Korean boxing is in an interesting position right now. It lacks in terms of stars, though both Hyun Mi Choi and Ye Joon Kim are pretty solid fighters and Choi is certainly marketable in Korea whilst Kim has the potential to make a mark in the fringes of world level, if he stays active. Despite the lack of top tier talent the country is developing some really interesting and exciting fighters. One of those is this week's focus for our "Who are you?"
We don't expect many fans to know who Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) is, in fact until last year he hadn't fought out side of Korea, but in just a single bout away from home he made a statement, and made us, along with others, sit up and take not. We'll get on to that bout a little later, but lets look at little more at the early part of Lee's career.
Lee made his debut way back in 2012 as an 18 year old and lost a decision to Boon Joon Suk. Just 3 months after his debut defeat Lee picked up his first win, stopping Woo Jin Yang inside a round. Sadly his win wasn't the start of some great run and he would suffer his second loss in his next bout, 8 months later, losing a close decision to Dong Hoon Yook.
With a 1-2 record after 3 bouts it would have been easy to write Lee off, that would have been a mistake. Just a month after Lee had lost to Don Hoon Yook, he moved his record to 2-2, stopping Jae Joon Hyun, and a month later he was 3-2, stopping Yun Joon Kim. Lee would add another win soon afterwards to move to 4-2, as he stopped Jong Won Won.
Sadly, though as is typical with Koren fighters, Lee then took a lengthy absence from the ring, not fighting for over 4 years until returning in 2017. By then his moment had vanished. His promise had been forgotten and few really seemed to have any expectations on Lee's shoulders when he returned When he returned he faced off with the tough Yong Hwan Jun, who actually won the KBM Welterweight title last year. Despite being the much smaller man Lee out worked and out fought Jun to earn an excellent and decisive decision, in a win that has aged excellently for Lee.
Sadly after beating Jun, in what was Lee's only decision win, he was out of the ring for 6 months. On his return he he fought for the KBM Featherweight title against Hyun Je Shin and for once Lee was in with someone who seemed to really know what he was doing, countering Lee, popping his jab in his face repeatedly and controlling the distance. This was a really tough bout for Lee who seemed unable to pull the trigger at times. As the bout went on though Lee managed to finally get his shots flowing and in round 10, whilst down on the cards, Lee's power finally paid dividends, knocking out a tired Shin with just over a minute of the bout left. This was a truly brutal finish and a great come from behind win.
Despite the win over Shin we again saw Lee being unable to build on his momentum, suffering an injury that ended up keeping him out of the ring for over a year.
On Lee's return to the ring, more than 20 months after he'd beat Shin, we saw the Korean make his international debut, travelling to Japan to take on the hard hitting Tsuyoshi Tameda at Korakuen Hall. The bout, which was part of the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament, was expected to be a straight forward win for the well regarded Tsuyoshi. Instead we got a 3 round shoot out, that ended with Lee breaking down Tameda, who was bloodied and battered by the time the referee stepped in.
On February 27th we'll see Lee back in the ring, as he takes on Japan's Shungo Kusano in one of the semi final bouts of the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament. If he wins he'll be up against either Richard Pumicpic or Daisuke Watanabe in the final later in the year, in what would be a huge bout for the Korea, who was once 1-2.
At the age of 26 Lee is still young enough to make a mark on a much bigger stage. If he wins the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament we suspect we'll see him in a regional title bout in the near future and, with some luck, move into the world rankings. We don't see him ever winning a world title, but given his styles, toughness, power and aggression he's someone that fight fans globally deserve a chance to see. He's fun, and he's one of the few Korean fighter who has the potential to fight at regional level with actual success.
For those who haven't seen it, we've included the bout with Tameda below, thanks to KBM and Boxing Raise.
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