Korean boxer takes world title in South African bout
(By Jason Kim - joongangdaily.joins.com)
September 14, 2009
Kim Ji-hoon, the newly crowned IBO junior lightweight champion, celebrates after defeating Zolani Marali by way of knockout in the ninth round in Johannesburg, South Africa, yesterday.
After more than two years away from the international boxing scene, Korea got a world boxing champion yesterday.
Challenger Kim Ji-hoon earned the International Boxing Organization junior lightweight title by defeating Zolani Marali of South Africa in the ninth round by way of knockout in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday.
“Not once did I think about the possibility of losing the match,” said Kim in an interview with Yonhap after the match. “People often say boxing is a sport wherein results reflect the amount of sweat and blood shed during training. That message really hit home today. I want to thank my trainer, Kim Hyung-yeol, and his family as well as all those who showed support,” the boxer said.
With about 30 overseas Koreans urging him on, the 22-year-old orthodox challenger from Ilsan, Gyeonggi, knocked out the 32-year-old southpaw champion at the Emperor’s Palace Hotel in Johannesburg.
By winning a world title at his first attempt, Kim became the lone Korean world champion. Korea has not had a world boxing champion since WBC featherweight champion Chi In-jin vacated his title in July 2007 to compete in the kickboxing league, K-1.
With the win, Kim improved his record to 19 wins and five losses with 16 of the wins coming by way of knockouts. He has now won his last nine matches since December 2006 by knockouts.
Having lowered his weight class for the bout, Kim had to struggle to make weight. Since arriving in Johannesburg on Sept. 6, Kim stuck to a strict diet of two spoons of rice, two pieces of steamed garlic and one fried egg per meal. He had to do without any water prior to the weigh in.
He struggled in the early rounds as Marali switched to an orthodox stance and kept the younger and faster Kim at a distance.
As Marali stuck to an out-fighting style using long-range punches, Kim struggled to adapt to the veteran’s strategy and failed to connect. Kim began to take control in the fifth round, as Marali switched to his natural southpaw stance.
With Marali showing signs of fatigue, Kim connected a right punch to the temple of Marali a minute into the ninth round and followed up with a left hook to down the staggering champ.
“I was startled to see Marali fight in the orthodox form until the fifth round,” said Kim. “[Thanks to the win] I will have boxing fans around the world remember my name.”