Between 1985 and 1990 Korean fighter Yul Woo Lee (19-3, 10) embarked on a short, but exciting and successful career as a talented Light Flyweight and Flyweight. He's not a name that many international fans will be too aware of, but he is someone who is worthy of attention and is one of the few multi-weight Korean world champions.
After making his debut in 1985 Lee, known as "Hot Pepper", raced through the ranks, and won the WBC Light Flyweight title in 1989, in his 18th professional bout. His reign was a short one, but he would win the WBA Flyweight title less than a year later, before ending his career after losing in his first defense to Leopard Tamakuma.
Following his retirement Lee went on to run a boxing school before being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Sadly Lee passed away in 2009, at the age of 42, from his cancer.
With Lee's memory and career in mind, we've decided to take a look at the 5 most significant wins for... Yul Woo Lee
Romy Navarrete (April 19th 1987)
We start going through Lee's most significant wins by looking at one that aged well, and is criminally under-rated by pretty much everyone, and that was his 1987 win over Filipino fighter Romy Navarrete, the younger brother of Rolando Navarrete.
It's fair to say that Romy Navarrete is not the well established name that his brother was, however he was no easy out, and managed to win titles at domestic level and later the Oriental level, winning the OPBF Flyweight title in 1989. He was also not an easy man to stop, as Greg Richardson and Luisito Espinosa both found out. Lee however stopped Navarrete in 7 rounds in 1987, to move to 10-0. This win aged really well with the Filipino winning the OPBF title just 7 fights later.
Armando Ursua (December 13th 1987)
Lee's second win of note came just 8 months after he stopped Navarrete and saw him take out former world title champion Armando Ursua from Mexico, in what would actually be Ursua's final bout. The Mexican veteran was well past his best, and was 31 years old with over 50 bouts to his name, but he still had name value and had been a world champion in 1982, when he beat Hilario Zapata for the WBC Light Flyweight title.
Not only was Ursua a former world champion but he was also a man known in Asia. He had lost the WBC title via close decision in Japan and had then gone 10 rounds with Jung Koo Chang, and later Dodie Boy Penalosa. For Lee to not just beat Ursua, but to stop him, was a genuine statement and only the 9th stoppage loss of Ursua's long career. This was a cynical bit of match making, and a smart win for Lee and his career.
German Torres (March 19th 1989)
Sadly Lee's winning run came to an end in May 1988, when he was upset by Miguel Mercedes, aka Miguel Nagashima, who went on to fight for the newly created WBO Light Flyweight title in March 1989. Mercedes lost to Elvis Alvarez in the title bout and just 16 days later Lee got his won world title shot, taking on Mexican veteran German Torres, the then WBC king.
Lee, unlike Mercedes, made the most of his world title shot and ended up breaking down Torres in the 9th round to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title and become a world champion in his 18th bout. Torres, fighting 73rd time, showed his toughness and experience but it wasn't enough to survive with Lee who fought like a man determined to make the most of his big chance. Whilst this was, clearly, a big personal win for Lee it was also huge for Korean boxing given that Torres had won the title 3 months earlier in South Korea against Soon Jung Kang, who retired following the bout. Torres had also previously beaten Jong Kwan Chung, and had gone the distance 3 times with Korean legent Jung Koo Chang. Notably this was also the first time Torres had been stopped since 1977, when he suffered a TKO loss to Rocky Mijares, in what was Torres' 10th professional bout. Sadly for Torres this was the start of the end for him and he would go 4-2-1 afterwards, never competing anywhere close to world level after this bout.
Yong Kang Kim (November 25th 1989)
Lee's world title reign was a short one, losing the belt in his first defense to Humberto Gonzalez in June 1989. Just 5 months after losing his title he was back in the ring and took on the then 19-1 Yong Kang Kim. Although not a huge name himself in the West Kim was a really successful fight and coming in to this one he was a former WBC Flyweight champion, who had narrowly lost the belt to Sot Chitalada just a few months before he faced Lee.
The bout between Lee and Kim was essentially a world title eliminator, and the winner would be moving on to a world title fight. Both men knew it, and both men knew they needed a win. This lead to a hotly contested bout that saw both men make a valid argument to get the judgement after 10 rounds. In the end however Lee took a razor thin decision, helped in part by a knockdown he scored in round 8.
The win over Kim was a major one in so many ways for Lee and his career. It was not just a win over a former world champion, and it not only lead Lee to getting another world title fight, which we'll talk about shortly, but it was also one that aged well as Kim ended up winning the WBA Flyweight title in 1991 to become a 2-time world champion. In fact Kim was still competing at a high level in 1994, when he competed in his final world title bout, losing a decision to Saen Sor Ploenchit. This was, easily, Lee's best win against a fellow Korean.
Jesus Rojas (March 10th 1990)
Around 4 months after scoring his win over Yong Kang Kim fans in Korea saw Lee return to the ring and challenge WBA Flyweight champion Jesus Rojas, from Venezuela. Rojas had won the title In Colombia in 1989, when he beat Fidel Bassa, and was looking to make his first defense. Lee on the other hand was looking to become a 2-weight champion and one of the few men, at the time, to have won world titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight.
This bout is a bit of a forgotten war, with Lee coming forward like a man possessed and "Kiki" battling brilliantly on the back foot. This, hidden gem, was a bout that really deserves to be seen and was a forgotten thriller that went 12 rounds with a lot of leather being thrown through out. After 12 rounds the Korean narrowly out pointed Rojas, taking a razor thin split decision win to claim the title. The three cards here were all close, reflecting the hot competitive nature of the bout.
Sadly for Lee his reign was a short one, and he would lose the belt in his first defense to Leopard Tamakuma, whilst "Kiki" would rebuild and win the WBA Super Flyweight title in 1998.
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