In 1966 Ki Soo Kim became the first South Korean boxer to win a professional world title, defeating Nino Benvenuti for the Light Middleweight title. He would reign as the champion for almost 2 years, before losing in Italy to Sandro Mazzinghi having notched 2 defenses. His reign, although a very significant one for South Korea, is often forgotten by Western fans.
Sadly, though as with many fighters from the 60's, watching footage of Kim isn't easy, but there is a lot of information that is forgotten about one of Asia's most important fighters. With that in mind let us bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Ki Soo Kim.
1-Born in 1939 Kim was a youngster when Korea was split, following years under Japanese rule. Interestingly, despite being the first South Korean world champion, he was born South Hamgyong Province, which would later be part of North Korea, when the country was split in 1945. Giving him the unique claim, at least on paper, of being the first fighter from North Korea to win a world title. Sadly though he was a refugee and this move left him and his family in poverty.
2-Ki Soo Kim's father, who was a notable sumo wrestler, died just days before Kim was born.
3-Kim was a natural athlete as a youngster, being a very capable volleyball player, soccer player and wrestler. As a wrestler he wrestled with Kim Il, who went on to be better known as Kintaro Oki. Oki would later go on to have a legendary professional wrestling career and share the ring with icons like Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba.
4-In 1958 Kim won gold at the Tokyo Asian Games. He was fighting in the 67KG division and beat Souren Pirjanian, from Iran, in the gold medal bout.
5-Despite being well known for his professional win over Nino Benvenuti for the Light Middleweight world title Kim had actually faced the Italian great several years earlier. In fact Benvenuti had beaten Kim in the 1960 Olympics, before going on to win the gold medal.
6-After his world title win there was a movie released called ‘내 주먹을 사라’ (roughly translates as "Buy my Fist") which featured Kim, who would go on to be in other movies. "Buy my Fist" would be a boxing movie that focus on how a death of a fighter affects the fighter who caused the death.
7-Kim's professional debut saw him take a 10 round decision over Sae Chul Kang, in fact Kim's first 2 wins were over Kang. What makes this note worthy is that Kang was the Oriental (OBF, which has now become the OPBF) Champion at Light Middleweight
8-Between Kim's world title bouts, at Light Middleweight, he defended the OBF Middleweight title. From his world title win in June 1966 to his title loss in May 1968 he defended the world title at Light Middleweight twice and the OBF title, also twice. During his entire career Kim went 6-1 in OBF title bouts and was a 2-time OBF champion, losing the belt in 1968 to Hisao Minami and reclaiming it just a few months later.
9-Following Kim's boxing career he went on to become a successful business man, and notable ran a tea house in Myeong-dong.
10-Kim passed away after a battle with Liver Cancer in 1997. He was survived by his wife, 2 sons and 2 daughters.
Extra Fact - Although unconfirmed Kim reportedly had an 87-1 amateur record, meaning his loss to Benvenuti at the Rome Olympics was his only defeat in the unpaid ranks.
Extra fact 2 - Korean sources state that it cost $55,000 to bring Benvenuti to Korea in 1966, accounting for inflation that's £426,261 in today's money.
Extra fact 3 - In 1965 he met American trainer Bobby Richards, who would later go on to be his trainer
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).