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"You See How Strong Korean Girls Are!"

Posted January. 24, 2003 22:47,   


"Just looking at her pretty face, I thought I could beat her easily. But it was not that easy. I wish I had knocked her out… I won it, but I do not feel much joy."

Lee In-young (31, Sonborn Gym), a Korean female flyweight boxer. Lee took on Yumi Yashimi (30) in a friendly match between Japan and South Korea held yesterday at Chomsil Stadium, and won the match with the unanimous votes of the judges. But, she felt disappointed, rather happy from the victory, for failing to get a KO win.

This is the first international match held in South Korea for female boxers. Lee looks more like a male boxer, while Yashimi appears more like a CF model, looking like a person in her teens. That is why Yashimi commands a wide pool of fans in Japan. With the decline of the pro boxing itself, only a handful of fans visited the stadium. In addition, Yashimi received only 3.5 million won (or approximately $2,900), and Lee 1.5 million won, amounts that are only a fraction of the money their counterparts of opposite sex would have received. Nonetheless, the fans watching the bout around the ring showed an enthusiastic reaction.

"Attaboy! Lee, cheer up! Give one more punch!"

Every time Lee`s punch landed on the face of the opponent, an uproar ensued. Lee`s mother, who watched through the 8 rounds, sighed and said, "Whenever my daughter got punched, I felt like my heart would blow up. I could hardly watch it. I don`t understand why she wants to do it…"

The match was a total victory of Lee. Lee, standing 160cm, took the initiative with a hook to the jaw of Yashimi in the middle of the first round, who is 5cm taller. Then, she poured punches onto the opponent. In the 7th, Lee pushed Yashimi almost to the point of collapse, but failed to knock her out without a decisive punch. Lee finished all her matches with victories (5 wins and 2 KOs), while Yashimi fought 9 bouts and won 8 (3 KOs) with 1 tie and 2 losses.

Yashimi confessed after the match, "Not only she looks like a man, but her punches are as strong as men."

Although she won, Lee`s face bore bruises all over after the game. In other words, she allowed many jabs. Even men hesitate to become a pro boxer. Then, why did Lee volunteer to become one?

"I have fought a lot since I was a kid. I guess that is why I do not feel afraid of getting punches during the game. I just think I have to punch 2-3 times more for the one I receive. Moreover, boxing is fair. It`s a match between two individuals. That is why I like it."

She had been a track athlete and later played handball until she graduated from middle school. If a boy "picked up on" her friends, she would knock them out. Usually, Lee does sparring with male boxers. The strength of her punch is well known. She downs high school male boxers during sparring.

This was Lee`s first international match. She said in a determined voice, "At first, I was nervous a little bit. Once I got engaged, I could brush off my fear of foreign boxers. By all means, I will be the first Korean champion in the world."

IFBA`s flyweight championship is currently held by Michelle Sutcliffe of Britain. Lee`s promoter Byun Chung-il, a former world champ, said, "I plan to arrange a match between Lee and Sutcliffe at around April or May."

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com