One of the most amazing things about boxing is the sheer number of stories the sport has given us over the years. They range from the incredibly well documented, such as Muhammad Ali's and Mike Tyson's, to the almost unknown stories of fighters who never managed to become famous enough for fans around the world to know about them.
Over the years many, many stories of boxers, their careers and their lives have managed to be told through biopics, something that seems to be coming more and more popular in recent years. In recent years alone we have seen biopics released about a wide array of fighters from our great sport. These have included movies about legends like Muhammad Ali, Manny Pacquiao, Roberto Duran and Max Schmelling, fan favourites like Vinny Pazienza, Chuck Wepner, Mickey Ward and national heroes like Mary Kom, Muhammad Shah and Olli Mäki.
With those movies in mind the team of guys behind Asian boxing was tasked with answering the question of:
"Who... should have a biopic made about their life and career?"
The only rule for this was that the fighter had to be Asian and the idea of the biopic was to tell a story that hadn't been told before to a wider, global audience.
Lee: "There are a lot of fantastic stories of fighters from Asia, and a lot of really good ones from Korea. I would love to see the tale of Yo Sam Choi given the big screen treatment, as I think it would really tear at the heart strings of viewers. His WBC world title win, with his battle to keep Korean boxing relevant, his retirements, his untimely death and his organ donations would be a really touching story with implications that could massively help raise the profile of organ donations. It could even end with interviews from the people who received organs and their families, as a poignant ending and showing that Choi still lives on. It's also worth noting that LeeSSang did a song regarding Choi, and it would be an amazing song to feature in the movie.
Another that I would love would be a biopic on Hyun Mi Choi. I know Choi's story is starting to be told thanks to her signing with Matchroom, but a lot of the story will never really be told. The way she was scouted for the 2008 Olympics, her and her family fleeing from North Korea, the need to create a new life in South Korea, the rise through the amateur ranks, her world title win, the double crossing of her team and the way she was taken advantage of, before finally making it big and fighting in the US.
Whilst I would love Yo Sam Choi's tale to be told, and I think it would be an amazing advert for what organ donations can do, I think the emotional push and pull would be an incredibly painful one to watch. As for Hyun Mi Choi it would be a feel good story, and a chance to get an insight into North Korea and what the regime was like. Two really good potential stories."
Takahiro: "If we were going to have a biopic about a fighter there are lots of names that spring to mind, but I think the best, as a viewer, would be Jiro Watanabe. The story would have carious chapters. Starting with his childhood and his success in Nippon Kempo as a youngster. Then for the middle portion we move on to boxing, the disappointment of his first world title fight, the eventual rise to the top, the politics between the WBC and WBA that denied him a unification, his world title reign and his unfulfilled rivalry with Khaosai Galaxy. Then we get to the bulk of the action and the eventual conclusion, his down fall, the Yakuza issues, and the stories that have plagued him since he hung up the gloves.
If I'm allowed a second choice I would also love to see a movie on the international stage of Iwao Hakamada. As many will know Hakamada wasn't a famous boxer, but his name is well known internationally due to the "Hakamada Incident" where he was found guilty of the murders of his boss and their family. He would serve a lengthy time on death row before his legal team, with the help of those in Japanese boxing, managed to get his case retried. I think a biopic on Hakamada, at one of the film festivals, would raise the profile of Hakamada further and really force the world to take a look at the Japanese criminal justice system. A system that has failed Hakamada, and needs to be changed. I think given the success of "The Hurricane" this would do well, and would be the spiritual brother of that movie
I will take biopics on Jiro Watanabe or Iwao Hakamada please!"
Scott: "Whenever I see this question one name that always jumps immediately to mind is Hiroyuki Sakamoto. He has a tale that would just feel so good to watch, despite a dark start. He was abused as a child, along with his brother, and he would end up in an orphanage. Despite that he was bit by the boxing bug, and ended up being a star in the sport. He was a star despite not being a loud mouth, or really talking much at all. He let his boxing do the talking and was known as the "Japanese Duran" due to his power and aggression.
After a sad start to the movie we would get to see Sakamoto fight through the rankings, becoming a multi time world title challenger, with a lot of focus on his astonishing fight with Gilberto Serrano, one of the craziest comebacks in the sport. Then his big opportunity against Takanori Hatakeyama. More disappointment. I would end the part about his in ring career here, though can see some value in showing the final few bouts of it. Then fast forward a few years and we'd get the chance to see Sakamoto's post boxing career, the success of the SRS Boxing Gym which he set up, as well as Sakamoto receiving the "HEROs SPORTSMANSHIP for THE FUTURE" award for his charitable work with the Aozora Foundation that he set up. We'd go from grief, and extreme sadness at Sakamoto's child hood and career to jubilation to what he does now.
As well as Sakamoto I think another fighter who deserves the big screen treatment is Sirimongkol Singwancha. His career and life is crazy. His father basically pushed him into boxing, he raced to a world title, had an incredible 1997 bout with Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, had a scandal with nudes back in 2005, a drug issue in 2009 saw him given a 20 year sentence, he was given an early pardon, then would fight on, and on, and on! Fighting all the way in to 2020, when he was in his early 40's and very much a washed up fighter."
"Who... from the history of the Light Flyweight division, would you have liked to have seen fighting today?"
Last week we looked at which fighters during the history of the Super Flyweight division we would have loved to have plonked into today's boxing scene.
The idea was a fun one, and we came across a number of interesting answers as we looked at some of the legends of the divisions. This week we're doing a similar idea though moving down the scales to 108lbs, to answer a very similar question.
"Who... from the history of the Light Flyweight division, would you have liked to have seen fighting today?"
Lee: "There are two obvious choices for me, and I can't split them. Jung Koo Chang and Myung Woo Yuh.
Of the two men I think Chang was the better fighter, the more exciting, and the more skilled. Him in today's boxing scene against the likes of Hiroto Kyoguchi, Felix Alvarado, Kenshiro Teraji, Elwin Soto and Carlos Canizales would have provided a lot of amazing action. So many thrilling fights. Sadly however I think Chang would have been a short term fighter in any era. He famously retired when he was just 25, and whilst I think his career would have been prolonged in today's boxing world, with fewer fights per year, his out of the ring activities would have caught up with him.
Yuh on the other hand was the longer term option. He still looked really good in his later bouts, and had a more serious professional side to him. His style would have also gelled amazingly with the modern day guys and I think he would have faced more of the top guys than Chang and he would have travelled for more of the big fights. Neither man was a huge fan of using their passport, but I see Yuh as the type of fighter who would have gotten on board with DAZN more than Chang.
Either man in today's world would have been amazing. I'd have loved to have had either in this golden era of Light Flyweights".
Takahiro: "Yoko Gushiken. There is no other answer for me, Yoko Gushiken. I think Gushiken wouldn't have been able to have such a long reign in today's world but I think he would have been less active, wouldn't have burned out as quickly as he did and would have hada much longer career had he been around now. He would also have been able to fight some amazing fighters.
One of Yoko's biggest issues was he came along with the division was too new. There wasn't enough top fighters in the division in the 1970's for him to beat a lot of amazing fighters and this was a shame. If he fought today he would have suitable opponents, big name fights, and his style would have been so good to watch. Sign me up for Yoko Gushiken Vs Sho Kimura!
Easy answer. Yoko Gushiken."
Scott: "I'm going in a slightly different direction to the other two guys. They have both selected legends, and are looking at the world title picture. I'm instead going to go with Yo Sam Choi. If Choi was still fighting Korean boxing would still be relevant, and Choi wouldn't have passed away in the sad way that he did.
Choi isn't "legend" like like Chang, Yuh and Gushiken, but he was one of the last fighters who cared about Korean boxing, and one of the nations last shining lights in the sport. I would have loved for him to have been around now, for him to have been relevant in 2020, and for him to be given opportunities to showcase his skills in the US. I don't think he would have held his own with the top fighters of today, but he would have been great on the Oriental title level, and as a regular contender knocking on the door at the top.
Also I genuinely don't imagine the various medical issues that cost Choi his life being repeated in 2020.
I would have love Korean boxing to be big now, and Choi would have been ideal. His backers seemed to fail him so often that I think he would have travelled willingly and flown the Korean flag around the world. He would have been the figure head for Korean boxing now."
When we talk about Korean boxing the truth is that there is no great Korean out there right now, the last Korean world champions all finished their career's in the 00's. Sadly the country went from having In Jin Chi, Jong Kwon Baek and Yo Sam Choi to having no world class fighters for the better part of 20 years. That trio all left a mark at the top of the sport but since then there has been very little to talk about, unless you enjoy female boxing.
The saddest tale from that trio is former WBC Light Flyweight champion Yo Sam Choi (32-5, 19). The talented Choi fought between 1993 and 2007 and, at one point, looked to be the sole man trying to keep top level boxing going in South Korea. Sadly though he would pass away in 2008, and with his passing the hopes of Korean boxing essentially faded away. There has been some hopeful fighters since then, such as Min Wook Kim and Ji Hoon Kim, but they were a long way short from the success of Choi.
Today we look at Choi's career as we bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Yo Sam Choi
Kenzo Ando (December 3rd 1996)
In November 1995 Choi suffered his first professional loss, losing in a Korean title bout against Sang Ik Yang. He rebuilt from that with a couple of domestic wins which lead him to his second title bout, a shot at the OPBF Light Flyweight title. Not only was this a step up but it was also going to be a step out of South Korea, as he travelled to Osaka to battle Kenzo Ando for the vacant title. Just to add a bit more pressure, the main event of the card was a WBA world title bout. Despite everything that surrounded the bout Choi did what was needed to take a decision over Ando to claim the OPBF title and become the Oriental champion with an excellent international debut.
Saman Sorjaturong I (October 17th 1999)
Almost 3 years after winning the OPBF title, and with 3 defenses under his belt, Choi took a huge step up as he took on WBC champion Saman Sorjaturong. The Thai champion, then boasting a 41-2-1 (31) record, had recorded 10 defenses of the WBC title since taking it from Humberto Gonzalez in the 1995 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. Not only had Sorjaturong been a solid champion but he had also been unbeaten in over 6 years coming in to this bout. Despite that form it wasn't enough to over-come Choi, who took a clear decision over the Thai. The Korean took the victory and the WBC Light Flyweight title with the best win of his career. Impressively Choi fought a portion of this bout with a broken jaw, showing just how tough he was.
Saman Sorjaturong II (January 30th 2001)
Strange things happen in boxing and at some point after Choi's first win over Sorjaturong negotiations took place for them to have a rematch...in North Korea in December 2000. The person putting that event together sadly died, and rather than creating history in Pyongyang the two men would end up running their bout over in Seoul, with Choi getting the better of the Thai once again. This time around Choi would stop the Thai in 7 rounds to retain the WBC title and record his second defense of the title. Whilst the win was huge for Choi and his career, extending his reign and getting a second win over the excellent Thai, it was bad news for Sorjaturong. After this bout the Thai was pretty much a spent force and he went 1-4 before ending his career after a 2005 loss to Koki Kameda.
Shingo Yamaguchi (February 23rd 2002)
One of the greatest historic rivalries in Asian boxing is the South Korea Vs Japan one, which had given us so many great fights in the 1980's and 1990's. Since the 00's however those amazing fights, particularly at world level, became more and more rare. The fact Korea has lacked world class fighters over the last 20 years has been the big issue here. The last time Korea took a win over their Japanese counterparts at the top level was Choi's 2002 win over Shingo Yamaguchi, in what was Choi's third defense of the WBC title. This bout was not only historically important in the Korea Vs Japan rivalry but also came about in a rather odd way. The bout was put on in short notice after financial issues had seen a summer 2001 bout between Choi and Jorge Arce fall apart. Choi needed to defend his belt sharpish or be stripped. The bout was promoted by Katsuo Tokashiki, in Japan, and helped extend Choi's reign.
Sadly for Choi he would face Arce just 5 months after this and be stopped in 6 rounds by the exciting Mexican, ending Choi's title reign after just 3 defenses.
Heri Amol (December 25th 2007)
We end this look at Choi's most significant wins with a win that is significant for all the wrong reasons, that's his 2007 win over Heri Amol in Seoul. On paper the bout looked like a straight forward match up for the talented, though now 35 year old, Choi. Amol was nothing more than a regional journeyman who had lost 3 of his last 4 and wasn't considered to have the skills or power to test Choi, the then WBO Inter-Continental champion. For most of the fight that proved accurate with Choi running out the clear winner in the first 11 rounds. In the final seconds of the bout however he was dropped by an Amol right hand. He beat the count and was on his feet when the bell rang to close the fight. Sadly just moments later he stumbled in his corner and soon afterwards lost consciousness. Sadly he would never wake up, passing away in early 2008 from the injuries he suffered here.
Whilst Choi had won the bout he had lost his life.
The result of the Choi's death left a lasting mark on Korean boxing, which has never recovered from Choi's passing. Thankfully however there are positives to take from this as Choi himself donated his organs, saving several other lives, making a significant difference to families across Korea.
We at Asian boxing are always looking to do something a little bit different and bring attention to things that are perhaps not the most well known. With that in mind we though we'd put together a small list of songs about Asian boxers. We know this is a long way from a complete list, but we do think it's a pretty varied list.
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