The entire idea behind this series has been to share not just the best bouts featuring Asian fighters but also the great bouts that go unmentioned and are massively ignored. The all action wars that people don't talk about, the thrilling battles that have been forgotten, the fantastic fistic skirmisshes that have long been overlooked. Today we think we have a perfect example of a Closet Classic, and boy is it a great fight.
Yul Woo Lee (26-4, 12) Vs Leopard Tamakuma (19-2, 10)
Korean fighter Yul Woo Lee had claimed the WBA Flyweight titlein March 1990 with a debatable decision over Jesus Rojas in Daejeon. In his first defense the Korean travelled to Japan to take on local star Leopard Tamakuma.
Although not a well remembered fighter Lee was an exciting warrior, like many Korean's from the 1980's. he was tough, set a high work rate and made for fun fights due to his volume. Although not unbeatable he was strong and tough. Coming in to this bout he was also holding a world title for the second time, having previously held the WBC Light Flyweight title, which he had taken from German Torres before losing it in his first defense to the brilliant Humberto Gonzalez. He had bounced back from his title loss by moving up in weight and defeated Rojas for the WBA Flyweight title. At Light Flyweight and at Flyweight he was a terrier who set an exciting tempo.
Early in his career Tamakuma had been an out-side but over the years had developed a style that was more eye catching and proved he could fight on the inside if he needed to. He had won the Japanese Flyweight title in 1987 and defended it 4 times before taking on the then WBC Flyweight champion Yong Kang Kim, losing a close decision to Kim. That loss had then been followed up with 3 stoppage wins for Tamakuma who was moving towards a second title shot, a shot that would come in 1990 against Lee.
From the opening seconds of the bout Lee looked like a man possessed. Within about 10 seconds of the bout starting Lee had his head in Tamakuma's chest and starting to let his hands go. Tamakuma did turn Lee but the Korean regrouped and again began to literally push Tamakuma around, pinning him on the ropes in an attempt begin a firefight. From there on the rest of the first round was a close up war with Lee looking to bully his foe. To his credit Tamakuma was holding his own at times, but was being out worked through much of the round.
The second and third rounds were much like the first. Tamakuma had some early success but Lee was on his chest, unloading in high volume and trying to out working the naturally bigger, stronger man. Space between the two men was growing, but when Lee wanted to turn things into a fight he did, as and when he wanted.
By the middle rounds Lee was slowing, the incredible pace he had began with was slowing, but Tamakuma was still looking fresh and was repaying Lee for the early onslought. The Korean was digging deep and refusing to quit as the bout continued to be a thrilling war.
Sadly what was an exciting bout became hard to watch late on, but was never a dull watch. Just a hard one, with the early excitement being the highlight of a real toughman fight. Credit needs to be given to the heard and determination of both, but by the end one man was relying nearly entirely on his toughness and will power.
This isn't one of the all time great bouts, but is is very much a Closet Classic, and was, sadly the end of Lee who would never fight again after this gutsy, if somewhat messy, war.
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