Whilst we love watching boxing from throughout Asia one thing that is consistently true, is that South Korea provides a higher ratio of great fights than any other country. The fighters might not be the best out there and the skills might not be the most impressive, but their hearts, determination and in ring mentalities seem to provide an unfairly high number of amazing bouts.
Today we we get to share one of the most significant Korean bouts from 2020, between two men each putting it all on the line in an attempt to claim the KBM Lightweight title.
Moo Hyun Kim (5-1, 1) vs Dong Hyun Won (3-3)
This bout came on November 14th from the DND Boxing Gymnasium in Hwaseong and saw Moo Hyun Kim and Dong Hyun Won battle for the vacant KBM Lightweight title. On paper it was nothing special, but it was in Korea, and that automatically made it something that was worthy of noting. Korean bouts, really do provide a lot of action, even the lowest level Korean bouts.
The entire in ring mentality in Korea seems to be about winning a fight. It's not about out-pointing the other man, and fighting cute, but winning a toe to toe fight. Having a war. That was the case here.
In one corner was 27 year old Moo Hyun Kim, who made his debut in 2016 and won his first 4 bouts, including wins in Japan against Hironori Shigeta and George Tachibana both of which were wins that aged well. He then lost in 2017 to Gyu Beom Jeon before bouncing back with a win in 2018. Kim then took more than 2 years away from the ring before picking up a narrow decision win of Jun Gyu Oh in August 2020, just 3 months before this title bout.
In the opposite corner to Kim was Dong Hyun Won, a 36 year old who debuted in 2016, going 1-1 that year before taking more than 3 years out of the ring. When he returned in 2019 he won his first 2 bouts, but then suffered back to back losses, falling to 3-3. Given his age this was pretty much viewed as his one and only chance to win a Korean title, and it seemed like a chance he didn't really deserve given he had lost his previous 2 bouts, and was 13 months removed from his last win.
The fight started surprisingly slowly for a Korea fight with Kim pressing forward and Won using his experience to soak up the pressure. The low quality of skills from both men were clear and it seemed, through much of the first round, that the occasion and inactivity was getting to them. Then we had a moment of class as Kim dropped Won with a brilliant counter right hand that Won walked on. Won got to his feet and Kim seemed to be in control.
Sadly after the knockdown the rest of the round was tame. Thankfully things began to pick up in round 2, as Kim began to let his hands go more, and forced Won into responding, which he did in a big way late in the round. It wasn't am amazing round, at least not compared to typical Korean standards, but it was a big improvement from the opening round and was more like what we had been expecting. It was as if the touch paper was being lit and we were starting to get a fight.
Despite the fight beginning to erupt in round 2 the pace early in round 3 was slow, it was as if both teams had told their fights to calm down, relax and fight at their tempo. That was until midway through the round when Won decided to up his work rate, and drew out the dog in Kim, who came back strong in the second half of the round.
In round 4 we saw the tempo tick up again, though by now it was clear. Kim was much more skilled than Won, and Won was instead relying on his heart, his determination and his work rate to try to over-come the skills of his foe. At times Won's output was enough to win him portions of rounds, but it always seemed that once Kim turned on the gas he was getting the upper hand.
As the rounds went on Kim's edge in size, skills, and power proved vital as he began to beat the fight out of Won, who showed some genuine grit and bravery but was getting slowly beaten up. Through round 5 and 6 Won's heart and toughness were the only thing keeping him in the fight, which was fairly wild at times. That will and determination was however doing enough to impress some of the judges, with one having the bout even, 57-577, after 6 rounds.
In round 7 Won's will to win showed at the start of the round and, for the first time, he seemed to actually buzz Kim who backed up and had to regroup. Sadly for Won his success early in the round came back to bite him in the backside when Kim managed to clear his head and turned the tables. Won dug deep, despite taking a shellacking through much of the round, eating big head shots as Kim looked to put his man away. Won was left bloodied and battered part way through the round. With seconds of the rounds remaining a pair of head shots wobbled Won who was dropped at the very end of the round. He got to his feet before the 10 count but he was done, his corner knew it, the referee new it, and he knew it, as the bout was stopped, at an official time of 3:07 of round 7.
The bout is certainly not the most intense, especially not by the lofty standards we see from Korea, but it was certainly a battle worthy of attention. We had more than enough highlights to get excited about, plenty of exciting changes in tempo and some thrilling exchanges from both fighters. It took a while to get going at times, but there was more than enough good stuff here to enjoy, especially in the final round.
This wasn't a fight of the year contender, not by any stretch, but it was a fun, enjoyable battle between a skilled fighter and gutsy warrior.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.