Youngest female world boxing champ is a little giantShe looks like the girl next door, but despite her slight physique, Kim Ju-hee packs a knockout punch.
Flashing a bright smile, she says she has just recovered from bruises and cuts to her face from her last match. It was quite a match: On Dec. 19, the Seoul-based 18-year-old outlasted U.S. champion Melissa Shaffer, 25, on points to take the world title of the International Female Boxers’ Association, becoming its youngest champion.
Kim was first introduced to the “noble art” five years ago. Today a member of the Geoin (“Giant”) stable in Mullae-dong, in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo district, Kim, in spring 1999, visited the gym to look for her sister, Kim Mi-na, 22.
Her elder sister had just quit “diet boxing” at the time and the younger Kim, then a middle school sophomore, was sent over to bring her sister’s belongings home.
Jeong Mun-ho, the head coach, greeted her with “You are so pretty!” At the time, she ran away. But she returned seven months later.
“My sister recommended I learn boxing,” Kim said.
Kim had quit track and field sports due to anemia when she was in her third year of middle school. Kim was melancholy; her sister suggested boxing. The rest is history.
“Have you seen the film, ‘Butterfly Effect?’” Kim asked. “A little change in the beginning completely changes the end. Running my sister’s errand made me the world champion.”
The path has not been easy. Kim’s elder sister, only four years her senior, has acted like her mother since her real mother left home when she was in her fourth year of primary school.
Her sister worked part-time when she was in high school to support the family because it was difficult to live solely on their father’s salary.
The younger Kim was responsible for household chores. “I don’t just box. I cook and do laundry and do them very well,” she asserted.
Kim kept the fact that she was boxing from her father for three years. In 2002, when her name appeared in the media as she was preparing to fight Korean champion Lee In-young, she became restless. Kim hid newspapers and turned off the television. The day Kim lost to Lee in a knockout, she confessed to her father, Kim San-ok, 51.
He took the news calmly. “You can’t always win,” he said.
After winning the world championship belt, she bought her father a new mobile phone with her winnings. “Next time, try not to get hit so much,” her father told her, with a sad look.
The popular 2003 SBS TV drama “Ttaryeo,” about a high school female boxer, was actually based on Kim. After she won the Korean championship, a TV drama script writer called the gym and asked Jeong whether he could write a story about her. Jeong rebuffed the proposal immediately.
A few days later, a woman joined the gym. The other trainers found her suspicious: The new “boxer” was wearing a tape recorder on her waist and eavesdropped on conversations between Kim and Jeong. When pressed, she admitted that she was a writer, but after she practiced boxing for two months she was accepted and the drama was born. During the filming, the gym was crowded with actors. On one occasion, Kim knocked out comedian Jo Hye-ryeon and Jo was taken to the hospital. But after Kim became world champion, the drama production team sent her congratulatory messages.
Kim aims to win three more female boxing championship belts: WIBA, WIBF and WBAN. She hopes to accomplish her goal before she turns 20.
For the IFBA championship match, Kim ran 15 kilometers (9 miles) per day in her seven-month workup to the fight, adding up to 3,000 kilometers of roadwork.
“Coach Jeong said people wouldn’t believe that I ran even 1,500 kilometers, so I told reporters I ran 1,000 kilometers,” Kim said.
Even so, the next step will be tougher.
“I was the world champion last year,” Kim said. “From Jan. 1, I am a challenger again.”
Kim wants to be called “little giant” ― but when she speaks, she looks pretty big.
by Chang Hye-soo
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