Kyung-Yun Lee: South Korea’s Pioneering Minimumweight Boxing Champion

Kyung-Yun Lee was a trailblazing South Korean professional boxer who became the first to win world titles in the minimumweight division. His achievements paved the way for future generations of Korean boxers.

Lee turned professional in 1985 and quickly made a name for himself in the light flyweight ranks. In 1987, he captured the inaugural IBF minimumweight title by knocking out Masaharu Kawakami of Japan in the second round. This made Lee the first ever minimumweight world champion recognized by a major sanctioning body.

Over the next two years, Lee successfully defended his IBF title four times against opponents from South Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. His reign came to an end in January 1988 when he lost a close decision to Hiroki Ioka of Japan while trying to unify the WBC and IBF minimumweight belts.

Undeterred, Lee continued fighting at the world-class level. In 1991, he challenged Ricardo López of Mexico for the WBC minimumweight title but came up short via unanimous decision. His final professional bout was in 1993 when he moved up to flyweight and was stopped in the first round by Pichit Sithbanprachan while challenging for the IBF title.

Lee retired with an impressive record of 20 wins (8 KOs) against just 3 losses. His pioneering accomplishments as the first minimumweight world champion cemented his legacy in South Korean boxing history. Lee paved the way for future Korean world champions like Sung-Kil Moon, Byun Chan, and Bae Jae-Sung to find success on the global stage.


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