gym—was warned for every foul in the book, and eventually penalized one point for grunting at his opponent. While Jae-Hoon never had Young-Kyoon hurt during the bout, he maintained his edge throughout the middle rounds. Again deducted one point for a head butt in round six, Jae-Hoon Lee—setting his sights on the Korean Light Heavyweight title—won a split decision, improving to 4-3-1 (2 KO). Young-Kyoon Lee, looking a bit trimmer and still campaigning, drops to 1-12-1.
In a super bantamweight six-round affair, Ye-Joon Kim (4-1-2, 1 KO) came out swinging for the fences, missing with many wild shots. While Kim had some success landing his haymakers to the body, and definitely landed the bigger shots over the course of the bout, former Korea Super Flyweight title challenger Jin-Wook Lim (5-3-4, 1 KO) was effective from long range, boxing to a draw.
In an ugly four-round battle of Super Lightweights, Sa-Ya Lee (2-2, 1 KO) and debuting Hyun-Woo Yang (0-1) spent about half of each round wrestling on the canvas. Eventually, at 0:15 of round three, Lee prevailed, stopping Yang in the corner.
In a four-round contest between debuting super welterweights Joo-Young Lee (1-0) and Sun-Ok Choi (0-1), Lee, the bigger man, used his size advantage to smother Choi up against the ropes at every opportunity, racking up the 3-0 decision win. When not smothering or being smothered, both boxers tried—but largely failed—to land big shots.
Super lightweight Jae-Won Jang (2-0, 1 KO) logged his first KO victory at 1:55 of round two over compatriot Dae-In Hyun (1-2).
Super bantamweights Moon-Sun Jung (1-1-2) and Kwang-Hoon Jo (0-0-1) fought to a draw over four rounds.
Eun-Sung Jang (2-0-1) and Tae-Young Go (0-1-3) fought to a four round majority draw.
Promoter: Hansuh Promotions.
Venue: Yesan High School, Yesan, Korea