Not every Closet Classic is an amazing 2-way war, sometimes they are showcases of how great the sport can be and others they are times where a fighter essentially put themselves on the map. Today we take a bout from that final option, even if the fighter in question was only really on the map for a few short, but exciting years.
Ji Hoon Kim (13-5, 10) Vs Koba Gogoladze (20-2, 8)
The 21 year old Ji Hoon Kim was an unknown to fans outside of Korea when he made his US debut in May 2008. On paper he looked little more than a crude puncher, having lost 5 of his 13 bouts up to this point. That however hides the fact that he gone 11-2 following an horrific 2-3 start to his professional career. He had genuinely learned on the job, having had no amateur career at all and had shown real potential in winning the Korean Featherweight title less than a year after his debut before later winning the PABA Featherweight title. He had impressed enough to catch the eye of Banner Promotions who matched him with the more experienced, and more proven Koba Gogoladze.
US based Georgian Koba Gogoladze had been an Olympian in 1996 and had been a well travelled professional, making a mark with wins against the likes of Carl Johanneson and Antonio Davis. He had lost to Almazbek Raiymkulov, AKA Kid Diamond, and Alex Arthur, in an interim world title fight, but was a solid fighter, still highly regarded and came into the bout needing a win to get his career back on track. Aged 35 at this point he very much needed a win to remain relevant, but had only been beaten by solid fighters up this point. Given his amateur background we knew he could box, but we had no idea what he had left to offer the sport.
From the off Kim started fast, instantly making an impression just seconds into the bout. Gogoladze looked counter against the wild and aggressive shots of Kim, and straight away this was fire. Kim then seemed to be rocked with the Georgian landing some huge head shots on the Korean, who some how took the punishment. The referee told Kim he needed to see something, and Kim did enough to convince the referee he was fine before firing back on the Georgian.
Give how short the bout we won't spoil it, but this was an intense battle with bombs from both, none stop excitement and real action.
This is only a short Closet Classic, but one that every fan should watch. It's short, but thrilling
The Closet Classic series has obviously allowed us to talk about some of the biggest and most memorable bouts featuring Asian fighters. We've also been able to talk about some real hidden gems. Fights you wouldn't expect to see get attention anywhere, but this series. Today we have one of those obscure bouts, and what a bout it is!
Ji Hoon Kim (9-5, 7) vs Mark Sales (15-32-3, 4)
In 2008 we saw Korean fighter Ji Hoon Kim make his name in the US, and take part in some thrilling bouts Stateside. Before that however the "Volcano" had been making a name for himself at home as an exciting, heavy handed, defensively flawed warrior. It was clear he was very rough around the edges but was so much fun to watch that even early on it was obvious he was a TV friendly fighter. Sadly for Kim his record was a mess early on, losing 3 of his first 5, before stringing together 5 wins. In 2006 he won his first title, the South Korean Featherweight title, before heading to regional level and fighting for the interim PABA title just over 3 weeks later!
Filipini fighter Mark Sales is certainly not someone we expect fans to be too aware of, despite the fact he's still an active professional today and fought back in February this year when he claimed the ABF Middleweight title! Back in 2006 Sales had twice as many losses as wins, he'd scored just 4 stoppages in 50 bouts and was seen as little more than a rugged journeyman. He was the type of guy who you put in against a prospect that needed rounds, or against a world class fighter looking to tick over. He was never anything special, but was tough and durable.
So on to the fight, which took place on October 29th 2006. As mentioned this was Kim's second bout in around 3 weeks, and his 4th of 2006. Sales on the on other hand was fighting for the 5th time that year, and had also fought in both August and September. Neither was going to be 100% given their recent bouts but when they got in the ring you wouldn't have known that the two had been active as recently as they had been.
From the opening round we got action as both both men let bombs go. The natural size and energy of Kim was obvious, but the incredibly toughness and under-rated skills of Sales allowed him to take the bombs of Kim, and fire back.
After Kim had a very strong opening round Sales came back at him in round 2, and from there on it was clear we were watching something very, very special. This wasn't a rising prospect taking on some bum with 30 losses, but was some raw Korean kid taking on a Filipino veteran with the bit between his teeth in what was a hotly contested war. Kim's power and size were neutralised by a man who could take his power, ride his shots then return fire, with interest. Round after round Kim landed some serious leather, only to have Sales take it like it was nothing, then unleash his own power shots. Sure Sales wasn't a puncher, but he was landing clean with huge shots, that seemed to buzz Kim once or twice.
By the later rounds the bout had began to slow, but that didn't make it a bad bout, far from it. In fact the slower pace made things more dramatic, as it seemed like Sales could end up reeling in the rounds, or even grind down a tiring Kim. The later we went, the more and more tense things got, and that added to the feeling that we were watching something special.
We doubt many have seen this sensational bout. If you have you know what an instant classic this was. If you haven't see it, treat yourself to an amazing hidden gem of the Asian boxing world.
(Video courtesy of KBM)
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