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Hall of Fame: Jung Koo Chang, "The Korean Hawk"

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Ted Sares has been been following this fighter for years and now tells us a little about him, given his nomination to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. This excerpt is taken from a book he is now working on.

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After losing a cow, one repairs the barn. Only after a big disaster, you fix the problem.

--Korean Proverb

167671d1253292291-mighty-atoms-all-time-flyweight-championship-chang_jung-koo-1-_medium Arguably, had he fought in the U.S. during his reign, Jung-Koo Chang's popularity would had rivaled that of Aaron Pryor, from whom he took his nickname. He went 37-1 in his first 38 outings. In 1983, he avenged his first loss by icing Hilario Zapata and capturing the WBC light flyweight crown. Amazingly, "The Hawk" then established what then would be a world record for the most defenses as World Light Flyweight champion, defending the title successfully 16 times between 1983 and 1988. Chang's record for successive title defenses in the 108 pound division would fall to Myung Woo Yuh who successfully defended his WBA Jr. Flyweight Title 17 times in his first reign between 1985 and 1991. Among those "The Hawk" swooped upon were rugged Mexican bomber German Torres (thrice), a young Sot Chitalada, Francisco Montiel (twice), Hideyuki Ohashi (twice), and the great Isidro Perez. Chitalada later avenged his loss with a MD win in 1990. The following year, he lost to Muangchai "J-Okay" Kittikasem and then retired

The thing about Chang was his charisma and connection to the fans. Perhaps it had to do with his Pryor-like style which consisted of amazing hand speed and footwork. He swarmed his opponents with a relentless style and accurate volleys one after another. And, of course, typical of so many other Korean fighters of that era, he was a rough guy who would use head butts and elbows if necessary.

Chang was incredibly popular in South Korea and became the first Korean boxer to ever be ranked in the top 10 P4P by Ring Magazine. He also became one of the few champions from the lower weight classes considered as the best fighter pound for pound.

A party type of guy, not unlike the great Carlos Monzon, he drew the attention of young females. By the time he flew to Japan for a rematch against the number contender Hideyuki Ohashi who he had previously stopped in five rounds, his reflexes were not what they once were. In what was one of the great closet classics, He staggered Ohashi in the opening round. In round 3, he sent Ohashi to the canvas three times, but the challenger somehow got back up, hurting the champion with a counter punch before the round ended. Then, Ohashi began to come on strong knowing that he was badly behind on the scorecards. The two exchanged savaged shots without regard to their welfare and without any semblance of defense. Finally. "The Hawk" halted Ohashi after decking him twice in the eight canto. It was one for the books and one few ever heard about.

Had he retired there and then, it would have been a perfect ending, but boxing never promises anyone a happy ending. His wife took off to America with all of his money and, without a high school diploma, he returned to the ring in an all-too familiar story. However, it was within the realm of possibility for Chang to win another world title since he was only twenty-six years old. But he had peaked long before, and his return had the inevitable result as he lost to future Hall of Fame inductee Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzalez and then, in his final bout, to Maungchai Kittikasem of Thailand in a great fight--indeed, another classic in which Chang dropped his younger Thai opponent twice and looked as though he was on his way to become a two-division champion. Going into the 12th and final round, he was leading on all scorecards, but a Kittikasem left hook from hell sent him to the canvas badly hurt. He got up and was knocked down again, this time through the ropes. Though he bravely got up, he was done and the referee had no choice but to halt the fight. Talk about dramatic endings.

"The Korean Hawk" retired for good with a 38-4 record, but he again ended up on the wrong side of the financial ledger. However, he began working with promoters and later came back to the ring as a trainer for WBC Jr. flyweight champion Yo Sam Choi (who later would be fatally injured in a fight he won). Today, he reportedly runs a chain of boxing gyms along with former Jr. bantamweight king Sung Kil Moon in Seoul and he is also involved in promoting young boxers.

More importantly, he now has become the first South Korean boxer to be nominated for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. A great choice indeed!

Congratulations.