To many international fans the first major Korean fighter to make a name for himself was Ki Soo Kim, the first Korean to win a world title. For Korean fans however Kim wasn't the first boxing star, that was an honour held by Se Chul Kang (who has a reported record of 15-18-2, 7), a man who would actually lose to Kim 3 times during his career!
Kang was a genuine star in Korea and fought as a professional between 1953 and 1966, fighting 35 bouts and having some mixed success in the ring, along with a lot of scandals outside of it. Despite some issues in his personal life Kang was a major player in Korean boxing. In fact when he died in 2007 Kang was described by Bo Young Hang, the then vice chairman of the Korean Boxing Committee, as "The deceased was the most important person in the early days of professional boxing in Korea".
With that in mind lets take a look at what made Kang so important to Korea boxing in the 1950's and 1960's.
1-Kang began boxing in the 1940's, as a teenager, and trained alongside Kwon No Kap, who would later become a notable Korean politician and be involved in financial scandals at the turn of the millennium.
2-In 1957 Kang won a Korean national title, but it wasn't until 1960 that he became a star. That happened in November 1960 when he won the OPBF Light Middleweight title. This win saw him become not just the inaugural OPBF champion at the weight, but also the first Korean to win an OPBF title, in any weight class. This bout was said to have drawn a huge crowd, with more than 10,000 fans in attendance at a baseball stadium to see Kang become the Oriental champion.
3-In 1965 there was a request from the JBC to suspend Kang due to an issue where Kang had violated a contract. He was scheduled to fight in Tokyo, had been paid money before the fight and then failed to turn up. This was reportedly the second time he had done this.
Interestingly prior to these issues Kang had challenged for the Japanese Welterweight title, back in 1958, losing to Jiro Takada. This bout is recognised as a successful defense for Takada despite the fact Kang wasn't a Japanese fighter.
4-Se Chul Kang wasn't the only successful boxer in the the family. In fact after he retired his son, Hubert Kang, went on to become a very successful fighter himself. In fact Hubert Kang was one of the most notable Korean fighters of the 1960's and 1970's becoming a huge star in Korea and winning both the OPBF and South Korean Featherweight titles. During his career the talented Hubert defeated several notable fighters, including Kuniaki Shibata.
5-Surprisingly Kang had a decent grasp of English, with KNNews reporting that he sport English though it's unclear to what level. What is known is that his ability to understand English played a major role in Kang being sent over from Korea to the US to some Heavyweight world title fights. Sadly reports on which ones are unclear, though it's reported that he covered Sonny Liston's 1962 bout with Floyd Patterson and Liston's 1964 bout with Muhammad Ali, which saw Ali become the Heavyweight world champion.
Bonus Fact - In 2005 a Korean newspaper reported that Kang was an alcoholic "Kang who is seventy-eight this year, is a drunk old man who has to drink a bottle or two of beer every day. Before the Chungmuro Samgyeopsal restaurant or beer corner opens for dinner, Mr. Kang stumbles drunk". Sadly Kang died just a few years after this report.
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).