One of the things we seem to find out selves talking about quite sporadically through the year is the downfall of Korean boxing, which has really fallen a long, long way from the golden years of the 1970's and 1980's. Remarkably however the country was still a major back in the 1990's and today we are 25 years removed from a Korean card in Seoul that featured 3 men who would later win world titles.
The event, held on Wednesday February 8th 1995 is one that we doubt many fans are aware of, but was one that was certainly worthy of note, now looking back on reflection.
At the time the most experienced of the world title winning trio was the then 9-0 Jong Kwon Baek.
Baek would score a 10th round KO win over Filipino journeyman Al Coquilla on the show, extending his perfect record to 10-0 (10). This was Baek's first bout against a non-Filipino, and his first contest in 11 months, following a victory over Kap Young Lee in March 1994 for the Korean Lightweight title. It was more than 2 years later that Baek would make a mark at a higher level, winning the OPBF Lightweight title in March 1997.
After 2 defenses of the OPBF title Baek then got his shot at the big time, and over-came Mongolian monster Lakva Sim to claim the WBA Super Featherweight title in October 1990. The win over Sim was controversial, with Baek winning a split decision that would have been a split draw had it not been for an 8th round point deduction from the Mongolian.
Sadly Baek's reign was a disappointing one, successfully defending the belt once, with a draw against Kyu Chul Choi. He would lose the title, by TKO, to Joel Casamayor in his US debut in 2001 before ending his career with two low key wins in Korea before retiring with a 23-1-1 (20) record.
Although not the most skilled fighter Baek was a warrior, and exciting crude, action fighter and a man made for TV friendly fights. Sadly his lack of skill was clear against Casamayor, though he had certainly made his mark on the Korean fans with his wars, including his thrilling title win.
The second most experienced of the trio was In Jin Chi, who was 7-1 heading into the show, where he blitzed Janjan Gigataras inside a round. The win saw Chi move to 8-1 (3) and just 2 months later he would beat Jess Maca to claim the OPBF Bantamweight title, which he sadly never managed to defend.
Following his win over Gigataras on this card Chi would rack up 16 more straight wins before getting his break out bout in 2001, against the then unbeaten Erik Morales. Despite losing a clear decision to Morales, the then WBC Featherweight champion, Chi had left a lasting impression on fans who saw him and appreciated his will to win and incredible toughness. When Morales went on to vacate the belt Chi would manage to win it, in his second brutal bout with Englishman Michael Brodie.
Chi, like Kwon, had a relatively short reign, with only 2 successful defenses over the course of 21 months, before losing the title to Takashi Koshimoto in 2006. Despite that loss he would reclaim the title 11 months later, after defeating Rodolfo Lopez in December 2006. Sadly Chi would retire before defending the title.
Of the trio Chi is certainly the most well known, performing in memorable bouts in the US and UK, as well as being a 2-time champion. His career was damaged by financial issues, but the action he gave, and his incredible toughness, made him a clear fan favourite.
The third of the trio is In Joo Cho, who is likely the least remembered of the trio but actually had the longest and most notable reign, by far. At the time Cho was 6-0, though went on to stop Mario Parcon in 5 rounds to move to 7-0 (3).
Cho, a talented and speedy Super Flyweight who fought as an outside fighter, would slowly move up the rankings and 3½ years later he would get his shot a world title. At the time he was 12-0 (6) and relatively unknown when his team got WBC Super Flyweight champion Gerry Penalosa over to Seoul to defend against Cho. The Korean would take a very controversial win over Penalosa to win the title.
Having won the title in controversial fashion Cho's would have wanted an impressive first defense, but instead he just squeaked past Joel Luna Zarate. Thankfully for the Korean he did mange to make a lasting impression in his second defense, landing arguably the punch of a life time to take out Thai challenger Pone Saengmorakot in the 8th round. That was followed by a defense, in Japan, against Keiji Yamaguchi.
In his third defense Cho took another very controversial win over Gerry Penalosa, with Penalosa being deducted late in the bout. Many felt that Cho had been more than lucky in his first win over Penalosa, and with this win as well things seemed to be very much against the Filipino great great.
Cho would make one more defense, defeating Julio Cesar Avila, before losing in August 2000 to Masamori Tokuyama. Cho lost the title by decision to the very talented, but controversial, Tokuyama, over in Japan and then lost a rematch in Korea, when he was knocked out in 5 rounds, before ending his career in 2001.
Whilst none of the trio had massively influential reigns, they all played a part in what was essentially the last run of top Korean fighters. This trio, along with Yo Sam Choi, made up what was essentially the last set of Korean world champions, and since then the country had struggled, massively, to even make a mark on the boxing world.
Fingers crossed we don't wait another 25 years for another trio of future Korean world champions to appear on the same, obscure mid-week card.
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