Champions come and go in boxing. Some beloved fighters never win a world title. Some become champion and never successfully defend the title. And then, on the flip side, there are world champions who take the belt and show that, like rock’n’roll, they are here to stay. One such paragon of longevity is South Korean Junior Flyweight Champion, Myung-Woo Yuh.
Yuh was born in Seoul and had his first professional fight at age 18. He won it and then went on to win 35 more, seizing his first world title at age 21. Less than a year later, he captured the WBA title and held it for six years and a record-setting 17 defenses.
Yuh’s only career loss came in 1993 against Japanese challenger, Hiroki Ioka. A year later, he decisioned Ioka in their rematch and won the title back. After one more winning fight, he retired with a 38-1-0 record and the distinction of having beaten every fighter he ever faced.
One hazard of every good boxer’s legacy is having people call his greatness into question based on the opposition. How often have we heard the carp, “He never fought anyone” sometimes followed by “…in their prime”? While Yuh certainly contended with the occasional no-name opponent (such as his first-round knockout of Eduardo Tunon who lost a full third of his measly fight record), he could never be accused of dodging quality competition. In addition to Ioka, the past and future champions over whom Yuh raised his gloves include Joey Oliva, Torito Gamez, Mario Alberto De Marco, and Willy Salazar. Though much has been made of the fact that Yuh never faced Ricardo Lopez, one imagines he would have given the undefeated Mexican firebrand a run for his money.
In spite of his incredible record, bravery in the face of great opposition, and thoroughly entertaining scraps, Yuh was not inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame until 2013, a full 20 years after he retired. And, just as strangely, he is only the second Korean boxer to be so honored. Let us hope to see that injustice steadily remedied in the future, just as it finally was for him.