When we talk about forgotten men of Korean boxing Hyung Chul Lee (19-6, 15) is one of the names that needs to be mentioned. The heavy handed Super Flyweight fought between 1987 and 1996 and managed to win the WBA Super Flyweight title in a career that started terrible, got turned around, and so him becoming the toast of boxing in Korea, at least for a few months.
The very likeable Korean was a heavy handed fighter, with the typical Korean grit and determination and the type of man who had no fear of travelling abroad for major fights. In fact 4 of his 25 bouts took place in Japan including his career defining victory along with a loss that helped shape his career.
Fans who have seen some of Lee's bout, including his tremendous 1994 bout with Katsuya Onizuka, will know he could bring the action and be involved in some amazing contests, but other than than that not much is really remembered about him. With that in mind lets take a look at 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Hyung-Chul Lee!
1-Lee began boxing at the age of 15, and did so with the intention of making money, as he came from a poor family, and his father's business had failed.
2-As a professional fighter Lee began his career 1-3, meaning he suffered half of his career losses in his first 4 bouts. Interestingly he also suffered 2 losses in his last 2 bouts. In the rest of his career he went 18-1 (15), with his only loss during that stretch coming to the talented David Griman of Venezuela, then ranked #2 in the world by the WBA. On a similar note half of his losses came to fellow Korean's and the half also came to Venezuelans, with Griman accounting for one and Alimi Goitia accounting for the other two.
3-Despite losing to David Griman in 1990 Lee has spoke fondly about the contest, and how it helped build his confidence. At the time Griman was ranked #2 by the WBA and Lee legitimately gave him a run for his money and managed to cut Griman. Not bad for a 20 year old with a 7-3 (5) record who few gave any chance to. He explained to Boxmob in 2015 that that that loss was his most memorable bout.
4-In April 1994 Lee was scheduled to face Katsuya Onizkua, the then WBA Super Flyweight champion, but pulled out of the bout due to his father having cancer. As a result Onizuka faced Seung Koo Lee, who he beat via a controversial 12 round decision. Lee would then get a shot at Onizuka 5 months later, and upset the Japanese star, stopping him in 9 rounds in an absolute barn burner.
For those wondering Lee's father had successful cancer surgery before Lee and Onizuka did face off. Also worth noting is that Seung Koo Lee and Hyung Chul Lee often sparred together.
5-Going into that aforementioned bout with Onizuka, Lee had been promised a house if he won by one of his sponsors. Sadly for Lee the sponsor failed to deliver on that promise.
6-Sadly for Lee his reign was a short lived one, making just a single defense of the title when he stopped Tomonori Tamura 5 months after winning the title. Going into that bout Lee had a pretty severe injury in his right hand and needed an anaesthetic injection before the fight. Sadly for him the anaesthesia wore off around the 7th round, leaving him fighting in agony against a badly swollen Tamura. Sadly he lost the title just 5 months later, losing in a controversial bout against Alimi Goitia, that was horribly officiated by Armand Krief.
7-Although best known for his short reign as the WBA Super Flyweight champion it wasn't the only only honour that Lee took. Prior to winning the world title he had won the Korean national title, in 1991, and the Korean Rookie of the Year crown, in 1989.
8-Following his retirement from boxing Lee has had a number of jobs. These included running a coffee shop and later as a salesman for a pharmaceutical company.
9-As of January 2015 Lee had two children, a son who was 13 and a daughter who was 11. He was also married to a nurse
10-The fighter shares his name with a Korean Actor. The acting Hyung-Chul Lee has featured in Korean TV shows, Movies and even on stage, playing the role of Henry Higgins in a stage production of "My Fair Lady".
With our recent facts articles all focusing on single fighters we've decided to do one with a twice this weekend as we look at Asian fighters who won a world title but failed to win their professional debuts! We were surprised to find so many of these, but there was actually quite a few, in fact there was more than 25 world champions from Asia who either lost on debut, or drew on debut. Many of these aren't big names, but on the whole they all deserve a lot more attention than they get
1-Whilst we found lots of champions who have debuted in 6 rounders and even a few who debuted in bouts scheduled for 8, such as Naoya Inoue very recently. It is rare, so rare in fact that we could only find two world champions from Asia who debuted in an 8 rounder and lost, before winning a world title. The first of those was Frank Cedeno, the British Filipino fighter who beat Charlie Magri in Wembley for the WBC Flyweight title in 1983, we'll get on to the second later in this article!
2-Korea's second ever world champion Soo Hwan Hong, who is also the first Korean to win titles in more than 1 weight class, draw on his debut to the debuting Sang Il Kim. Coincidentally his career also ended on a draw, as he fought to a stalemate with fellow former world champion Dong Kyun Yum, in what was Hong's 51st bout. That was also Yum's final bout. Incidentally Sang Il Kim's record is 0-1-1.
3-Former WBA Super Flyweight champion Hyung Chul Lee lost 3 of his first 4 bouts, including his debut. Strangely his career ended going full circle and he would also lose his final 2 bouts, both against Alimi Goitia, with only 1 loss in the middle of his career. He would end up with a career record of 19-6 (15)
4-China's first ever male world champion, Xiong Zhao Zhong, fought to a draw on debut. Aged 23 at the time Zhong fought to a 4 round draw with Lingfeng Yu. Yu ended his career 0-6-1, and his only non-loss was the bout to Zhong!
5-Another world champion who fought to a draw on debut was Kwanthai Sithmorseng, who fought to a draw with Nakhon Muensa in June 2005. Kwanthai last fought in June 2019, and despite a draw on his debut he had now gone 56 straight fights without another draw, going 49-7 since that debut draw.
6-Our research suggests that Sho Kimura is the only Asian world champion to have been knocked out on debut! Even more surprising is the fact that Kimura has since built a reputation on being an incredibly tough competitor with a great gas tank. Not the type of fighter you'd think was blown away in 75 seconds on debut!
7-Filipino fighter Manny Melchor retired with a record of 38-35-6 (6), following a loss on his debut. This record makes the former IBF Minimumweight champion one of the very few world champions with a sub 50% winning record.
8-Staying with Manny Melchor, he won just 1 of his first 9 bouts! Starting his career 1-6-2. Things actually took a long time to get better for the Filipino who was 8-8-2 (2) after 18 bouts and didn't have more wins than losses until his 27th bout, when he beat Angelo Escobar to advance his record to 13-12-2 (4)
9-Incidentally the man that Melchor beat for the IBF Minimumweight title, Fahlan Sakkreerin Snr also lost on his debut, losing an 8 round decision, to Chana Porpaoin, who was fighting for just the second time. What makes this bout rather remarkable is that BOTH men would go on to win world titles! Porpaoin would would be a 2-time WBA Minimumweight champion whilst Sahlan would be an IBF Minimumweight champion. Yes, Fahlan was the second of the fighters to lose in an 8 rounder on debut, though of course the more notable fact here was who he lost to!
10-Korean fighter Sung Jun Kim strangely began his career 0-1-1, with his debut being a loss and then his second being a draw, both to the same opponent, In Soo Lim. As with some of the other opponents mentioned these were Lim's only bouts Kim also had a loss and a draw, later in his career, to Hong Soo Yang, and ended his career in 1982 with a loss, book ending his career with losses.
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).