One thing about boxing in Korea is the mentality and mind set that many of the fighters have. Without trying to be too dismissive, the quality of skills many fighters in Korea have is quite low, but their heart, desire and energy is through the roof. If hunger, energy and will power were enough to create stars Korean boxing would be one of the best boxing scenes out. Back in January 2020 we had a really intriguing bout in Jeonju being one of the most gutsy youngsters in the country, and a former amateur standout, who bucked the trend, and had skills, rather than just heart. Together they made for something worthy of your time.
Han Bin Suh (5-0-3, 4) vs Dong Myung Shin (2-0)
Heading into this one Han Bin Suh was one of the most exciting men in world boxing. The baby faced youngster was all action. Win or lose you knew Suh was going to throw a lot of leather, get involved in a war up close, and simply try to grind his man down through volume, pressure, tenacity, and fire. That combination of work rate, toughness and desire had seen him win the KBM Super Bantamweight title in April 2019 and make 3 defenses before the year was over.
All 3 of Suh's title bouts had been must watch contests, with the then 19 year old quickly getting a reputation as a boxing steam train. Once he got going, there was no slowing him down.
His third challenger was 31 year old Dong Myung Shin, a former amateur stand out who had debuted in 2018, taking a 6 round decision, had then fought again in early 2019 before have an 11 month break between fights. He had looked very skilled in those two bouts, but they had come at a low level, against opponents he was supposed to beat. Those two bouts showed that whilst he was skilled he lacked power, and couldn't hurt the men he was up against.
Shin was dropping in weight to take on Suh in a bout that looked set to be really intriguing. Maybe not special, but certainly intriguing with aggressive monster taking on skilled mover.
Then we got to the bout and we were treat to something fantastic.
From the off Suh took the center of the ring, and looked to take the initiative early. He was backing Shin up, and Shin had to rely on his excellent boxing skills to neutralise the pressure of the hungry champion. The challenger did that well with some excellent footwork, clean counters and even held his own when the two men exchanged on the inside. It was clear Shin was far, far more skilled than the champion, but this wasn't first time Suh was the less skilled fighter in the ring, and he knew it. He knew his strength wasn't his skill, but his tenacity and work rate, and he tried to drown Shin activity in round 2. Once again however the challenger created space and picked him off, landing the cleaner blows.
Through 2 rounds it was clear that Shin's balance, poise, composure, timing and skills were all fantastic at this level, and he was starting to land clean and heavy blows consistently. That success however was coming at the expense of working really hard. Mentally and physically Shin was being asked a lot of questions, more than he had been asked in his first 2 professional bouts.
More was to come from Suh who seemed to start round 3 with success, his best of the fight up to this point. It suddenly seemed like maybe Suh's pressure youthful energy was getting to the challenger, who was still landing the better shots, but was under pressure for the first half of the round. And then Shin turned it around, and went on the offensive, giving us one of the rounds of the year, as Shin forced Suh backwards and we got 90 seconds of intense, brilliant, action. This was suddenly becoming Suh's type of fight, and was becoming thoroughly engrossing. That same engrossing action continued in round 4, with both men landing some huge shots. It was again Shin that was landing the better shots, but he simply couldn't discourage Suh from trying to march him down, not matter what he landed.
In round 5 it started to look a little bit like the pace had began to get to Shin, who's footwork was starting to slow and he was holding his ground with Suh in a way he hadn't earlier in the bout. But then in the final minute Shin went into a new gear and unloaded huge shots on Suh, just as it seemed Suh was starting to get some momentum.
Although Suh refuses to back off from Shin, and even had some pretty notable success, he seemed to have the play taken away from him by Shin every time he managed to build some success. Despite that Suh wasn't going to give his title up, and round after round he tried to go to war with Shin, giving us some spectacular 2-way action. Sadly for Suh however he was fighting on will alone, and his skills couldn't come close to keeping him competitive with Shin.
By the end of round 7 Suh's nose was bloodied, his will was beginning to be cracked. His usual tactic of "fight, fight, fight" was being neutralised by Shin's amateur experience and know how, his weak defense was being picked apart and he was unable to deal with the subtle things Shin was doing. This was even more obvious in round 8, as Suh struggled to close the space for the first time, Shin using his feet to create space and counter the champion.
Entering round 9 both were bloodied. Suh's nose, Shin's left eye. Both had taken a lot of shots, but neither had ever looked close to being stopped, and neither would be, as their toughness saw them through the final 2 scintillating rounds of action.
For those who like high intensity action, a nice mix of skills, and inside wars this is a must watch. It is up there with the very best battles we saw in Asia in 2020. It was relatively one sided, but thoroughly captivating. Round 3 is one of the most sensational rounds we had in Asia this year. The fight itself was an absolute joy, and from round 1 to round 10 we were treat by the perfect mix of skills, wills, desire and talent. This is the Korean domestic scene as it's best, and this is what happens when we see the desire of a Korean boxer take on someone with skills to use that heart against them.
If you want a war we have a war here!
One thing we're really excited about for 2020 is Korea. The country over delivered, massively, in 2019 and if it does the same again this year it's going to be hard to not be raving about it by the end of the year. With the country able to provide great action, interesting low key match ups and some solid tournaments it's the place where we turn for this weeks "One to Watch".
The One to Watch?
Han Bin Suh (5-0-3, 4) Vs Shin Dong Myung (2-0)
January 18th (Saturday)
We genuinely love watching Korean fighters and here we have two Koreans with very different styles. In one corner is a technically well schooled fighter whilst the other fighter involved is a guy who fights with the intensity set to 11. Stylistically we're interested but it also puts two unbeaten men and it's a great fight for a Korean title!
Although not a star, by any stretch of the imagination, 19 year old Korean Han Bin Suh is the KBM Super Bantamweight champion and one of the most legitimately fun to watch fighters on the planet. The teenager is technically rudimentary but is everything we love about Korean boxing. He sets an incredibly high pace and throws so much leather that every fight of his is a fight worth watching. Although limited he swarms people to the point where they need to match him and few can do that, especially over 10 rounds, as Suh has shown he can do. He doesn't slow down, and worryingly for his opponents they do. Suh doesn't hit particularly hard, but hits that often, and takes a shot so well, that every single one of his bouts end up being amazing to watch and gruelling wars.
Shin Dong Myung is a former amateur standout who made his professional debut in September 2018 though failed to really build on impressive debut win over Hiroyuki Sagehashi by only fighting once in 2019. Prior to turning professional he had been a very successful Korean amateur with a reported 175-25 (50) record, including multiple national championships. Despite not being busy as a professional his talented has been obvious from his two professional bouts. He looks super relaxed in the ring, controls distance well and is one of the very few Korean fighters who could be described as being very technical. He's not very busy, but he is very accurate, very efficient and very clean punching. He is, however, also a bit of a slow starter, and we wonder whether he has the gas tank to go 10 rounds.
What to expect?
We expect to see Suh set a Suh like pace from the opening round, and force Myung to fight his fight. If you stand off Myung he will outbox most fighters at this level, he's simply too good. But against a little terrier like Suh, who marches forward, throws a lot and dictates the tempo so well, we think Myung will be the man forced to change his style. Early on Myung may be able to fight his fight, though given he's already looked like a slow starter we wouldn't back that idea too strongly, but as the rounds pass Suh will get more and more success and make this into a thriller. This will end up being an incredible fight by the end.
The bad news?
The live stream for the bout is on SPOTV, which isn't easy to get access to. Thankfully however BoxingM and SPOTV do tend to make things widely available on youtube in the weeks following tjhe contest. So keep your eyes out for this one!
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.