For us the latest “find” is North Korean fighter Choi Chul Su, who many won't remember at all, despite Choi having several notable places in history and having success as both and amateur and a professional in the 1990's. In fact even now, more than 20 years after his defining achievement, he is still regarded as one of, if not the, best fighter from his homeland.
Choi made his first real mark on the sport in November 1991 when he claimed Silver at the World Amateur Championships in the Flyweight division, losing in the final to Hungarian Istvan Kovacs, a future world champion in the professional ranks.
Although Choi “only” won Silver at the world's he was regarded as one of the threats for the 1992 Olympics and it turned out that fighters were right to worry about him as he went on to win 5 bouts to claim the Gold medal at Flyweight. Not only did he claim the Gold but he did so in impressive fashion beating Paul Ingle in his second bout, Robbie Peden in the quarter-final, avenging the loss to Kovacs in the semi-final and then beating Cuban Raul Gonzalez in the final. Three of those four men went on to win titles in the professional ranks whilst Gonzalez continued to be a top amateur over the next few years.
The Gold medal was only the second North Korea had ever won in the boxing ring at the Olympics, following 1976 Bantamweight winner Gu Yong-Ju, who beat British fight Pat Cowdell and Charles Mooney in his Olympic exploits.
Rather remain amateur and seek to defend his title in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta Choi was given a rather unexpected chance to turn professional thanks to a deal brokered by Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki. Inoki, who was trying to secure better relations between Japan and North Korea, was seen as one of the few who could help the situation and tried to do so by hosting a wrestling super show in Pyongyang in 1995 dubbed “Collision in Korea”, which also featured Ric Flair.
Inoki had helped secure Choi, along with two other North Korean fighters, a chance to turn professional in Japan under the promotional banner of Kyoei, who had previously gained a reputation for giving other fighters a chance, notably signing the Soviet pairing ofYuri Arbachakov and Orzubek Nazarov, who both went on to claim world titles.
Strangely no details can be found on the other two Korean's that had been given permission to fight in Japan, however Choi himself did get to follow through on the deal and debut in April 1996 at the Korakuen Hall. Like many touted former amateurs in Japan he began in a genuine test, fighting in a 6 rounder against Juanito Boy Cuma (then 16-12-4, 9). Although making his professional debut Choi impressed, stopping Cuma in 3 rounds.
In August 1998, 28 months after his debut bout, Choi resurfaced fighting in Wenzhou, China against Eak Donjadee of Thailand. Despite the long lay off Choi stopped his foe in the 3rd round to claim the PABA “interim” Featherweight title. A title he would defend 53 weeks later, against experienced Filipino Samuel Duran, who was stopped in just the 2nd round in Shenyang. Duran, then fighting for the 79th time, had been the OPBF Featherweight champion just over 2 years earlier, and had almost regained the title in 1998.
Interestingly the 1999 featuring Choi's third bout featured fighters from across Asia including Mongolian pair Choi Tseveenpurev and Erdene Chuluun, who would fight for a world title just 14 months later.
Sadly Choi was never seen in a professional ring again. He was reported to have said that he was training for a big fight, but that fight never came and he retired aged 31.
Details of his post-retirement life are scarce though in July 2001 he was working at a boxing coach in Pyongyang. Sadly nothing much appears to have been reported about his life following his retirement,though at one point he does appear to have been linked with another North Korean boxer, Hyun Mi Choi, sadly though the information regarding their connection is unclear.