Boxing is a sport that is full of tragedy. It's a sport that has more depressing stories than pretty much any other. The amount of boxers who been murdered or died doing what they love is sadly longer than anyone wishes to even think about. Sadly though the tragedy of the sport and it's stars is part of it's history, and even, in some morbid way, part of the fascination with some fighters.
Today we look at one of the fighters who managed to get out of the sport with faculties intact, but even then was unable to have a long and prosperous life outside of the ring. In fact when he passed away he had spent several years of his life in a vegetative state, with the hope being that he would make a recovery, a recovery that never came.
Today we're going to be talking about Hwan Kil Yuh (26-2-3, 11), who fought as a professional from 1979 to 1985. He was dubbed the "Korean Hagler", due to his hair style, and was an exciting, tough fighter who's career was exciting, short but ultra active. Whilst his career was a short one it was intense.
During his 6 years in the professional ranks Yuh claimed the OPBF Featherweight title in 1981, when he beat Jung Han Hwang, and then went on to win the IBF Super Featherweight title in 1984.
Yuh began his career in March 1979 with a win over Yun Bok Cho in Busan and ended the year with a 7-0-1 (5) record. He would remain busy in 1980 with another 6 wins, though ended the year with his first loss, a decision to future South Korean Featherweight champion Hyun Ahn in Seoul.
The loss to Ahn was then followed by a fantastic run from Yuh, who went on to win 15 in a row. That winning run saw Yuh over-come Jung Han Hwang for the OPBF title in 1981, ending Hwang's reign less than 2 months after he took the total from Royal Kobayashi. Sadly Yuh's reign with the OPBF title wasn't a great one, but he did make 3 defenses in the space of 10 months. As he edged towards a world title fight he vacated the OPBF belt, setting up his 1984 clash with Rod Sequenan for the IBF Super Featherweight title.
Yuh's bout for IBF Super Featherweight title saw him take a close decision over veteran Sequenan to become the first ever IBF champion at the weight. He also made a single successful defeat, stopping Sak Galaxy, the man who gave Khaosai Galaxy his sole professional loss. Sadly though he lost in his second defense, as he lost a close decision to Lester Ellis in Australia, in what was a real tough and messy fight.
After losing the IBF title Yuh fought just once more, beating former world title challenger Tae Jin Moon, before walking away from the sport at the age of 23. He achieved more than most fighters ever will, being both a regional and world champion. Given he was so young when he hung them up he essentially had a long life ahead of him. At least that was the hope.
Following his in ring career Yuh ran a restaurant Goyang, Korea. That was until September 2006 when he was injured in a hit and run incident. The injuries he suffered left him in a vegetative state at the Myongji Hospital. He would spend more than 2 year in hospital, with the hope being that on day he would show some signs of recovery. Sadly those signs never came and he would pass away on April 21st 2009, aged just 46.
Sadly, given that usually Korean papers are amazing to read through online, there isn't a lot available of Yuh. A shame given his place in history, as the first IBF Super Featherweight champion. Given his short career that's perhaps no surprise but it is still a shame that the "Korean Hagler" had his life cut short, essentially in his mid 40's.
Yuh got out of the sport fine, but sadly was still taken far, far too soon.
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).