The hardest thing to see as a boxing fan isn't our favourite losing, nor is it a robbery. Instead it's seeing a fighter being seriously injured, if not worse. Sadly for Korean fans they've had to see that happen more than they should have, with 4 major ring related deaths. Those deaths have all played a part in the sport almost vanishing in the country, a country that gave us stars like Jung Koo Chang, Sung Kil Moon, Myung Woo Yuh, Ki Soo Kim, In Chul Baek and Chong Pal Park. Sadly what was once a boxing power house is now a country that barely has a working boxing infrastructure and the key fighter in the country right now is Muhammad Waseem, someone the country has adopted from Pakistan.
Before reading any further we just want to make readers aware that several videos featured in the article are of fights where some one passed away from their injuries. We understand there are upsetting scenes and want to just let you be aware that the videos are something that you may not wish to see, they won't auto play and will need to be played manually. They have been included to give those who want to see the fights a chance to see them.
Whilst Kim was being taken to hospital Mancini was giving an interview in the ring and was extremely complimentary of Kim, who had given a brilliant effect. Sadly though Kim's death would haunt Mancini with the American stating “I felt I was dying every day” and Mancini's promoter, Bob Arum, saying that Mancini was never the same fighter afterwards. It wasn't just Mancini affected by the bouts putcome but also the referee, Richard Greene, and Kim's mother who both committed suicide the following year.
The bout also lead to several changes in the sport, with the contest being used as a reason to reduce the length of bouts from 15 rounds to 12, it also lead to an increase in medical test given to fighters, both of which have had positive effects on the health and safety of fighters. In his honour a Korean film was made in 2002 entitled “Champion”, which focused on his courage in the ring.
Lee's death came 4 days after his fight and afterwards Japanese fans bought a stone monument for his graveside in Daegu to remember the fighter and his memory lives on with fight fans in Japan who remember bouts like Lee's first contest with Segawa, which can be seen above with it's controversial scoring that lead to the unfortunate rematch just a few months later.
ust 9 months after the loss to Kaneshiro, and following back-to-back knockout losses at Flyweight, Bae got his second Korean title fight at Super Flyweight. Coming in to the bout Bae was 7-6-1 (4) his opponent was Jin Ki Jung (6-9-1), who had himself gone 0-5-1 in his previous 6. The reality is that neither man was fit to fight in a title bout. Sadly though for Bae the damage of the previous two bouts told and he was stopped in the 8th round by Jung. Following the loss Bae started to show signs of serious illness, complaining about being dizzy and throwing up. It would however take more than 5 hours before he would receive surgery for a cerebral haemorrhage. Sadly the surgery would fail to save Bae who would die 3 days after the fight.
Bae's death lead to the KBC being strongly criticised and Bae's family attempted to sue the KBC, though the KBC did win the case. Things were even sadder when it was revealed that Bae was fighting just for the money and that he was essentially living with his grandmother on a shoestring along with his siblings. Korean reports out his entire ring earns, for 15 fights, at a little over $1000.
Bae's death furthered the collapse of Korean boxing, which had been struggling since the 1980's and the strong rise in the Korean economy. The financial growth of the country has certainly played a massive impact in boxing in Korea, which has seen purses in boxing not reflect the over-all growth in income, but it goes with out saying that the deaths of fighters has certainly harmed the sport in the country in a massive way.
We'd love to see boxing take off again in Korea, and we do hope we're on the verge of seeing that happen, however if it doesn't then it's certainly understandable given the emotional turmoil of the fans.
Other deaths of relevance -
Jai-Koo Song- A Korean amateur who died following an exhibition in the 1960's with an American fighter.
Andy Balaba- A Filipino who died following a bout with Hi Sup Shin in 1982. Balaba holds the distinction of being the first professional fighter to die following a fight in South Korea
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features