It's fair to say that many won't be familiar with Korean fighter Yong Kang Kim (26-5, 11), which is a shame as he accomplished a lot and was one of the final notable names of Korean boxing, fighting from 1985 to 1995. Despite never being a major international star Kim was a 2-time world champion a former Korean national champion and a former OPBF champion, and was certainly someone who deserves a lot more attention than he gets now, around 25 years after his last bout.
For those who aren't familiar with Kim he began his career in 1985 in low profile bouts in Korea. Less than 2 years later he went on to win the Korean Light Flyweight title and by the end of 1987 he was also the OPBF champion. Following that he moved up in weight, winning the WBC Flyweight title in 1988. His reign was a short one but he would later claim his second world title, the WBA Flyweight, in 1991. His second world reign was another short one before his career faded out in 1995.
Despite only fighting in 31 bouts an impressive 10 of those were in world title bouts, and 13 of Kim's career bouts were for some form of title, be it world, OPBF or Korean.
With that small overview of Kim's career, lets take a look at the 5 most significant wins for... Yong Kang Kim
Sot Chitalada I (July 24th 1988)
As mentioned above Kim had won the Korean and OPBF Light Flyweight titles in 1987, taking his first two titles in relatively low key contests. In 1988 however he stepped up massively and challenged Thai Sot Chitalada, the then WBC and Lineal Flyweight champion.
The Thai had won the belt in 1984, when he dethroned Gabriel Bernal, and had run up 6 defenses of the belt before taking on the then 16-0 Kim, who was really untested at this point. Despite being untested Kim would step up to the plat and impress, doing enough to earn a unanimous decision over Chitalada for the title. This was a massive win for Kim, but not coming out performance for the Korean fighter, who used the ring smartly, dictated the tempo at times on the outside and really put on a "non-Korean" style performance. This was a typical come forward performance from a Korean fighter but a more cerebral performance from a fighter who knew winning was more important here than impressing.
Leopard Tamakuma (March 5th 1989)
Kim's first defense came 4 months after his title win, and saw him take a clear and wide decision win over the limited Emil Romano, who finished his career in 1994 with a 19-19-3 (12) record. Roman was limited when he got his shot and went 2-12-2 following his loss to Kim. It's fair to say that whilst a first defense is usually significant, this was pretty much a gimmie first defense. His second however was significant and saw him take on popular Japanese fighter Leopard Tamakuma, who was the reigning Japanese champion. Not only was Kim taking on Tamakuma, but was doing so on Japanese soil.
Despite being the away fighter Kim boxed smart, believed in his style of boxing, moved around the ring well, and picked his spots well, as he took a razor thin unanimous decision win against the Japanese fighter. This wasn't a great fight to watch, and again Kim wasn't trying to win the Fight of the Year award, but it was a smart performance, and his first win outside of Korea, in fact it would be his only win away from home. What makes this win even more notable is the fact Tamakuma would later go on to win the WBA Flyweight title, making this a win that aged really well for Kim.
Elvis Alvarez (June 1st 1991)
Sadly for Kim he would lost the WBC title in 1989, losing in a rematch to Sot Chitalada.A second loss in 1989, this time to fellow Korean Yul Woo Lee, was a major set back and a third loss in 5 bouts, this time to Thai legend Khaosai Galaxy, saw his record quickly descend from 19-0 to 21-3 and it seemed like he had seen better days. In 1991 however he got a shot at WBA Flyweight champion Elvis Alvarez, who had won the title with his own win over Tamakuma.
The talented Colombian champion went to Korea with momentum and it seemed like Kim's career was pretty much over. Kim however proved there was still life left in his legs and out boxed Alvarez on route to a close, but clear, unanimous decision to become a 2-time Flyweight champion. Footage of this one is hard to come by, but all 3 card were close, suggesting a competitive fight, but they were all from neutral judges, suggesting a fair result. Sadly for Alvarez there was no rematch for him, and no chance for him to recapture the title, with the Colombian later moving up to Bantamweight, where he challenged Junior Jones in 1994.
Leo Gamez (October 15th 1991)
In Kim's first defense of his second world title reign he took on Venezuelan legend Leo Gamez, who was looking to carve out his memorable career. Up to this point he had only won one world title, the WBA Minimumweight title, and had skipped Light Flyweight in pursuit of become a 2-time champion. He had, notably, had plenty of fame in South Korea, winning his Minimumweight title with a win against Bong Jun Kim, and had twice challenged Myung Woo Yuh for a Light Flyweight title. He was well known, an exciting fighter to watch and he was coming for a title.
As was typical with Kim fights he didn't dominate. The pressure and aggression of "Torito" gave Kim fits through out the 12 round battle, though in the end Kim did enough to convince all 3 judges that he deserved the victory and to defend his title. The judges scores all favoured Kim by 2 points, with two judges scoring the bout 116-114, but it was certainly a tough out for the Korean. It was also a win that aged remarkably well, with Games later going on to win world titles at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Super Flyweight, becoming the first fighter to win world titles in the 4 lowest weight classes, something that took 15 years for another to replicate!
Jon Penalosa (March 24th 1992)
One thing that was really notable about Kim's bouts at world level was how many of them went to a decision. He lacked power, he lacked aggression, but he knew how to box and he know how to earn a win, doing to repeatedly against good fighters. Surprisingly however his final win at world level, and his second defense of the WBA Flyweight title, saw him score a rare stoppage win. That came against Filipino challenger Jon Penalosa, the brother of Dodie Boy and Gerry Penalosa.
Entering the bout Penalosa was unbeaten in 16 bouts and was looking to follow in the footsteps of Dodie, who was a former 2-weight world champion by this point. He seemed full of confidence coming into the bout, and was certainly not there to play games with the talented, but frustrating, Korean. Penalosa tried to dominated from the center of the ring and had some real success in the first half of the fight. He was, however broken down by Kim early in round 6. With his man hurt Kim didn't let Penalosa off the hook and ended up finishing him later that same round for his only stoppage win at world level.
Sadly Kim would lose his title a few months later to Aquiles Guzman before vanishing from the ring for 2 years. He would return in 1994, losing again, before making a one off appearance in 1995 and calling it a day. As for Penalosa he ruined by this defeat and went from 15-0-1 entering this bout to retiring 15-4-1, losing his following 3 bouts by stoppage. The bout was the start of the end for Penalosa.
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