It feels like every time we do one of these, and we've done around 20 now, we mention that controversies come in different forms. From judging, to refereeing, to time keepers making a mistake. They vary just in what the controversy was but also range complete utter incompetence to genuine mistake. Today we have what we feel was a competency issue, and it was a pretty major one which resulted in a title changing hands on what was certainly not a fair blow.
Hyung Chul Lee (19-4, 15) vs Alimi Goitia (11-0, 8) I
To set the stage we need to go back more than 25 years. We need to really go back to to September 1994, some 10 months before the fight we're about to discuss, and then we'll discuss the bout at hand, the controversy that mattered and share the video of the full bout.
In September 1994 Korean fighter Hyung Chul Lee scored the biggest win of his career, in what was a notable upset win over Katsuya Onizuka in Japan to claim the WBA Super Flyweight title. The win ended Onizuka's lengthy, but often controversial, reign and began Lee's reign, which it's self ended in controversy.
In his first defense Lee stopped Tomonori Tamura, a Japanese challenger who had held the Japanese Flyweight title, moved up in weight for this bout and retired afterwards. Then Lee took on unbeaten Venezuelan Alimi Goitia. On paper Goitia, boasting an unbeaten record, looked a very live challenger, though maybe lacked the experienced needed to deal with the champion. The bout was Gotia's first outside of the America's, though not his first away from home given he had fought one bout in Nicaragua in 1994.
On paper this looked a good one. Two solid punchers clashing for the WBA belt. One being an explosive, unbeaten rock fisted challenger. The other being the champion, a solid pressure fighter who had ended the long reign of a Japanese star less than a year earlier. And in fairness to the fighters it proved to be a very interesting bout from the off.
Lee was the aggressor, taking center ring and pursuing the challenger, who looked relaxed, comfortable and calm on the outside of the ring, picking his shots well and using his southpaw stance really well. The challenger was making Lee work hard for his success, and was limiting it well with his movement, reach and crisp, had shots.
It wasn't until round 3 that Lee's pressure really began to have any success, but to his credit Goitia didn't look in any trouble at all.
Then we got to the controversial round, round 4.
For the most part the round was another good on, with good back and forth. Goitia was surprising with his skills, movement and solid punching whilst Lee was continuing to take leather, coming forward in a desperate attempt to come close and begin the grinding process up close. Towards the end of the round it seemed like Lee was finally getting to his man, with Goitia on the move and looking like he felt one or two of Lee's shots on the inside. Then the bell went.
About a second after the bell Goitia took a swing and caught Lee clean with a left hook. Lee then hit the canvas and was flat on his back for quite a while before getting up. When up he still looked shook, but got back to his corner, seemed to dust himself off and get ready to resume.
Despite the shot coming clearly after the bell, referee Armand Krief didn't really do anything to take control of the situation. He spoke to ringside officials whilst Lee looked like he was preparing to continue the fight. Goitia also looked ready to resume the action. Sadly however the bout never continued. Although not featured on the video the bout was stopped with Goitia being declared the winner by TKO at an official time of 3:06 giving us one of the strangest endings of a Super Flyweight world title bout.
Some 7 months after this bout, following a stay busy defense for Goitia, the men ran it back. That rematch saw Goitia retain his title with a 12th round TKO, sending Lee into retirement. Rather oddly that rematch seemed to finish both men, and Goitia would go 2-4 (2) following his second bout with Lee.
Back in the 1990's there was a number of very popular Japanese fighters all around at the same time. The most popular and well known of those was Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, who even today is still a star in Japan and his name carries so much weight that his son is feeling the rub of sharing the same surname. Today we look at a classic featuring another of the big Japanese names from the 1990's and like Tatsuyoshi the man in question reached the top of the sport, and in fact got so popular Sega released a video game with his name on. Here we see that Japanese fighter taking on a hard hitting and determined Korean challenger in what is one of the most over-looked bouts of the 1990's.
Katsuya Onizuka (24-0, 17) Vs Hyung Chul Lee (17-4, 13)
The Japanese fighter we were alluding to was Katsuya Onizuka, who went by the nickname "Spanky K". Onizuka's popularity in Japan in the early to mid 1990's was perhaps only over-shadowed by that of Tatsuyoshi, though his success in the ring did make up for that in many ways. Onizuka had turned professional in 1988, won the Japanese Super Flyweight title in 1990 and then claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title in 1992, defeating Thanomsak Sithbaobay, in the first of 2 meetings. As the champion he would defend the title 5 times before facing Lee in September 1994. Unfortunately for Onizuka his reign was a poor one, with 4 of defenses coming by decision and several of those being questionable, with home town judges certainly helping him keep the title. He was a good fighter, but his popularity exceeded his skill, and by the time he fought Lee he was regarded as a lucky champion.
Hyung Chul Lee on the other hand was a relatively unknown fighter outside of Korea. He has lost 3 of his first 4 bouts, then lost in Japan to David Griman in 1990. The loss to Griman ended a 6 fight winning run for the Korean who fell to 7-1 (5). Following the Griman defeat Lee then began to find his form winning 10 in a row, albeit against limited opposition. Those wins saw him win, and defend, the South Korean Super Flyweight title and score 8 stoppages. He was looking like a destructive force, but was very much fighting at a level well under world class. Like many Korean fighters of the time however his will to win, high work rate and incredible toughness was always going to make him a nightmare for someone like Onizuka, who lacked world class power.
The fight started with both men looking to get their jabs into play, with Onizuka using his size advantage well and keeping Lee at range in the early going with his jab at footwork. It was however going to take more than a few jabs to get Lee's respect and whenever he managed to slip the jab the Korean made sure to crack Onizuka with a shot or two, often to the body. The game plans were clear, for Onizuka it was to chip away, win the rounds and take the fight, for Lee it was to slow the legs of Onizuka, land the body shots and take the fight to Onizuka later on. By round 2 Lee's tactic seemed to be the one winning out, and he was successfully dragging Onizuka into a war. By the end of round 2 it was clear we were going to get something exciting, though the worry was likely that Lee would have to do more than just trying to win the rounds. After all, Onizuka had his reputation as a fighter who was getting lucky with the judges.
As the rounds went on the fight became more and more engaging, with Lee closing the distance easier round by round, and Onizuka taking more punishment. Onizuka was landing the prettier stuff, the clean stuff, but Lee was landing the harder shots, he was the one making the fight and the one who was looking more comfortable with the pace. And from there we leave you to enjoy the bout, especially the brutally fantastic 9th round.
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