One thing we didn't expect to be talking about this early in 2020 was a Korean Heavyweight title bout, however there is now one set for February in Seoul, and on paper it looks a pretty competitive match up, albeit at a very low level.
The match up in question will see defending champion Sung Min Lee (7-1, 2) [이성민] make his first defense as he takes on Jong Kook Kim (6-1, 3) [김종국], in a bout that is not only for the Boxing M Korean title but also for a top 10 OPBF ranking.
Lee won the belt last June, when he took a split decision over Hoo Won Lee, becoming only the 5th man to hold the Korean Heavyweight title. Since then he has been inactive, but is in the top 15 of the OPBF at Heavyweight. Although no world beater the 29 year old is riding a 6 fight winning streak and won the Heavyweight Battle Royal in February 2019, before winning the national title.
Kim on the other hand is ranked by the OPBF at Cruiserweight, the weight that better suits his frame, though he has regularly fought at Heavyweight, including his sole loss to Ryu Ueda, the newly crowned Japanese Heavyweight champion. His biggest win to date came in the Korean Rookie of the Year in 2016, when he stopped Sang Ho Kim to become the Korean Heavyweight Rookie of the year.
Sadly details of the under-card for this bout are not yet available.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
One of the biggest complains in boxing is the political discourse that runs through the sport. Be it a promotional politics, politics with the alphabet boys or even at national commission level, there is simply too much political wrangling in the sport, and too many things that are inconsistent, problematic and confusing.
One of the worst countries for the political mess that we've got is South Korea, where there are numerous commissions and political affiliations, including the KBC, KBF and KBA, as well as a powerful management outfit, Korea Boxing M (KBM).
Earlier this week the KBM revealed that they had been holding a convention with the KBF, and whilst they haven't agreed to integrate, they have put down some agreements for the betterment of the sport in Korea.
The two will recognise each other as professional boxing organisations, and will work together. Notably they will not do the same with any other of the political factions in Korea, freezing out the KBA and KABC among others.
As part of their new working relationship they will only have 1 champion, unifying the titles of their relevant organisations to give us an all Korean champion. Connected to that is the fact the two will have join rankings. A huge step in having a single, solid and clear narrative in Korean boxing.
The organisations have agreed that if a fighter affiliated with a gym recognised by either organisation competes in an event run by an organisation they don't recognise, the gym license will be cancelled the fighter will not be recognised by either organisations.
This might not seem like a huge story, but for Korean boxing to have a unified vision is a great thing, and we're really hoping this is something that both parties do commit to long term.
Earlier today the Korean Boxing Management organisation, better known as BoxingM announced that they had ended their relationship with with upstart Koran Boxing Council, KABC. Ending their agreement very early.
The two parties had agreed to work together last November, for a period of 12 months or 12 shows however the the agreement was terminated yesterday, just over 6 months into their deal.
The reason for ending the deal seems to have come following cancellation of shows by KABC, who also had a very low level of quality on their cards and really did little to change. BoxingM did offer advice but it appears that advice was either ignored or not implemented fully and their relationship broke down.
Given how the first few KABC shows were, and if we're being honest they were some of the worst we've ever seen, this may serve as a wake up call for them to sort their stuff out before they end up folding all together. For BoxingM the move to distance themselves does help save their reputation from harm of being associated with an organisation which really didn't do anything to really help professional boxing in Korea.
The always political, and very messy, Korean boxing scene doesn't need more players involved and if the KABC can't manage to put on events of value their fighters really are better off else where. BoxingM themselves are putting on good shows, the KBF also put on some decent cards, though not a high number, and the KBA are also worth some interest. The KABC however were always fighting an uphill battle, and it appears that that battle just got a lot, lot more difficult by losing one of their key allies
Earlier this month the Korean Boxing Management, aka BoxingM, reported several interesting stories.
First there will be a Korea Vs Japan card in on June 25th at the Korakuen Hall. Originally this card was pencilled in for March 14, but was delayed to give the Reason promotions, who do the Dangan shows, a bit of extra time to organise the event, which we now know will take place at the Korakuen Hall. We haven't had the names of anyone involved in this card announced, yet, but it is expected to be a strong card with both countries being allowed to send good fighters to it, rather than mismatches favouring the home country.
Secondly, and arguably more interestingly, is an agreement between the two countries to allow national titles from both countries to be fought for in Japan, and to allow fighters from both countries to fight for the Japanese title. This is part of a wider change from the JBC, though the Korean's have explained it pretty well.
The BoxingM described the rule change as "a boxing M registered player can challenge a Japanese women's title match", and "So if a player who needs a Korean title match does not have an opponent, a title match is possible against a Japanese player, and JBC has approved it." The first bout under this rule will take place on April 13th in Kyoto.
At the moment it's unclear how wide scoping this rule is, but it does also appear to apply to male title fights too, and is the rule that was made in the 1970's, though never actually invoked. In theory it opens up titles to more challengers, which can be vital in the division's where national competition is lacking, and will allow fighters more opportunities to fight for and defend national titles. One thing that has been reported is that this is not explicitly limited to BoxingM and the JBC, but is actually OPBF wide, allowing Indonesian's, Thai's and Filipino's in on national title action from across other OPBF countries.
To our understanding if a fighter, wins a national title, not of their body, they can defend it in the country they won it, but if they leave that country to fight the title becomes vacant.
The first fight under this new rule, according to BoxingM, will see Tamao Ozawa (15-5, 6) [小澤瑶生] fight against against Hye Soo Park (5-7-1, 1) for the JBC and BoxingM female Light Flyweight titles in April, in what is a rather unique bout given this dual national title fight situation.
The main event of a BoxingM show today in Dongducheon, South Korea, saw the BoxingM Super Featherweight title have a new champion, as Dong Kwan Lee (10-2-2, 4) [이동관] took a decision over Hyun Je Shin (10-9, 2) [신현제], who was looking for his first defense of the belt.
The fight started at a brilliant pace, and despite the fact the ring looked huge the two men didn't take long to find each other in the center of the ring and begin having a phone booth war. The high tempo, and up close action continued into round 2, though it was Shin often looking like the man with more wrinkles to his game, getting out of range and choosing when to come in. Sadly for Shin he more intelligent footwork didn't really help him when it came to actually trading blows, which is where Lee excelled, with crisper and cleaner punching.
By round 3 both men began to show signs of feeling the tempo, but neither wanted to give an inch and it meant we continued to get some amazing back and forth action up close with bombs from both landing cleanly. It wasn't the cleanest or most technically beautiful action you're going to see, but it was all out action with neither wanting to be the one to back off.
Whilst the action would slow down as the fight went on the style never changed with both feeling like they were getting the better of fight in a thrilling, action packed inside war. It seemed like Lee was the one landing the hard shots, but Shin was often the man who seemed to be out landing his foe.
One of the very rare breaks in action was in round 8, when Shin had to see the doctor due to a cut over his right eye. It was a pretty brutal cut in fairness, but he seemed fine to continue and would instantly go back to having a war with Lee when the fight resumed.
Despite both men throwing, and seemingly landing, a huge number of punches we some how ended up reaching the final bell. The only round not to be action packed was the final one, with Lee backing off more than he had in the previous 9 rounds, likely feeling like he had done more than enough to take the win. Even though he backed off he wasn't able to avoid some wildly entertaining sequences with Shin who kept coming forward and trying to make it into a tear up.
At the final bell both men celebrated, both looked exhausted, and both looked like they had been in a hard, pulsating 2-way fight. It had been a very special fight, and we suspect that it will be on the short list for the 2019 Korean fight of the Year.
The referee got the fighters to center ring and ended up raising Lee's hand, in what we believe was a split decision, to crown the new champion. This was Lee's 7th win in his last 8 and he looked very strong at Super Featherweight, a surprise given he had fought at Super Bantamweight last September. For Shin this does end his reign but the 24 year old will likely bounce back, and will have built on his reputation despite losing.
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