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