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Laughing Fists

Posted June. 02, 2005 06:45,   


One day the father’s business went bankrupt. Due to the shock, the father broke down. The mother ran away from home. Suddenly the young sisters had to support themselves. However, their home was always full of laughter. The younger sister called her older sister “mom.” They prepared meals, washed their clothes and took care of their handicapped father.

Supporting Father and Paying Rent for an Underground Single-Room House-

The youngest IFBA (International Female Boxers Association) junior flyweight champion is Kim Ju-hee (19, Geoin Gym). We met with her on May 31, at Geoin Gym (trainer: Chung Moon-ho) at Mullae-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. She was a young girl with dreadlocks, 160cm tall and weighing 50 kg. She had a bright expression. Her answers to all our questions were straightforward. She is still living with her father in a rented underground house at Dorim-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. Her deposit is five million won and rent is 400,000 won a month.

Her older sister, who had supported her, has left for the U.S. to study.

“There are people worse off than me. Poverty is nothing to be ashamed of or hide, is it?”

She started to box when she was in seventh grade. She fell in love with sport at first sight. She just liked to punch the sandbag. Time passed, and last December 19, she beat Korean-American boxer Melissa Shaffer (26) and became champion. Her bout fee was 25 million won.

After deducting taxes, health insurance fees and other expenses, she got 18 million won. Nevertheless, she spent almost half of the money recovering her body. At the hospital, her medical chart is called a diary, since it is almost as thick as an average book. After the fight, almost her entire body: wrist, back, eye area, and ankle, were in pain. She is finally back to normal, however, after successfully defending her title against Philippine challenger Madyda Kidsolan on May 6.

“I want to become world champion before I turn 20. I have postponed going to college to achieve that dream.”

She is a hard trainer. Most male boxers spar about 150 rounds (three minutes per round) before a bout. She spars over 300 rounds. She even has sparred with five male boxers, one round each, consecutively. In such cases, the first four guys were almost knocked out. Her trainer, Chung Moon-ho (48), says, “It seems like she’s crazy.”

Happy to Hear the Word “Crazy” When Sparring-

“I feel best when my trainer calls me crazy. When working out, I have to concentrate crazily so I forget myself. Don’t people say that you have to be crazy to be crazy?”

She will face IFBA flyweight champion and rival Choi Shin-hee around September for the world title. Hence she started a strenuous training regime that starts at 5:00 a.m. and ends at midnight. It is also her job to do the laundry and prepare meals. When she feels hardships, she goes to church and prays. When relaxing she listens to Park Gang-sung’s song, “Toy soldier.” She regrets that her favorite mixed martial arts fighter Choi Hong-man’s punches are clumsy. If she had the chance, she would like to give “private lessons” to him.

Kim Ju-hee is bright. Her fists will never cry. Her fists are always giggling.

Hwa-SungKim mars@donga.com