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Fingers Crossed for Champion in Coma

Posted December. 27, 2007 03:01,   


“I can’t sleep.” Asked why, he stuttered, “You may not understand. I am too hungry and exhausted. You may really not understand.”

For the past few months, Choi has run hundreds of miles and sparred hundreds of times. His training regimen was harsh enough to muster up his flailing stamina back into top condition. He also watched the videotaped matches of his opponent more than 70 times. Choi would answer the question why he had not retired: “I ask myself that question very often. It’s too tough. But I just have to take this path.”

Fifth son among six siblings, he was the breadwinner for his family. Back in 2002, all hell broke loose and his family lost the family house. Choi confessed, “We didn’t have any money at all. We didn’t have any place to move into, either.” At that time, he was the light flyweight champion of the World Boxing Council. He bought a new place with all he had, including the money he earned for his third title defense match.

His dedication did not stop there. He funded his younger brother Gyeong-ho’s three-year course of study in New Zealand. He wired him 1.5 million won (approximately, $1,500) every month during that period.

Choi’s brother Gyeong-ho returned to Korea as a pro golfer, and founded an agency to become Choi’s manager/promoter. When Choi Yo-sam couldn’t fall asleep from his hard training, the brothers sat up all night together. Every time they faced hardship, the two promised a better tomorrow to each other. When Choi climbed into the ring, he was still single. But he was happy about his brother’s upcoming marriage next year. Choi said, “I will become a world champion. That will be my best gift to him.”

Previously, he lost his world title in his fifth defense fight in 2002. He made two more bids, but to no avail. He wanted to have one more shot, but no promoter came forward to sponsor the unpopular sport of boxing. Finally, he won a sponsorship for his last match. He promised, “I know what people expect from me. I will show them what they want.” Prior to his last match on Christmas Day, he showed confidence, raising his hands. Unfortunately, however, he’s in coma now after brain surgery.

His family is now worried about their burgeoning medical bills. The Korea Boxing Commission will not lend much help. It has stashed, since the 1950s, 1% of each boxer’s prize money for medical and other aid purposes. But the internal power struggle and embezzling officers of the organization have nearly squandered it all.