In the 1980's Korean boxing was very much on a high with a number of great fighters in and around world class. Some of those, like Jung Koo Chang, Myung Woo Yuh and Sung Kil Moon are, of course, massive legends of the sport. Others are sadly forgotten and ignored. Today we look at one of those fighters in what was a very entertaining 1988 clash with one of the sports ageless wonders, who was still competing at world level into his very late 30's.
Seung Hoon Lee (42-6, 22) Vs Daniel Zaragoza (36-4, 20)
When we talk about great Korean fighters Seung Hoon Lee isn't a name we tend to see mentioned much. Lee had come up short in a trio of world title bouts on the road earlier in his career, losing Rafael Orono, in Venezuela, Lupe Pintor in the US and Victor Callejas in Puerto Rico. Despite those losses he remained a top contender and in 1987, in his 4th world title fight, Lee beat Thai fighter Prayursak Muangsurin to claim the IBF Super Bantamweight title. The belt, which had been vacated by Ji Won Kim, finally saw Lee win a big one, but his reign was curtailed when the authorities had had enough of the IBF, and the two stopped working together, forcing Lee's reign to end on the basis of politics. Despite the sad end of his IBF title reign Lee would get a chance to win the WBC title as he took on Daniel Zaragoza.
Mexican warrior Daniel Zaragoza had won the WBC Bantamweight title in 1985, beating Fred Jackson, but lost the belt 3 months later to Miguel Lora. In February 1988 he became a 2-weight champion, stopping Carlos Zarate, and in his first defense, just 3 months later, he travelled to Korea to take on Lee. By now he had had 40 professional bouts and was 30 years old, older than Lee. For those that know their boxing history they'll know that Zaragoza remained a world class fighter until 1997, when he lost to Erik Morales at the age of 39 whilst enjoying his 4th reign as a world champion. Although not the most skilled, or the fastest, or the sharpest, Zaragoza was a wily old veteran, even at this point. He was tricky, aggressive, tough, set a high work rate and could really dish it out. He was really an exciting fighter to watch, and was always willing to travel to the lion's den to pick up wins.
From the opening round it was clear this was going to be a fun fight. Both men were willing to fight a very similar style of fight, boxing at a high tempo at mid-range, letting big shots go early and despite not being an all out war this was a real fun and exciting start to the fight, with neither man looking to have a typical feeling out round.
As the bout went on we began to get a more and more intense technical chess match. The more rounded skills of Zaragoza were on show, though the crowd were massively behind their man, cheering on everything Lee landed. Although Zaragoza seemed to be winning the battle in terms of what we were seeing Lee was certainly doing enough to hold his own, and with the crowd cheering him on there was always a chance the judges were being swayed by the cavernous noise they were making for their man.
As the bout went on the tempo began to increase, the footwork from both began to slow, and jabs were seen as secondary to huge hooks and straights as the action went from technical high paced boxing into a thrilling war, and then back to high paced, heavy handed boxing, fluidly switching between the two,
There is some questions of the officiating, but the fighters, their action and the rawness of the fight, which lacks commentary, all makes for a very special experience and a sensational fight that deserves a watch from every fight fan. It wasn't an all out war, but it wonderfully combined skills, action, heart, determination and heavy shots from both men.
This is a real hidden from the late 1980's. It's not a Fight of the Year contender or anything like that, but it's a thrilling and often over-looked bout and a real closet Classic! This was action packed, brutal and showed Lee was a world class fighter, no matter what the political situation with Korea and the IBF was.
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