Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)
Back in 1994, a year after he retired, The RING rated Myung Woo Yuh as the 4th greatest light flyweight of all time. In 2013 he will be inducted into the IBHOF. It took a while, but his time has finally come.
I wouldn't call Myung-Woo Yuh one of the most technically savvy fighters to make the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I wouldn't call him one of the best punchers or brawlers in it either. And I damn sure wouldn't say he was a "pretty" fighter. But the man was effective, entertained a solid fan base, and beat *6 current/future world champions among a few other solid fighters. He was just a really good all-around fighter. Consequently he beat everyone he ever faced.
In spite of being a light flyweight, in a year without many popular or super great names to choose from, Yuh's 2013 induction announcement was not shocking. At the same time I also didn't predict it. I did however predict Arturo Gatti and Virgil Hill would get the nod, which many other boxing writers seem to have a problem with. I'm not saying I would have voted for Quicksilver or Thunder either (if I was even allowed). But I also may not have voted for Yuh. It was not an easy list of fighters to choose from. Nonetheless I don't think the IBHOF bar was lowered with any of the 3 new modern inductees. Given the lukewarm nature of the 2013 pool, what more should people expect?
Yuh, 48 years of age, retired back in 1993 after an 11+ year career. Meanwhile Bernard Hopkins is scheduled for yet another world title opportunity in early 2013, also at the age of 48. Yuh will be 49 when he's officially inducted while Hopkins may be 50 before he even retires. In that sense you could say Yuh didn't have to wait too long to get in. But I'm fairly positive Hopkins won't have to wait 20 years after he retires to do the same. 20 years is a long time. Hopkins is only expected to wait 5 (the minimum). It goes without saying that B-Hop's longevity at the top validates his probable first ballot enshrinement. But if Hopkins opted to retire after his middleweight run, his credentials would not be too different from a certain South Korean.
Yuh, like Hopkins, set a division record for consecutive world title defenses. In each case most boxing fans could hardly identify most of their victims, but some stood out and many were better than they're given credit for. When it's Bernard's turn to get the call to Canastota perhaps I'll run through his defenses as well, but for now here's the main course of why Yuh is a bona fide hall of famer:
1986-03-09 Jose De Jesus
After capturing the WBA light flyweight title via a 15-round split decision victory over Joey Olivo, Yuh made his first successful defense against De Jesus in yet another hard fought 15-round encounter. However, by no means was the fight close, even though the official scorecards suggest otherwise. De Jesus was always game and showed great resiliency, but the man took a beating in several rounds. I've otherwise never seen Yuh beat a man up this much and not eventually stop him. At the time not much was known or expected of Jose, but he would later become WBO light flyweight champion. It however wouldn't be fair to ignore that the WBO had just invented the title and were/are based out of Puerto Rico...where De Jesus is from. Point being, De Jesus wasn't exactly matched tough to pick up the strap.
1986-06-14 Tomohiro Kiyuna
Kiyuna, a 3 time Japanese light flyweight champion, retired with a career mark of 23 wins and 4 losses. Aside from his losses on his way up and on his way out, Kiyuna's only defeats came to Yuh and Hideyuki Ohashi. As fate would have it Yuh and Ohashi would later become 2 time world champions. I can't speak on Yuh-Kiyuna apart from telling you that Yuh stopped Kiyuna in the 12th round, but I can tell you that Kiyuna gave Ohashi ALL he could handle.
1986-11-30 Mario Alberto De Marco I
Outside of Argentina, where he reigned as the national light flyweight champion, De Marco was widely unknown before he faced Yuh. But after Yuh won a hard fought 15-round unanimous decision, people wanted to see him again.
1987-03-01 Eduardo Tunon
I can't dress this win up at all. There's a reason Yuh ran over this guy inside 1 round. Tunon was in well over his head.
1987-06-07 Benedicto Murillo
Murillo was a step up from Tunon, but still no one to brag about. Yuh stopped him in the 15th round.
1987-09-20 Rodolfo Blanco
Although Yuh was Blanco's first world level experience, he would later become the IBF flyweight champion when he beat Dave McAuley. What Blanco lacked in experience he certainly made up in spirit as he viscously exchanged with Yuh before taking too many clean shots and tumbling to the canvas in the 8th round. Fans most definitely got their monies worth and could anticipate a bright future for Blanco.
1988-02-07 Willy Salazar
Salazar was the NABF light flyweight and Mexican flyweight champion but would never become world champion. However, following his 12 round unanimous decision defeat to Yuh, Salazar was the first man to dethrone former IBF flyweight and future IBF super flyweight champion Danny Romero. The victory was so unexpected that Salazar-Romero earned honors as the 1995 upset of the year. That fight came after Salazar was long past his prime whereas Yuh beat him in the thick of it. Prior to Yuh, Salazar was a seasoned 43 fight veteran and had already beaten future WBO flyweight champion Isidro Perez.
1988-06-12 Jose De Jesus II
De Jesus hadn't taken any notable fights since their first meeting but clearly learned enough to do even better in the rematch. Yuh never took a beating but ate a lot of jabs and could never inflict major damage on De Jesus as was the case in the original fight. It was a solid technical boxing match and the fight could have fairly gone either way. Consequently it resulted in a split decision. After narrowly escaping De Jesus again, Yuh was wise enough to avoid a trilogy. Fighters like Manny Pacquiao should have taken notes...
1988-08-28 Putt Ohyuthanakorn
Due for a soft touch, Yuh dispatched the Thai strawweight and light flyweight champion inside 6 rounds. No notable victories stand out on his resume.
1988-11-06 Udin Baharudin
Less than 3 months later Yuh found himself in a similar situation and consequently took Baharudin out in the 7th round.
1989-02-12 Katsumi Komiyama
A best Komiyama was a small step up from Ohyuthanakorn, whom he beat. Thus it took another 4 rounds before Yuh finished him off in the 10th. Body shots sat Komiyama on the ropes in the 9th, resulting in a standing 8 count. Then too many unanswered combinations forced the ref to step in the next round.
1989-06-11 Mario Alberto De Marco II
After 3 soft touches in a row Yuh upgraded to a tough opponent that he already clearly beat. Once again the audience got their monies worth, and once again Yuh won a unanimous decision. Unfortunately we'll never know how good De Marco really was because he retired after the Yuh rematch and never fought any other serious, world level opponents in his career.
1989-09-24 Kenbun Taiho
Taiho was the reigning Japanese flyweight champion. Yuh dominated then stopped him in 11 rounds. He was a decent fighter on a local level, but never stood a chance against Yuh.
1990-01-14 Hisashi Tokushima
Yuh just beat the living hell out of Japanese strawweight champion Tokushima, who visited the canvas more times than I could be bothered to count. To be honest I was surprised the fight lasted as long as it did (about 6.5 rounds).
1990-04-29 Leo Gamez I
After about 6 sure things in a row Yuh decided to live dangerously again and defended his crown against undefeated former WBA strawweight champion Gamez, the greatest opponent of his career to date. At the time Yuh had no way of knowing, but Gamez would go on to become a 4 (nearly 5) division world champion before all was said and done with his career. Anyhow, like many times before against his best opponents, Yuh barely escaped with victory. Personally I thought Yuh won by 1 point. I gave Gamez the first two and the last two rounds along with the 8th, and I had the 9th even. Gamez out boxed Yuh behind the jab at the beginning and end of the fight but largely gave in to Yuh's pressure and power shots in the middle.
1990-11-10 Leo Gamez II
I haven't actually seen more than the last 3 rounds of this rematch, but if it's an indication of the entire fight then it's no wonder that Gamez lost without controversy. Gamez dispensed with his jab and just tried to beat Yuh in a toe to toe battle. Gamez gave Yuh exactly the fight he wanted, and consequently dropped a unanimous decision.
1991-04-28 Kajkong Danphuthai
In the last successful defense of his 1st title reign Yuh dispatched Danphuthai inside 10 rounds. Danphuthai had previously done absolutely nothing to deserve the opportunity. I was more impressed by Danphuthai for making it to the 10th round than anything else, especially after getting dropped as early as round 2. When Yuh dropped Danphuthai again in round 5 it looked like the Thai was finished, but he was saved by the bell. Danphuthai got the living hell beat out of him in the 7th and went down again, although it didn't appear that the referee counted it. Either way, it was a 10-8 round regardless. Another knockdown in the 10th followed by a merciless beating against the ropes finally forced the referee to stop the fight.
And there you have it, Myung Yuh's record 17 consecutive title defenses in a nutshell. Those 17 wins involved about 6 different serious opponents, one of which might also make the hall of fame someday. Oddly enough, what some may remember the most about Yuh is what came before the title streak and what came after it ended.
Before Yuh got his 1st title shot, he waged war with Oh-Kon Son in arguably the most entertaining fight of his career. Son has no career accomplishments to speak of but Yuh was pretty green as well. The fight was a showcase of raw physical ability and I loved every minute of it. Despite receiving two eight-counts in the 2nd round Son fought rounds 3, 4, and 5 like his life depended on it. Yuh eventually broke Son down but had to walk through hell to do it. Going into the 6th a case could be made that Son was ahead, but the round saw the fight's final shift in momentum with Oh-Kon visibly wilting and back pedaling at the close of the round. Yuh's blistering combinations finally took their toll and the fight was stopped after Son was dropped by a left hook to the body in the next round. It's a fight I will never forget.
After Yuh's 17th defense against Danphuthai, all of which came in South Korea, Yuh went to Japan to defend against former WBC strawweight champion Hiroki Ioka. Ioka used his height and range to box Yuh's ears off. It was shades of the Joey Olivo fight all over again, except Yuh didn't exhibit the youthful exuberance to jump in and make a dog fight out of it. But even though I didn't think the fight was close, one judge did vote for Yuh. The rematch however was another story entirely. Yuh showed a sense of urgency from the get-go and often manhandled Ioka. Ioka did not fight the same keep-a-way type fight. He invited Yuh to bang with him on the inside and ultimately it was his undoing. One judge managed to score the rematch a draw but it was clear cut like the first fight, just in the opposite direction.
Yuh fought just once more against a non-descript opponent (Yuichi Hosono) before he retired. Hosono was a former Japanese strawweight champion but had no real meaningful wins. But Yuh had nothing left to prove anyway. He beat every man put in front of him. All that's left is to ponder what would have happened if fights with Ricardo Lopez, Michael Carbajal, and Humberto Gonzalez were made. Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section below.
*The world champions Yuh beat include Bi-Won Jung, Joey Olivo, Jose De Jesus (x2), Rodolfo Blanco, Leo Gamez (x2), and Hiroki Ioka. All were discussed in this piece save Jung, who Yuh met when both were still prospects. Yuh won a 10 round decision but I can't tell you what the fight was like.