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Best I Faced: Jung-Koo Chang

Former WBC junior flyweight titlist Jung-Koo Chang. Photo courtesy of the International Boxing Hall of Fame
01
Oct

In his prime, Jung-Koo Chang was a force of nature, a 108-pound wrecking machine. He one of the greatest fighters to ever come from South Korea. In the 1980s, he held the junior flyweight division record of 16 defenses.

Chang was born in Busan, South Korea, on February 4, 1963. He was the youngest of five children from a poor family.

“When I was a child, I always fought my friends and also played soccer,” Chang told The Ring through Tomoyuki Kataoka. “I became interested in boxing in 1975, when I watched a fight between Ben Villaflor and Hyun-Chi Kim.

“I decided to do boxing and joined a boxing gym called Busan Far East General Gym, on August 11, 1975.”

Incredibly Chang never fought an amateur contest and made his professional debut as a 17-year-old in November 1980. He won his first 18 bouts, notably besting former WBC titlist Amado Ursua.

His promoter was able to tempt the silky smooth WBC beltholder Hilario Zapata to South Korea, in September, 1982. The two fought on near-even terms but Zapata retained his title by razor-thin split decision.

Six months later, a weight-drained Zapata returned to South Korea and this time Chang demolished the future Hall-of-Famer in three blitzkrieg rounds. It was understandably his proudest moment in boxing.

“When I won the WBC light flyweight championship at the age of 20,” he said. “They did a parade of cars in my hometown, Busan.”

Jung-Koo Chang. Photo courtesy of the WBC

Jung-Koo Chang. Photo courtesy of the WBC

“The Korean Hawk” went on to build a fearsome reputation, turning back future world champions, grizzled Mexican veteran German Torres (UD 12, MD 12, UD 12), Sot Chitalada (UD 12), Hideyuki Ohashi (TKO 5 and TKO 8) and the heavy-handed Isidro Perez (UD 12).

After the second win over Ohashi in June 1988, Chang surprisingly decided to walk away from boxing at just 25 years old.

“In my boxing career, I only concentrated on boxing and because of that, when there were complicated matters outside the ring, I could not focus on boxing,” he said of his reasoning for retiring at a young age. “I had a dispute with my then-wife; we got divorced. I couldn’t concentrate on boxing and so decided to return my championship belt and retire.”

Just 14 months later, Chang was back inside a boxing ring.

“I fell victim to a big fraud case and because of the financial damages, I decided to return to professional boxing,” he explained. “However I could not box like I did before because I was not in good condition mentally and physically.”

After one comeback fight, Chang challenged for his old crown against the recently-minted Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez. He was no match for the skilled Mexican and dropped a wide decision.

Chang wasn’t finished and fought on. He twice unsuccessfully challenged for the WBC 112-pound title. Initially dropping a majority decision to Chitalada in a rematch and then having dropped Muangchai Kittikasem three times in the final round, he got caught going for the finish and was dramatically stopped.

Chang decided to retire, this time for good, with a record of (38-4, 17 knockouts).

The fight many wanted to see in the 1980s was Chang versus fellow Korean star and now friend Myung Woo Yuh. Both were long-reigning champions at the same time. However for a number of reasons, the unification never took place.

“At that time (in South Korea), any fight money was funded by terrestrial broadcasting fees,” he explained. “My manager had a contract with KBS (Korea Broadcasting System) and the manager of Yuh had a contract with MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation).

“It seemed that KBS and MBC would like to air an unification bout between us; however they could not afford to pay both of us.”

In 2010, Chang became the first Korean to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

 

Jung-Koo Chang. Photo courtesy of the International Boxing Hall of Fame

Jung-Koo Chang. Photo courtesy of the International Boxing Hall of Fame

Chang, now 56, is married and lives in Seoul. He has four children, two from his first marriage and two from his second marriage. Since retiring from boxing, he has managed a restaurant and a boxing gym. He also enjoys socializing with friends and regularly visits former opponent Ohashi as well as Yuh.

He graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.

BEST JAB

Sot Chitalada: He always threw his jabs by maintaining the right posture and therefore it was very difficult for me to find out his weakness.

BEST DEFENSE

Hilario Zapata: He was very tall and had his lithe body and therefore it was very difficult to land my punches on him.

FASTEST HANDS

Humberto Gonzalez: His hand movement was very fast; however his body balance was stable and could maintain the right posture.

BEST FOOTWORK

Zapata: He had his lithe body and also good footwork to keep the right distance from me.

BEST CHIN

Isidro Perez: I tried to continue hitting him during the 12 rounds; however he did not look damaged. In fact, it seemed that there was no change to his physical condition.

SMARTEST

Zapata: He always avoided getting hit, mainly by using his defense; he could get many points. He was very smart.

STRONGEST

Gonzalez: Even though I was not in the best condition and I could hit him heavily, he kept physical condition very well.

BEST PUNCHER

Perez: I was knocked down in the first round and was heavily damaged. It was not easy but all I could do was to continue throwing punches.

BOXING SKILLS

Gonzalez: He had various techniques and also could manage the fight very well.

BEST OVERALL

Gonzalez: He always continued moving and could manage the fight very well.

 

Myung Woo Yuh and Tomoyuki Kataoka helped coordinate and translate this feature. The Ring appreciates their assistance.

 

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright.

 

 

 

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