It'll be no surprise at all if we said that the Korean boxing scene isn't what it once was. Back in the 1970's and 1980's the country was a hive of boxing activity with numerous world champions and countless top contenders. Unfortunately that 70's and 80's were a long, long time ago and right now those memories are just distant memories.
The state of Korean boxing is somewhat summed up by the case of Jong-Min Jung (4-6, 1), pictured, the current South Korean Bantamweight champion. Yes, the national champion has a losing record.
It'd be possible to defend Jung if his career started 0-6 or 1-5 before he went on a short but impressive winning run, unfortunately though his career has never really gotten going and he's actually lost 2 of his last 3. That alone would be bad though it's made worse by the fact that the Bantamweight scene in Korea is awful to the least, as summed up by the fact Jung beat Sung-Baek Noh (now 3-6-2) for the title last year.
Although not a great fighter Jung has been unfortunate for various reasons. Firstly he's often fought above Bantamweight and has been as high as Super Featherweight. Add the fights above his natural weights to the fact he's been in with the world level Jung-Oh Son, who gave Koki Kameda an absolute headache last year, and the OPBF ranked Yoshihiko Matsuo and you can understand why he has a losing record.
Although Jung has got a losing record that's probably not his biggest issue. His biggest issue is that he completely lacks fire power. His sole stoppage victory came against Noh in his title fight and whilst he has only been stopped once himself he lacks the fire power to keep opponents honest and this will be an issue.
In the opposite corner to Jung on February 9th will be his first challenger, Ye-Joon Kim (6-1-2, 1) a fighter who boasts a much better record than the champion and hasn't been beaten since his second professional bout, which came back in March 2012.
Since turning professional in 2012 Kim has had a somewhat easier career than Jung. He has been allowed to fight in and around the Bantamweight division in every fight, never venturing above the Super Bantamweight limit where he has fought most of his career. As well as fighting at his natural weight Kim has also never faced a fighter ranked as highly as Jung-Oh Son or Yoshihiko Matsuo.
Whilst Kim's record is much better than that of the champion it's also worth noting that Kim well have lost both of the fights that were judged as draws and was run very close in bouts with Masatoshi Tomita and Pil-Joon Kim. Had those 4 bouts gone against him he'd have been sitting with a record of 4-5 himself, and these bouts have been at a much lower level than some of Jung's. Put in to context then, these fighters are actually a lot more even than their records indicate.
From the footage available we have to say that Kim doesn't look as good as his record indicates. He has some good traits though they tend to be outweighed by his bad ones, for example a poor looking defense, a lack of power and his shots often lack the technical finesse that one would like to see. That's not to say he can't throw punches, but they tend to lack any visible snap in them, something that perhaps explains his lack of stopping power. If he got taken to a good gym in perhaps the Philippines we could see a lot of his issues being tightened up though unfortunately we don't imagine someone will give him the opportunity to work on his skills.
For Jung the footage is equally as interesting. We'd have expected, from his record, someone who looked like they lacked cohesion in the ring. Interestingly however Jung looks a lot more skilled than perhaps expected. He shows glimpses of good movement, the ability to switch hit, a nice crisp looking jab and the surprisingly ability to set some traps, unfortunately though all of those traits are only shown for short flashes of time. It appears, as with Kim, that there is a good fighter there, though the polishing needed to get the most from him is something the coaches he has, are unable to provide him.
Having been able to see a bit of both men, we think that Jung has more variety to what he does. He's not as "Korean" as some would like to see in the ring, though he's certainly got talent and has learned a lot from his losses.
Whilst we expect others to be picking Kim, based on his record, we'll be leaning to Jung who we believe is the more naturally talented and the better Bantamweight. We'd not massively shocked if Kim won, though we would be very surprised if either man managed to score a stoppage with neither showing KO power so far and neither looking particularly frail so far in their career.
Although highly competitive, despite their records, we don't see this bout being as entertaining as the other two title bouts on the show which of course include the WBO female Minimumweight title bout between Su-Yun Hon and Mako Yamada and the Korean Light Welterweight bout between Taek-Min-Kim and Ja-Ik Goo. Together however the trio of title bouts should provide fans with a bit of everything in what looks like a fantastic card for the Korean audience who we believe can catch all 3 bouts on MBC Sports Plus.
In a year that promises a lot of great fights we know that some fights won't be as advertised whilst others will go above and beyond expectation. One fight we're expecting to be a thriller is the first South Korean Light Welterweight title fight of the year, despite the fact the records of the two men are hugely difference.
The champion, Taek-Min Kim (15-6, 10) is an experienced campaigner with a 9 year professional career under his belt. In those 9 years he has claimed Korean titles at both Super Featherweight and Light Welterweight whilst also picking up the PABA Super Featherweight title along the way. To say he's an accomplished fighter is to merely state the obvious and when you consider he also holds a win over Min Wook Kim things are pretty impressive.
In the opposite corner to Kim is novice Ja-Ik Goo (2-0, 2), pictured, a fighter who has been highly impressive with his power since turning professional last year. Unfortunately whilst Goo has shown impressive power so far, stopping both opponents inside a round, he has also shown some apprehensiveness, as hard to believe as it is. The apprehensiveness of Goo has seen him put under pressure, especially last time out when he faced Kazuki Hayashi, though so far his power has bailed him out.
With his experience Kim will obviously be the favourite. He not only has more than 10 times as many pro fights as his challenger but he also has 54 times as many rounds as Goo! This huge edge in experience is a genuine rarity in professional boxing, though it needs to said that Goo was actually a national champion in the amateurs and appears to have been an accomplished fighter nationally even if he lacks international recognition.
Kim's professional experience is he key advantage. Yes, as mentioned above, Goo does have amateur experience, but Kim knows what it's like to go the scheduled 10 rounds, even if he has only done it once himself. Not only does he know what it's like to go 10 rounds but he's also faced a higher level of foe including Taisho Ozawa who actually stopped Kim inside a round. Unfortunately for Kim it's not only been the higher level fighters that have beaten him however and with 3 losses in his last 4 he's certainly not a fighter who's about to go on a major run to a world title.
With 3 stoppage losses against him Kim will know that he needs to protect himself early on before trying to get to Goo later on, though footage of Kim has shown that defense is certainly leaky.
For Goo this fight is a tricky one. Can he be as apprehensive as he was in his debut with Jung-Hoon Go, where both fighters were warned twice for lack of activity? Can he let Kim attack him from the off as he allowed Hayashi? The answer to both is probably not. He'll know he has power and from clips of him fighting as an amateur we can see Goo can take a shot and fire back.
Thankfully for Goo his power is the great equaliser. A well timed right left Hayashi spread-eagled whilst a blistering assault dropped Go twice. If he starts fast against Kim we have no doubt the power of Goo will stop Kim inside a round and become the new champion. He's naturally bigger, naturally stronger and despite being inexperienced we think the biggest issue about Goo is his confidence.
If Goo jumps on Kim, or lures him in well then we have to favour the challenger.
This really is a bit of a 50-50 bout. It depends on whether or not Kim can take the sting out of Goo, or whether Goo can connect early enough to finish off Kim. We're putting our money on Goo, though can genuinely see both men winning very different fights.
For fight fans wanting to watch this, we expect the bout will be shown on MBC Sports Plus, alongside the brilliant WBO female Minimumweight fight between Su-Yun Hong and Mako Yamada and the interesting looking Korean Bantamweight title fight.
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.