KBC’s Yuh, Lee start in with body punches

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KBC’s Yuh, Lee start in with body punches

They’re going for the knockout.

What started as an exchange of hard jabs between the Korean Boxing Commission chairman and its former secretary general for affairs has turned into a late-round battle, with both sides throwing haymakers.

Yuh Myung-woo was elected to a four-year term as the KBC’s affairs secretary general in May. Kim Joo-hwan got the nod for the commission’s top position in October, and soon he was calling for Yuh’s resignation. On Christmas Eve, Yuh said he would take the case to court, and the match was on.

The fight reached new heights Wednesday morning, when Yuh and his supporting crew held a press conference near Kunkuk University in eastern Seoul. Never one to back down during his fighting days, Yuh made his intentions clear:

“We have decided to apply for an injunction on Chairman Kim’s decision to eliminate my position and file a petition with the Seoul Central District Court.”

Yuh, a former World Boxing Association junior flyweight champion, was a household name in Korea during the 1980s and ’90s. After winning the WBA title against American Joey Olivio in 1985, the orthodox fighter defended his title a record 17 times before retiring in 1993 with 38 wins and one loss. Fourteen of his wins were knockouts. Yuh was also the 1991 WBA Boxer of the Year, so his appointment as affairs secretary general attracted a lot of attention.

The KBC chairman, on the other hand, is a former journalist and a public-relations expert. Kim’s media savvy and Yuh’s boxing fame should have been a winning combination. But in an organization made up mostly of men who have devoted their lives to the sport, Kim was an outsider from the start. That’s not to say he didn’t have the boxers’ respect, but many accepted him at arm’s length.

The casus belli: Yuh owns a chain of restaurants and cannot devote his entire time to the KBC. Kim was said to have been upset with Yuh’s failure to show up to the office on a regular basis. Understandable. Score one round for Kim.

Yuh, for his part, said the affairs secretary general position requires him to be out and about, visiting boxing officials and gyms regularly. Yuh’s supporters also claim Kim has been insensitive to the KBC’s financial situation, spending upwards of $2,600 (3 million won) on car repairs when the money could be better used for other things. Makes sense. Chalk one up for Yuh.

This seems hardly the time for an insiders’ fight, considering the two figures could work together to create an effective organization. The KBC started the 2009 calendar with grand plans to revitalize what was once, along with baseball, the most popular sport in Korea. The need to publicize amateur tourneys was one item on the KBC’s agenda. The annual newcomers’ tournament, the equivalent of the Golden Gloves in the United States, was another. But that was a year ago.

This is hardly the type of negative press boxing needs. Let’s hope the parties can settle the score without inflicting too much damage on the image of the sport.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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