Duk Koo Kim: The Sacrifice


28.01.05 – By Vaughn “Bigboscoe” Featherstone: In the course of a lifetime, we eventually must sacrifice things in order to open doors to better opportunities. Some of us make sacrifices for others voluntarily while others do it reluctantly. But there are those who make sacrifices unwillingly as well as unknowingly. This is the case of former Lightweight Duk Koo Kim.

Having won 17 of 18 fights, Kim was assigned the number one ranking by the WBA against World Champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini although the caliber of competition he (Kim) had faced was nowhere near the Championship level that most challengers would have had to have in order to receice such an opportunity. Mancini was a rising star who had just come off two spectacular victories over World class fighters. His six-round dominating TKO victory over Ernesto Espana and the 2:54 war against Arturo Frias (for the WBA crown) proved to the Boxing world that Mancini was a force in the Lightweight division.

Many saw Kim as undeserving and way over his head having fought only one fight outside his native South Korea with a 8th round TKO over Tony Flores in the Phillipines.(Flores was 3-2 at the time of the fight, and 3-7 his entire career)

Through all of the media ridicule, the fight turned out ot be very entertaining with Kim proving that he was a worthy challenger regardless of what his lack of big fight experience showed. Throughout the first 12 rounds, Mancini and the southpaw Kim went toe to toe landing big shots with neither fighter taking a step back. When it looked like Kim was about to faulter, he came back and pounded Mancini to the head and body. Many felt the experience of Mancini and 15 round distance would finish Kim off quickly. Before the fight, Kim had to sweat off excess weight to make the 135 pound Lightweight limit.

As the fight moved into the later rounds, the body punching of Mancini began to take its toll on Kim but Kim continued to fight on like the warrior he was. Mancini’s shots began to find its mark and showed on Kims face while Kim’s punches began to lose its sting. Kim continue to stand and trade.

At the start of round 13, Mancini charged Kim and battered him with a baraage of unanswered punches. Referee Richard Greene could have very well stopped the fight because of Kim’s lack of defense. However, the round shifted midway through as Kim began to pound Mancnini inside. What began as a one-sided round for Mancini ended up being closer than anyone could have expected. Walking back to his corner after the 13th round, Kim looked battered but not yet ready to pack it in.

Round 14 began with both fighters charging out to center ring and looking to land a surprising shot. As Kim feinted a left hook, Mancini stepped to his right and countered with a left-right hook combination. Kim threw a two left hooks to the body. Mancini landed a chopping right hand that caught Kim flush on the bridge of the nose followed by a vicious left hook to the chin. Kim wobbled defenseless. Mancini then followed with another right-left hook combination with the straight right that sent Kim reeling backwards and flat on his back. Kim rose with the assistance of the ropes but was in no shape to continue.

The praise of the challenger was short-lived as he collapse moments after the fight was over and slipped into a coma. Brain surgery was done to relieve pressure on his brain but it proved useless as Kim died 5 days later.

A lot could be blamed in the death of Duk Koo Kim. Some say the 15 round distance was the primary cause while others blame the distance combined with the weight he had to drop for the fight. In contrast, while Kim had never been 15 rounds while only going 12 rounds twice, Mancini had gone to or past 12 rounds 5 times and against World champions such as Alexi Arguello and Jose Luis Ramirez.

The death of Duk Koo Kim also proved tragic outside of the ring. Referee Richard Greene committed suicide months after the fight, while Kim’s mother did the same four months later. Mancini had a tough time continuing his career. Although he eventually stepped back into the ring, he was never the same fighter going 4-4 in his final 8 bouts. Possibly, had Greene stopped the fight in the 13th round, Kim may have lived. But hindsight is 20/20 and who knows? Kim’s fateful injuries may have already been acquired. What could be described as eerie, Kim had wrote on his hotel room’s mirror, “Kill or be Killed.”

Following the death of Duk Koo Kim, Boxing began to reform itself with new rules and regulations before and after fights. Fights were reduced from 15 to 12 as doctors determined that most fatal injuries occur inside of those rounds. Other changes were that electrocardiograms, blood tests, and other physical tests be performed before and after bouts to avoid at-risk fighters from stepping into the ring.

Deaths in the ring happen and there is no way of stopping them completely. Boxing is a brutal sport and the fans craving for a vicious knockout only burns the fire within a fighter even more. The pressure of the media as well as fans for a dominating victory over a fighter will keep the bar raised when it comes to victory.

Training tip (amateurs) – Technique: As a former boxer, I used to struggle with the question, “What should I work on?” I did everything on the round system. Over a three round training session (depending on how many rounds you train), work on your jab and straight right in round one. Pop your jab and double jab. Occassionally throw your straight (right or left depending on your style). Bob/weave following your jab. Round two, work on the techniques you worked on in round one but add your hook to the body. On occassion add a left-right hook combination. Of course, if you are a dancer, incorporate your lateral movement. In round three, use your techniques from both rounds while working on finishing your opponent. Then you should add your uppercuts and other specialty punches you may have. Don’t forget to bob/weave and feint. You want to simulate the actual “championship round.” For the last 10 seconds, let loose with a barrage of punches while staying close to the bag.

Comments, criticism? Email me: thirdman_boxing@yahoo.com