Although boxing, poverty and repression are often inter-linked we don't make a habit of talking about boxer's from North Korea. There is however one fighter who is, originally, from North Korea and is seriously worth talking about.
That is Hyun Mi Choi (10-0-1, 3) who successfully retained her WBA female Super Featherweight title earlier today with a dominating performance against Japanese veteran Chika Mizutani (14-5, 7).
Choi is one of the sports most amazing stories. As a young child she was spotted by the North Korean government who wanted to send her to the 2008 Olympics and gave her very special training. Soon after that training she, and her family, escaped from the North and went to South Korea where they began a new life and Choi quickly became one of the countries top amateurs.
Today Choi proved that she was one of the best professional fighters in female boxing as she thoroughly out boxed and out fought Mizutani in what proved to be a very one sided bout and high paced bout.
From the opening round Choi seemed too smart, too fast, too skilled and too accurate for Mizutani, who was often too brave for her own good. Time and time again the Japanese challenger walked into a stream of solid shots, including some beautiful uppercuts, and when Choi wanted to go forward she found it easy to march down the out-classed challenger.
Mizutani's did have her moments, such as through out round 2, though they were often over-shadowed by the work of the champion who scored a knock-down in round 2 and left Mizutani with a swollen face by the middle rounds.
By round 5 Mizutani was looking tired though gritted her teeth and had strong moments in round 8 as Choi herself began to look like the pace was getting to her. Sadly for Mizutani however was her last real success as Choi dominated the final couple of rounds and really tested the bravery and heart of the Japanese fighter who did well to see out the final bell.
When the cards were read there was no doubting who had won the bout, though for Choi this was just another chapter in her remarkable life and hopefully her great career continues as she acts as a figurehead for North Korean refugees in their nearest neighbour. For Mizutani however this will likely be the end, she can however take solace in the fact that she was beaten by a very, very good champion who who appears to be a fighter through and through.
WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (13-4-1, 6) successfully defended he title earlier today with a clear and decisive victory over veteran challenger Masae Akitaya (9-6-2, 3), who came up short in her 4th world title challenge.
From the off the young champion took control, fighting aggressively and with a high paced tempo behind her sharp south-paw left hand. Akitaya, a tough and brave fighter, tried fighting back but really seemed to have little response to the much younger champion who was too quick and too skilled from the opening bell to the final round.
Although Akitaya came in to the bout having had previous experience in world title bouts, with losses to the likes of Nao Ikeyama and Ayaka Miyao, she never really looked like she was close to world class here. She looked gutsy but that was about the best one could say of her. Unfortunately for her she knew it was a tough bout and her expression after the contest seemed to show just how frustrated she'd been in the fight.
Post fight the champion admitted she had been hoping to score a KO and seemed to acknowledge that she had focused on his left hand too much rather than using her jab and hook to really allow her to pick more holes in Akitaya's defense. It seems clear from those comments however that the champion will be going back to the gym and working on that for the future.
WBO female Minimumweight champion Kumiko Seeser Ikehara (7-1-2, 3) made the second successful defense of her title earlier today as she took a split technical decision against veteran Kayoko Ebata (8-6, 4). Sadly, much like Ikehara's first defense, this bout ended with the champion having a nasty cut and bringing an early conclusion to what was an exciting looking contest.
From the opening round this bout was engaging with both fighters giving their all and being competitive with each other from the opening bell. Ikehara seemed to have the edge in power whilst Ebata seemed the speedier, but there was little to distinguish the two who were really putting on a show early on.
It seemed that every time one fighter had some success the other would fire back and have some of their own. It was competitive and exciting.
Then, suddenly and unfortunately, the bout came to an end with both fighters being cut badly from a headclash. Although both were cut Ikehara certainly ended up with the worst of it and it was her cut that caused the early conclusion to the action.
The competitiveness of the contest made the arena tense as we awaited for the cards which read 67-66, 67-66 and 66-67 giving Ikehara the narrowest of narrow decision wins.