For us one of the best things about these on going series we do is that we can shine a light on a fighter who is perhaps somewhat forgotten or not too well known. Of course we cover some bigger names in these series, and last week we did do Koki Kameda in this very series, but we also like to talk about more obscure fighters. With that in mind were going to take a look at former WBC Super Flyweight champion In Joo Cho today and look at his 5 most significant wins.
For those aren't aware of Cho he was a fabulous amateur who turned professional in the early 1990's and was moved quickly. In just his 13th fight the claimed the WBC Super Flyweight title and he would hold that title from 1998 to 2000, making 5 defenses, before ending his career in 2001. He was a talented boxer who lacked power but made up for that with his skills, movement and ring craft. Sadly though he is one of the final Korean world champions.
With that introduction out of the way lets now look at the 5 most significant wins for... In Joo Cho
Tacy Macalos (January 30th 1994)
The first significant win for In Joo Cho came in just his 6th professional bout, as he took on former IBF Light Flyweight champion Tacy Macalos. Whilst Macalos was well past his best by this point, and fighting well above his best weight, it was still a huge step up in class for Chi who took a 10 round decision over Macalos. Sadly for Macalos he would only fight once more after this, losing in 3 rounds to Puma Toguchi. Given this was Cho's 6th professional bout and came only 21 months after his debut it was a very good win and a clear statement from him that he had the skills to go places. Sadly though this win was followed by some relatively low level bouts.
Gerry Penalosa I (August 29th 1998)
More than 4 years after beating Tacy Macalos we saw Cho finally take the step up to world class. By now he was 12-0 and had been ticking over for a year or two by this point. It seemed very much like his team thought "now or never", and brought over WBC Super Flyweight champion Gerry Penalosa to face Cho. By this point Penalosa had defended the belt 3 times, including a defense in Korea against Young Joo Cho. This turned into a really technical bout between two talented and hugely skilled fighters, but two men who refused to take unnecessary risks. As a result of their styles the bout never really caught fire. Cho was happy to jab and move on the outside whilst Penalosa would pressure but show little in terms of fire. Technically this was pretty high level chess, but it did lack drama, and was certainly not an exciting contest with Cho being ultra negative. It was a controversial one though, with the judges giving the 27 year old Korean a majority decision win. It was one which he didn't really deserve, but it was a significant one leading Cho to a world title, and essentially leading to the two men having a rematch, which we'll talk about a little later on. Again with this series we only look at the significance of a win, not whether the right man got the decision.
Pone Saengmorakot (June 13th 1999)
After winning the title with a controversial win Cho was lucky in his first defense, narrowly defeating Joe Luna Zarate in is first defense. It seemed like the days were number on his reign as he stepped into the ring for his second defense, taking on the then 18-0 Pone Saengmorakot. We were all expecting another close bout, and another less than thrilling encounter. Cho, it seemed, was not true championship material. And then he did what no one really expected and blasted Pone out.
Seemingly aware of the criticism he was getting Cho seemed more aggressive here in what was a pretty interesting fight, much more so than the score-cards suggested, until round 8. In round 8 Cho landed the punch of his career, a perfect short right hand that sent Pone crashing to the canvas. This was the only stoppage Cho would score in his world title bouts and would be a KO that would get played over and over. In terms the win, this is the win that gave Pone his highlight reel KO, was a relatively fun bout and one of his very few unquestionable wins at world level.
Keiji Yamaguchi (September 5th 1999)
Talking about unquestionable wins we need to mention Cho's 1999 win over Japanese challenger Keiji Yamaguchi.
For this bout Cho actually travelled, making his international debut, as he took on Yamaguchi in Tokyo. Yamaguchi had previously held the WBA Light Flyweight title and was looking to become a 2-weight world champion. The Korean was facing the perfect foil here, a smaller man who lacked power and was relatively low risk. The bout saw Cho box well at range, tie up when he needed to, and easily out box the Japanese local, who was often chasing shadows. Although it was a clear decision for Cho, and did come on the road, it was another example of him fighting negatively, doing what he needed to win, but not entertaining.
A win, in Japan, for a Korean world champion, is pretty big news. It's just a shame that the significance of the victory over shadowed the quality of the fight.
Gey Penalosa II (January 2nd 2000)
In his fifth defense Cho took on the man he controversially beat for the title in a long over-due rematch. This time around Penalosa was the challenger, though was again in Korea for the bout. Knowing what had happened last time Penalosa knew the judging wasn't going to be favourable to him and came out more offensive than in his first bout to Cho. He wasn't following Cho as he had in their first bout, but was pressing and letting his hands go. Cho seemingly realised he was in with a man who had a more offensive mindset this time around and knew he had to fight back more. Once again Cho was most on the back foot, moving, tying up when he needed to, but he did show more than he had in his first fight with Penalosa. It however didn't seem enough, and we suspect the referee knew that when he deducted Penalosa a point for having too much water in his corner. That water had caused Cho to slip, twice, and gave the referee a chance to help out the local.
Although the point deduction didn't actually matter on the scorecards in the end, it was a clear sign that Penalosa was going to need a stoppage to get the win. Sadly for him he was unable to get that as Cho remained on his bike in the later rounds. After 12 rounds Cho took a split decision, winning by 3 points on two of the cards. This was a gutting feeling for Penalosa, who probably shouldn't have lost either bout, but another very significant, albeit hugely controversial win for Cho.
Sadly for Cho his reign ended ended less than 8 months later, as he was out pointed by Masamori Tokuyama in Japan. A rematch with Tokuyama saw him being knocked out, and then retiring in 2001 with a record of 18-2 (7).
Although a fantastic talent Cho was also very, very negative, didn't make for fun fights and had more than his share of questionable decisions. Despite that the record books shows two wins over Gerry Penalosa and they will always been very significant, even if they should both have been losses.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces