Today we look at one of the greatest Flyweight bouts of the 1990's. A bout that was sensational through out and featured a true legend of the sport, in what would be his final bout. In the opposite corner to the the legendary man was a world champion looking to make his first defense in a second weight class. We would have expected something very good, given the men involved, but we got something that exceeded good. Something truly brilliant.
Muangchai Kittikasem (14-1, 10) vs Jung Koo Chang (38-3, 17)
In one corner was WBC Flyweight champion Muangchai Kittikasem a 22 year old Thai who had won the IBF Light Flyweight title in 1989, before moving up in weight and stopping fellow Thai Sot Chitalada in 1991 to become the first 2-weight world champion from Thailand. The Thai was a heavy handed and aggressive fighter. Although not a technical genius Kittikased was a strong, powerful fighter, who came forward had a very under-rated jab and was defensively a smarter fighter than he will ever be given credit for. As with many aggressive fighters Kittikasem's issues were that he could be caught coming forward and that was an issue that we had seen suffer his sole loss, to Michael Carbajal in another great bout.
In the other corner was the "Korean Hawk" Jung Koo Chang. A legend of the 1980's and one of the greatest ever Light Flyweight world champions. Chang had monopolised the WBC Light Flyweight title for a good chunk of the 1980's before retiring in 1988. He made a comeback in 1989 and lost 2 of his 4 comeback bouts coming into this, but they had been a loss to the great Humberto Gonzalez and a very close loss to Sit Chitalada, in their second bout. At his best Chang was a legendary swarmer. He set a high output, had under-rated power, fought with an almost unique rhythm and managed to somehow avoid a huge number of shots from his opponents. His ability to be aggressive yet elusive was something else, and he really was something very special. By 1991 however he was a faded force, even though he was only 28.
Given the styles of the two men we knew we could end up getting something very special. And we did!
The first minute or so was spent with the two men feeling their way into the bout. This, almost slow, start wouldn't have given any hint of what was to come, but was very smart and high level stuff, as both men spent about 90 seconds seeing what the other had. And then sparks began to fly as we started to see the two men letting their hands go. It wasn't an all out war, but there was several exciting exchanges in the first round that showed what we could get.
Round 2 started a lot quicker than the opening round and the exchanges and flash points from round 1 became more regularly in round 2 as we started to see a real fight unfurl in front of us. Round after round the pace began to heat up as we saw more and more glimpses of Chang's brilliance. He didn't look the fighter he once was, but he still looked like a world class fighter, and someone who still belonged at this level.
To begin round 5 Chang dropped Kittikasem, with a left hook. The Thai was up quickly, but would be dropped again before the round was over as the Korean great began to show that he could do it, that he could end up beating the Thai, who struggled to see out the round. Kittikasem wasn't going to just go away however, and after recovering his senses he began to fight fire with fire.
We'll leave the rest of the fight to your eyes, rather than ruining the drama, excitement, twists and turns of the final 6 rounds but this really had it all. This is a fight that could easily be from a movie with the action, intensity and volume of punches, along with the drama and momentum shifts.
This genuinely had everything fight fans could want, and it truly goes down as one of the best Flyweight bouts, one of the bout bouts of the 1990's, and a bout that if you've never seen, you need to!
Not every fight we cover in Closet Classic will be a close, hotly contested bout, but that doesn't take away from their appeal. To we look at a bout that saw one man being dropped 7 times, but refusing to just accept defeat. We saw an established champion beat down a big hope, and we saw real intense action between swarmer and boxer. This was an instant classic, and yet not a bout known for being a competitive contest.
Jung Koo Chang (35-1, 15) vs Hideyuki Ohashi (8-2, 4) II
In 1983 Jung Koo Chang announced himself as a top fight, avenging his sole loss and stopping the brilliant Hilario Zapata to begin his legendary reign as the WBC Light Flyweight champion . After beginning his reign Chang quickly went on a tear, beating the likes of German Torres, Sot Chitlada Katsuo Tokashiki, Isidro Perez and Hideyuki Ohashi. He had cemented his place as one of the divisions all time greats come the summer of 1988 when he travelled to Japan for a second bout with Ohashi. By this point Chang was only 25, but already had looked like he was losing a step. He'd fit 14 world title defenses into his reign by this point, and had fought 36 times in less than 8 years, with almost half of his bouts being fought at world level.
By the time June 1988 rolled around the highly touted Hideyuki Ohashi was ready to get his second shot at Jung Koo Chang, the man who had stopped him in 5 rounds back in December 1986. Ohashi was regarded in Japan as a boxing genius, the talent that only comes around once in 150 years. Sadly he had been too inexperienced, too light punching, and not good enough when he had faced Chang the first time around, in what was Ohashi's 7th professional bout. He had rebuilt from that loss with a trio of victories, including one over former world title challenger Tomohiro Kiyuna. His team would likely have been hoping the extra experience and cracks forming in Chang's armour would give Ohashi a chance to become a world champion.
Given the fighters involved it was always clear this wasn't going to be a bout where the two men were standing off waiting for a mistake but instead a match up between offensive machine and a natural boxing talent. Only a minute in and Chang was already forcing the action on to Ohashi, who was having to respond boxing in the pocket, trying to pick his counter shots to dissuade the advancing Korean icon.
The aggression of Chang refused to slow down, even when Ohashi managed to land some really clean head shots, as he did in round 2. All the good work of Ohashi seemed to just anger Chang, who roared back, unloading with more intensity on the Japanese challenger. The moments of success for the local made for some thrilling scenes, that sent the Korakuen Hall in fits of excitement, even if the punishment he gave Chang was always returned with interest.
Sadly for Ohashi the power and aggression of Chang saw the Korean score 3 knockdowns in round 3. Some how however Ohashi ended the round rocking Chang, battling through the adversity to give us a a dramatic turn.
Having come close to being stopped in round 3 Ohashi seemed to become more determined and bloody minded than ever, standing his ground more and delivering some solid and hurtful shots on to Chang, who was forced to slow down in round 4. Chang was still on top, but Ohashi was making him pay more regularly for his aggression.
The success of Ohashi was never looking like it would be enough to stop the rampant Chang, even when the pace slowed in round 6. Chang resumed total control of the bout and would go on to drop Ohashi twice in round 7, but Ohashi refused to be beaten there and then and continued to dig his toes in and bite down on his gum shield. Ohashi's heart and desire kept him going, despite the punishment he was taking.
The was a bit of a one sided classic, but a thriller, an action packed bout, one that seemed to show there were cracks with Chang, but that even a Chang at 85% was too much. It was proof that determination and will to win is an incredible facet of a boxer, who refused to quit against all sorts of adversity.
Yes, this wasn't an ultra competitive back and forth, but was some how still an instant classic.
One thing we seem to talk about a lot here at Asianboxing is how good the Korean boxing scene was in the 1980's, and it really, really was. It had all action fighters, huge punchers, tough guys with limitless engines and so many amazing bouts. Whether a Korean won or lost you tended to know that any fight with them involved was going to be worth watching, and then watching again....and again. There were, of course, fighters who failed to survive long at the top but then there were fighters who helped put divisions on the map with lengthy reigns. Today's Closet Classic we look at one of the great Korean fighters ever in action against a determined former world champion in what can only be described as a sensational fight.
Jung-Koo Chang (24-1, 11) vs Katsuo Tokashiki (19-3-2, 4)
In March 1983 Jung Koo Chang took the WBC Light Flyweight title from Hilario Zapata, avenging the sole loss on his record. Just 17 months later he headed into the ring hunting his 4th defense. By now he was a Korean star, and despite only being 21 years old he was a full grown monster in the ring, with an intense swarming style, an aggressive mentality and a criminally under-rated defense. Although not a huge puncher he did hit solidly and when that was combined with his insane output he was always capable of getting fighters respect, and grinding them down, both mentally and physically.
In the opposite corner to Chang was Japanese fighter Katsuo Tokashiki. Although Tokahsiki was only 24 himself he was already a veteran, with 8 world title bouts under his belt. He had held the WBA Light Flyweight title from 1981, when he defeated Hwan Jin Kim, to 1983, when he lost by technical decision in his 6th defense. An attempt to reclaim his title from Lupe Madera, the man he had lost it to, saw him come up short again, but in 1984 he travelled to Korea to take on Chang.
What we ended up getting here was one of the great Light Flyweight world title bouts.
We had Chang's intense pressure and work rate dragging Tokashiki into an all out war, a real toe-to-toe slugfest that saw both men unloading. It wasn't the style that suited Tokashiki best, but it was the fight that Chang was forcing, and even when Tokashiki seemed to get the upper hand he couldn't keep it going, notably being dropped when Chang was on the ropes in the opening round.
Although a technically excellent boxer Tokashiki couldn't hurt Chang or slow the Korean, who picked when to increase the pace. Despite that he tried, he tried to fight fire with fire, and despite being burned there was no doubting his desire. There were times when it seemed the pace was taking it's toll on the Korean who would take a few moments before putting his foot back on the gas and showing just how smart he was, and accurate he was.
What we got here was an instant classic and this is one that you'll want to give yourself about 40 minutes to enjoy, and trust us, you will enjoy it!
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