By Victor Lee
Photo: Aaron Jang
In the final installment of promoter Sounghun Lee’s (Puno Boxing Promotion) monthly Rookie Series, fans in South Korea were treated to a rip-roaring welterweight six round matchup in addition to a full undercard of heated six and four-rounders on Sunday not far from Gimpo Airport. Lee began his Rookie Series in order to spark some life into the decrepit boxing scene in South Korea, which has been on a downward spiral since the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Hosting these monthly bouts between novice pros every month at his Puno Boxing Gym—where there’s not a bad seat in the house—Lee has helped rejuvenate boxing in Korea. One of the youngest promoters in the sport here, Lee has also contributed significantly to the lives and careers of young boxers in Korea by providing them with a regular forum to showcase their developing skills, discipline and fighting hearts.
In the six round main event, KBC #4 ranked welterweight Sang-Joon Park (5-3-1), who made his pro debut as a heavyweight against Canadian import Justin Matthew Chiasson on his way to the KBC Rookie Championship in 2007, faced off against unranked Joon-Yong Lee (3-1-2, 2 KOs) at the contract weight of 141 pounds. The taller, broad-shouldered Lee took the initiative from round one behind a sizzling left jab, and continued to batter the pasty, flab-waisted Park—who looked like he could have come out of the crowd as a last-minute replacement—around the ring with piercing jabs and straight rights through round two. Launching his long straight punches like missiles, it looked as though Lee would soon chalk up a quick win within the distance. But looks are not everything in boxing. From round three, Park—who, having gone the distance against heavyweight Chiasson, never looked that bothered by Lee’s punches—retaliated with double left hooks and rights to the head and body of his tiring well-chiseled opponent. Apart from taking a knee briefly in round three after catching a horrendous right uppercut to the nether regions, Park shifted the tide, pushing Lee back with a persistent two-fisted attack up and downstairs, as if to prove to all in attendance that impressive physiques alone do not win fights.
While Lee tried to re-establish his jab and connect with straight rights and left hooks, his straight punches no longer had the same zip, and his hooks often fell short. Meanwhile, Park, a warrior, pushed forward even when hit to land his own right uppercuts and lefts to the body. Lee enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in round five, striking Park with a hard right-left combination to the jaw (after which Park appeared to have some difficulty closing his mouth). While both fighters went at it toe-to-toe to the cheers of fans in round six, Park appeared to have a slight edge.
In fact one judge scored the bout 58-56 for Lee, while the other two had it 58-58, 57-57 for a well-received majority draw, bringing Park to 5-3-2 and Lee to 3-1-3, 2 KOs. No doubt fans would love to see a rematch in 2014.
Undercard: In a wild four round super lightweight semifinal smackdown, Sung-Dong Kim (2-1, 1 KO) had too much speed and energy for Ki-Hyoon Yang (0-1), bloodying his nose in round two and causing dark blood to flow from multiple facial wounds in round three, prompting the referee to call a halt to the bout. Kim was announced the victor by scores of 30-28 across the board.
In a six round semifinal, stylish Sa-Ya Lee (4-2, 2 KOs) gave stocky left-hooker Jong-Won Won (7-13-1, 3 KOs) a boxing lesson, controlling him from the outside with flicker jabs and head movement, then dropping him in delayed reaction in round two with a left to the liver just as Won attempted to land his own left to Lee’s body. Finding it hard to rise, Won barely made the count. Displaying even more confidence in round three, Lee again ripped Won to the body, sinking him along the ropes for the 2:18 stoppage.
In a four round middleweight encounter, southpaw crowd favorite Sun-Ok Choi (2-1, 1 KO) struggled to make it out of round one against free-swinging Jung-Hyun Huh (1-1). From the second stanza on, however, Choi bounced back, rocking Huh with a straight left-right hook combination and generally controlling the action with his right jab, combinations and movement. While Huh looked like he could hurt Choi at any moment, he proved, to his detriment, to be a stationary puncher and to tire easily. With movement, lead blows and body shots, Choi was able to preempt Huh’s onslaughts and keep him at bay. Though bleeding from the nose and badly swollen around the right eye, Choi outhustled Huh in the final round to have his hand raised in victory by scores of 39-38, 39-38, 40-37.
Slick counterpuncher Hyun-Tae Kim (2-0-1, 2KOs), sporting the flag of the Philippines on his trunks, had energetic banger Wang-Suk Lee (1-1-1, 1 KO) on the canvas early with a looping counter right, but was unable to close the show. Lee, trained by former OPBF super lightweight champion Jong-Bum Kim, proved a durable opponent, often catching Kim up against the ropes and wailing away. While Kim blocked most of Lee’s flurries, the occasional blow got through, snapping back Kim’s head. Kim enjoyed several rallies in rounds two and three, side-stepping and clocking Lee with right hands to the head along the ropes. Still, as Kim tired round after round, his well-timed but isolated counter shots were not enough to overcome Lee’s aggressive, if amateurish, rushes. While one judge had it for Lee 38-37, the other two tallied 38-38 for a majority draw.
Returning from a fifteen-month layoff, Sang-Hoo Kil (3-2-2) squared off with Tae-Yong Go (0-4-3) in a six round featherweight contest. Both boxers started off as southpaws and continually switched during the course of the bout. A perpetual motion machine, Kil drew first blood with his lead right blows, while Go attempted to close the distance and turn it into a brawl. Kil was all too happy to oblige, bulling his way in elbows up, winging right-left hooks, though he could do little once inside with Go, who appeared a size or two bigger. An unorthodox stylist, the never-boring Kil at times resembled Tom Cribb, effectively milling on the retreat. At other times he appeared more modern, bringing his signature “slam dunk” leaping punch out of retirement. After a lengthy doctor’s check of Go’s cuts in round three (during which Go’s chief second was allowed to treat the cuts—take note of this and check your rule books, KBC staff members), action resumed and Kil maintained the upper hand. At fourteen seconds into the fourth round the referee stopped the bout and went to the scorecards, declaring Kil the winner by decision (40-38, 40-38, 39-38).
Super welterweight Joo-Young Lee (2-1) used his height and reach advantage well, pushing awkward slugger Se-Ho Joo (1-1, 1 KO) around the ring with textbook jabs and combinations in round one. Desperate to connect, Joo launched a wide right hand that caught Lee behind the ear and dropped him early in round two. Joo continued to punish Lee throughout round two, almost dropping him again with the right hand. Although Joo continued to land his wide rights and crosses over Lee’s lazy left until the end of the bout, Lee regained his composure in round three and controlled the action from then on, winning 38-37 on all three judges’ scorecards.
In the four round super flyweight opener, Da-Won Suh (3-3, 1 KO) displayed incredible toughness and heart, enduring a merciless beating at the hands of the more powerful looking, tattooed Yoon-Ho Jang (0-1) during round one. Once into round two, Suh turned the tables on Jang, landing hard shots and pinning him on the ropes. Jang attempted to fire back, but, having spent most of his energy in round one, appeared to be fighting in slow motion until the referee stepped in and wisely stopped the bout, awarding Suh the TKO victory at 2:46.
Promoter: Puno Boxing Promotion (Sounghun Lee).
Venue: Puno Boxing Gym, Gimpo.
Date: December 29, 2013