It's rare for a fighter to leave a genuinely big impact in the sport in less than 6 years, but that's what Korean fighter Chan Hee Park (17-4-2, 6) did in his short, but very notable, career. He only fought between 1977, making his debut at the age of 20 with an opening round win over Japan's Chuji Muto, and 1982, when he lost in a notable shock to Filipino Wick Tengam, but fit a lot into that very small window of time. In fact he fit 26 bouts into a career that lasted 66 months and fought 9 times at world level.
Sad for Park he was one of many Korean fighters who was kept too busy, in too many hard fighters, in too short of a time. His 9 world title bouts all took place between March 1979 and February 1981. Seeing fighters fight 9 times in 2 years now a days is incredibly rare, but to see a fighter fight 9 world title bouts in 2 years is even rarer, and it's little wonder he was a shot fighter as quickly as he was. He was a true talent, and someone who could, and should, have had a longer, more successful career. Despite that he still made a very serious impact on the sport and was one of the top Flyweights if his time.
Rather than lamenting what Park could have been we're here today to look at what Park was and what Park did as we take a look at The 5 most significant wins for... Chan Hee Park
Sang Il Jung (October 1st 1977)
We begin with Park's third professional bout, which saw him take on the then 6-0-2 Sang Il Jung. The bout was a tough step up for Park, who had blown out his first 2 opponents, and proved a vital learning experience as the youngster was taken 10 rounds and forced to accept his first decision victory.
This was not only the first time Park had go the distance but was also the first time he had faced a Korean fighter, in fact it was the only time he faced a domestic opponent, and was a very big win domestically, especially given that Jung was the OPBF Light Flyweight champion at the time. It was also a win that aged really well with Jung bouncing back from the loss to become a 2-time OPBF champion and later challenger for the WBA Light Flyweight world title, taking on Yoko Gushiken. A good win at the time, which became better as Jung's career went on.
Miguel Canto (March 18th 1979)
It's impossible to talk about Park without mentioning his career defining victory, which came in March 1979 when he dethroned the legendary Miguel Canto for the WBC Flyweight World title. "El Maestro", as Canto was known, had held the belt for more than 4 years and had racked up an incredibl 14 defenses of the belt. He was, unquestionably, the best Flyweight at the time and one of the divisional greats. Park however put in a performance of a life time, out pointing Park over 15 rounds to dethrone the Mexican sensation.
Sadly for Canto he never managed to really bounce back from this loss, going 4-4-1 after this bout, including a draw in a rematch with Park. He had been a brilliant fighter, but this loss was the start of the end for him and whilst Park was fantastic on the day, there is a case that maybe, just maybe, he was lucky and got Canto at just the right time in his career. Regardless, this was the win that shook the Flyweight division and the win that put Park on the boxing map. It was a star making victory.
Chikara Igarashi (May 20th 1979)
When we look at how crazy Park's career was, particularly his world title reign, we just need to look at his first world title defense. It came 2 months and 2 days after he beat the legendart Canto, and was his 6th bout within a year! Thankfully for Park it wasn't against a top, top level fighter, but was against an often under-rated fight as he took on Chikara Igarashi. The Japanese challenger, had been a professional since 1971 and had had a streaky career, but had won the Japanese and OPBF Flyweight titles before taking on Park in May 1979.
Igarashi wasn't ever looking like he could beat Park, but he certainly gave an honest and genuine account of himself. Igarashi ended up losing a clear 15 round decision to the Korean, but he certainly wasn't there to roll over. Sadly however this was the start of the end for Igarashi, who lost his following 4 bouts before retiring in the early 1980's. For a first defense this wasn't great, but for a first defense weeks after beating Canto we'll certainly not complain!
Guty Espadas (December 16th 1979)
Park's incredible level of activity saw him rematch Park in September 1979 before ending the year with a bout against former WBA Flyweight champion Guty Espadas, who had only been dethroned of the WBA title a 16 months earlier in Venezuela by Betulio Gonzalez, via majority decision. Although no longer a champion Espadas was still regarded as one of the best in the division and a very live challenger for the Korean.
Espadas showed there was still hunger in the tank in the opening round, dropping Park in round 1. He was there and he was hungry. Sadly for Espadas however Park wasn't to be out done, dropping him twice in round 1 and again in round 2 to secure his third defense in 9 months. This was the only stoppage Park had in a world title bout and came in what was a short but thrilling and dramatic bout. Given the atmosphere and the crowd here it was clear Park was a star for Korean boxing. But was already starting to show signs of wear and tear.
Alberto Morales (April 13th 1980)
After beating Espadas in December 1979 the Korean was back out less than 2 months later, when he beat the limited Arnel Arrozal to record his 4th defense and then he took on Albert Morales just 2 months later. This was Park's 6th world title bout in just 13 months. It would also turn out to be his final win at world level.
Morales was nothing special, and he had had mixed results since his early days, with his debut believed to have been in August 1969. Despite not being anything special he had won the NABF and Mexican titles, and had previously challenged for the WBC title, way back in 1973. The perception was that he was past his best, and wouldn't be much of a test for Park. Something that turned out to be right as Park took a clear decision victory over him.
Sadly Park's inability to actually rest between bouts caught up with him a bout later, as he suffered his first loss, being stopped in 9 rounds by Shoji Oguma, with the loss sending Park to 14-1-2 (6). From there his career never managed to rebound and he went 3-3 afterwards, losing in 2 rematches against Oguma, before retiring in his mid 20's. His career should have been longer. It should have been more intelligently managed. It should have been special. Instead we got a glimpse of genius from a young Korean who was shot by his mid 20's. A real shame.
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