It's fair to say that 2020 was not a year that any of us expected, with the world pretty much shut down due to the pandemic. The reality is that boxing was a long way down the priority for most fans and just surviving through things was more important. Rather than talking about what we all went through we want to actually raise a note before we look at this week's Treasure Trove bout, and that is China. Over the previous few years China was growing as a key area for boxing, it was hosting notable bouts and was giving us more and more shows worthy of tuning in to. In 2020 however the country held very few bouts with any international attention.
One of the very few they did have with anything representing a genuine international level bout came on January 12th in Qingdao. The main event of that card was a particularly interesting matchup as it pit an exciting and fun to watch Korean against an exciting and fun to watch local, in a bout for a regional title. It wasn't a huge bout, but it was one of the few bouts of genuine note to take place in China during 2020.
With that introduction out the way let's take a look at this week's Treasure Trove bout!
Youli Dong (15-2-1, 9) vs In Duck Seo (12-2-2, 7)
The match up featured Chinese hopeful Youli Dong battling against South Korean In Duck Seo for the OPBF Silver Welterweight title. The bout was part of a 4 bout show and was, by far and away, the most interesting match up on the card.
The 24 year old Dong was one of the few Chinese hopefuls of real note. He had been beaten a couple of times, though he had avenged a 2018 loss to Adam Diu Abdulhamid and the only other loss came on the road in a close bout to the unbeaten Mikka Shohena. He lacked recognisable names on his record, but his style was fun to watch and he would have thought that the OPBF silver title would have begun to open doors for him, if he could win here.
Seo on the other hand was more well known internationally. He was a South Korean who had clashed with a number of Central Asian fighters in South Korea and had scored a brutal KO in Australia against Tysinn Best, in a genuinely big upset. Coming in to this bout he had lost a close technical decision to Khusniddin Pulatov, which had slowed the momentum he had been building, but he has won his 3 prior bouts and there was still some hope that he was going to make a mark on the regional and become one of the major players for Korean boxing.
The bout got off to a very, very quick start with Seo being put down within seconds, from a jab! This was just 20 seconds into the bout and not a good sign for the Korean. Despite being down he wasn't hurt, but it did, essentially, help secure the momentum for the local, momentum that Seo tried to slow almost immediately as he got to his feet and began to pressure Dong around the ring.
With the first round not going his way Seo tried to set the pace for round 2 and Dong answered back almost immediately. It was a great start to the ring with both men freely letting their shots go. Technically it wasn’t the sweet science, but it was a good fun early round, with both men being forced to take some big shots during a captivating 3 minutes. It was a round that clearly showed the defensive and technical limitations of the two men involved but it was also a round that provided some good action. That good action spilled over into the start of round 3 as the quicker, sharper Dong looked to punish the clumsier, slower Seo. It very much seemed like Dong was having things his way, despite the pressure and tenacity of Seo.
As we got into the middle rounds of the bout the tempo increased. Seo, now becoming more desperate, was pressing more and throwing more, whilst Dong continued to use his feet well and looked comfortable when he had to fight in the pocket with combinations to the body. Seo’s face was reddening but he hardly seemed to notice and he trudged forward looking to break down Dong, and looking to land the punches needed to make the Chinese fighter question himself. In round 6 we finally seemed to see Dong showing some cracks under the pressure, but Seo couldn’t make them stick before Dong began to have success again, leading to a brilliant sequence at the end of the round.
With the rounds ticking on Seo would have gone into the final rounds knowing he needed something big, and to his credit he kept looking. He kept coming forward, trying to draw Dong into a war on the inside. He had success, and caught Dong with a lot of clean shots, but they came at a price. He was eating a lot coming forward, he was eating a lot when the two men traded blows, and he was putting a lot into trying to close the distance. Midway through round 9 however he had shaken Dong to his core, and had left the Chinese fighter with blood smeared across his face. Seo knew there was still a chance to turn this around as we went into the 10th, and final, round whilst Dong likely knew he needed to remain on his feet. With that in mind it’s no surprise we continued to see Seo come forward, launching bombs and further punishing the then swollen, bloodied and damaged face of the Chinese fighter.
We won’t ruin the result of this one, but it’s a wonderfully brutal, yet sloppy, hard hitting affair. At times this looks more like a drunken pub fight than the skilled art of boxing, but through out it’s wonderful. It’s violent. It’s exciting. It’s the sort of bout that we enjoy and was one of the very, very few boxing highlights from China in 2020.
*Note - The video for this bout has some weird cuts, including one towards the end of round 2 and 5 among other rounds, and some terrible sound that jitters between almost silent commentary and loud, brash music between rounds. Sadly alternative videos for the bout were worse than 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.