We continue this weekly series by looking at a Korean fighter who had a short career, spanning just 21 bouts over 9 years, but an interesting one featuring 12 total title bouts, including 9 at world level.
The fighter in question is Hi Yong Choi (19-2, 8). He was a former amateur standout before turning professional in 1987, and given the footage of him in action his style is very much the antithesis of an amateur standout. He wasn't a refined boxer, but more a brawler-come-Street fighter. Although not too well remembered now a days he was a 2-weight world champion who not only fought in Korea and Japan but also had a bout in the USA before retiring in the mid 1990's. He was fast tracked to the top and faced some top names, but never really looked like the type of fighter who could have much longevity based on his raw and highly physical style.
Despite his short career Choi made an impact on the sport, and now we get to bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Hi Yong Choi.
Sam Joong Lee (April 10th 1988)
After a very successful amateur career there was no need to hold Hi Yong Choi back and his team knew that. Instead of taking their time developing the youngster they pushed him hard and fast. Just 9 months after his debut they threw him in with Korean national champion Sam Joon Lee in a 12 round bout for the OPBF Minimumweighjt title. Up to this point Choi had only fought against novices, but stepped up here and shined, as he took a decision over the then 14-2 Lee. Whilst Choi's team had moved him quickly, matching him in a 10 rounder in just his third bout, this was really an impressive victory, this early in his career.
Bong Jun Kim I (February 2nd 1991)
Whilst Choi's team had managed to secure him an OPBF title fight very early they had to wait almost 3 years to get him a world title fight. That finally came in February 1991 when he took on fellow Korean Bong Jun Kim. Kim, the then WBA Minimumweight champion, was 23-5-3 and had been unbeaten in more than 3 yeas. He had claimed the WBA title in 1989 and had already notched 5 defenses of the title. Choi on the other hand was 9-0 but lacked a stand out win since winning the OPBF title. Despite the big step up in class Choi managed to over-come his fellow Korea with a hotly contest decision over 12 rounds. This win saw Choi becoming the first fighter from Hyundai promotions to become a world champion, beating the exciting Young Kyun Park by a few weeks.
Bong Jun Kim II (October 26th 1991)
Having made a relatively straight forward first defense against Filipino challenger Sugar Ray Mike in June 1991 Choi then returned to facing world class competition as he took on Bong Jun Kim in a rematch. Choi was giving Kim a chance to reclaim the title he had taken 8 months earlier, though it was a chance that Kim couldn't take. From the off it was clear that Choi, buoyed on by the title, was a better fighter than he had been in their first bout. Kim on the other hand looked like a man who was starting to show signs of being on the slide. What had been a close and competitive match up the first time around, was a clear decision for Choi the second time around. It's worth noting that after this Kim would go 1-3, suffering a TKO loss in his final bout in 1994 against Takashi Oba before hanging them up. This was the win that signified that Choi was a world champion, and hadn't just won the title by fluke.
Leo Gamez (February 4th 1995)
After scoring 2 more successful defenses Choi would make his international debut and lose the WBA Minimumweight title to Japan's popular Hideyuki Ohashi. Choi would then take more than a year away from the ring before returning in December 1993 having abandoned the Minimumweight division. In the fourth bout of his comeback he took on Venezuelan foe Leo Gamez, the then WBA Light Flyweight champion. Gamez was enjoying his second reign as a world champion, having previously held a Minimumweight title, and was well known in Korea following bouts against Bong Jun Kim, Myung Woo Yuh and Yong Kang Kim. Sadly for Gamez his experience in Korea wasn't enough to over-come the Korean, who looked really strong at Light Flyweight. The bout was marred by head clashes, and certainly wasn't a pretty fight, but the win did see Choi becoming a 2-weight world champion in just 19 fights. Warning for those about to watch, this it's a sloppy, gruelling, mauling mess of a fight. Entertaining in parts but a mess through out.
Keiji Yamaguchi (September 5th 1995)
Choi would return to the ring to defend the WBA Light Flyweight title, that he took from Gamez, 7 months after winning it. For the second time in his career he travelled overseas for the bout as he took on the then 18-0 Keiji Yamaguchi in his home of Osaka. Whilst Choi had failed on his first visit to Japan, losing to Ohashi in 1992, he faired better this time around winning a split decision over Yamaguchi. As with his bout against Gamez this wasn't the most pleasing fight to watch, but winning on foreign soil against an unbeaten challenger is never an easy task. What makes this win even more notable is that Yamaguchi would later go on to take the take title from the man who ended Choi's reign, Carlos Murillo.
Sadly after beating Yamaguchi Choi would lose the title on his US debut against the aforementioned Murillo, and then retire.
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