At the start of the year we got really excited about the news that Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1) [李健太] would be turning professional, kicking off his career after a genuinely excellent amateur career that saw him going 102-10, including a 62 fight winning run.
Whilst fighters with amateur careers are usually best known for what they did in the Olympics and the World Amateur championships Lee is actually better known for who he competed for. The third generation Korean, living in Japan, would make his name on the international stage by competing for North Korea. He did that at a number of events, including the 2014 Youth World Championships, losing to Liu Xiaoshuai, the 2016 Asian/Oceanic Olympic qualifiers, losing to Battarsukh Chinzorig and the 2018 Asian games, again losing to Battarsukh Chinzorig.
Despite twice losing to Battarsukh Chinzorig in high profile bouts, the Mongolian did hold Lee in high regard, speaking positively about Lee's speed in particular.
On the domestic scene he was a multi-time championship winner, beating the likes of Masahiro Suzuki, Shu Utsuki and Go Hosaka, all highly regarded prospects themselves, and Nobuhiro Hiranaka, the son of Akinobu Hiranaka and a man tipped to go to the 2020 Olympics.
His amateur form really got hardcore fans excited, they knew he was going to be something special, but it seemed almost certain he was focusing on the 2020 Olympics, looking to remain part of the North Korean amateur set up. With AIBA and the IOC falling out however Lee decided to turn professional, signing up with the highly established Teiken gym.
In late 2018 Lee, along with Mikito Nakano, took part in his B License Pro-test essentially announcing his intention to abandon the amateur system that had allowed him to shine. Instead of the Olympics he was turning professional, and looking to announce himself in the paid ranks.
Whilst Nakano made his debut in October 2018 Lee had to wait until February 2019, the same show that Nakano fought his second bout on. Despite the wait Lee seemed to want to leave a good impression, and quickly showed off a sharp jab, sticking it in the face of Thai foe Aphisit Namkhot at will. The Thai seemed to be mentally broken by the snap on the jab of Lee, who looked razor sharp, controlled distance brilliantly, and was quick, accurate and very relaxed.
Despite having controlled the Thai behind his lead hand for almost 3 minutes, Lee did finally let his left hand go late in the round, and it went right through at the end of the round dropping Aphisit for the count.
After his debut win Lee spoke about wanting to fight overseas and it seems like he wants to make a name for himself internationally. It's going to be exciting to see him do that. Although his debut opponent was poor he certainly looked a very classy fighter and has the size and skills to go a very, very long way.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces