Imagine you are a prize fighter. You are regarded as one of the best in your division. Imagine you have been offered a dream opportunity, fighting for the WBC world title, after a lifetime of dedication and sacrifice. The fight game sometimes takes you to far away lands and on this occasion, you’re a long way from home.
The final bell has just rung and you look like you have been involved in a knife fight, but the overall feeling in the arena is that you have just won your first world title at the age of 30. The crowd are on their feet after watching a display of heart and courage that would not look out of place in a ‘Rocky’ movie.
You know that you are at a slight disadvantage because this is your opponent’s back yard. Waiting for the verdict feels like an eternity… The scores are in. The first judge has scored the fight a draw and you bite down on your tongue in anticipation. At first it did not look good, but the hand of justice has just swung your way. The other judges have scored the fight 113-112 and 116-114 in you’re favour.
You did it. The battle is over and the title has been won. This is the greatest night of your life. Imagine feeling that all the hard work has finally paid off. Imagine being world champion… That’s quite a fairy tale ending, huh?
The only thing is, that’s not the end.
Imagine being told in your dressing room, half an hour after the verdict had been announced, that the fight was actually a draw…
Shocking! Disgraceful! Farce!
These are just a few of the less extreme words I have heard describe the decision that followed the extraordinary war between In-Jin Chi and Michael Brodie in October 2003.
The fight itself was one of the best world title fights to be fought in a British ring for years. The Manchester crowd had been treated to everything from knock-downs to thrilling comebacks and from sheer guts to savage exchanges. The last thing the sport needed was controversy, but controversy is what we got. After the verdict had been rightfully announced in favour of the Korean, WBC president Jose Sulaiman ruled that there had been a mistake in the scoring. Within half an hour the verdict had been overturned. The majority decision that favoured In-Jin Chi had now been declared a majority draw. The WBC featherweight title that had been vacated by Erik Morales was still vacant and fight fans were left with a bad taste in their mouths.
This was Chi’s second attempt at winning the WBC world featherweight crown since failing to beat Erik Morales, in Los Angeles, CA in July 2001. Chi walked away from the Morales fight with his head held high, it was the Korean’s American debut and he had managed to push the great Mexican world champion to his limits before losing a decision for the second time in his career. Chi’s only other loss was a four rounder he lost in Korea in his professional debut. The unanimous scores of 117-110, 116-110 and 116-112 did not do Chi’s brave challenge to Morales title the justice it deserved. While Morales dominated the scoring, he did not entirely dominate the fight. Chi had more than his fair share of moments in a fight that by the final bell, Morales was very glad to be over.
Michael Brodie had also had failed to win his first world title, when he lost a debatable decision to American Willie Jorin in September 2000 for the WBC junior featherweight title. This was a key reason why the fight between Brodie and Chi was such a classic. Both fighters really wanted it, both fighters felt that the WBC title was the one thing that eluded them and the one thing that could bring closure to past heartache.
After the dust had settled and Chi had realised there was no way of changing a decision that had already been changed once, one glimmer of light appeared. The rematch was on. It had to happen. A rematch offered the only hope of cleaning up this bizarre situation.
In April 2004, the Englishman and the Korean went back to the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester where they had courageously battled five months earlier.
This time around, the judges were not needed. Chi had brought his own two judges as he battered the Mancunian fighter, round after round, before brutally finishing him off in the seventh. This time around, there was not going to be any WBC official’s entering Chi’s dressing room to spoil the party. This time around, Chi was champion.
The rematch may not have been as anywhere near as exciting as the first fight, but justice was served, and it seems this little story did have a fairy tale ending after all.
In Chi’s last fight, he fought former Japanese featherweight champion Eiichi Sugama. Unheralded Sugama would not be the first choice opponent for a champion like Chi but this was going to be a significant fight for him. It was his first defence of his highly regarded green belt, in front of his hometown in Seoul, Korea. Chi looked very impressive as he put down his challenger twice before stopping him in the tenth round. Chi took his fight record to 29-2-1 with 18 knock-outs. This time there were no bad decisions, only adulation and support for the hometown hero, as he undoubtedly realised there is some truth in the saying, ‘no place like home’.
Right now, Chi is not regarded as the linear world champion at featherweight. That title belongs to the Barrera’s conqueror, Manny Pacquiao. Chi, currently rated fourth by Ring magazine, is actually the dark horse of the 126 pound division. Fight fans that are aware of Chi know how good a fight between him and the Philippine southpaw Pacquiao could be, or imagine Chi challenging the skilful Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez for his WBA and IBF world titles, or facing off against the rugged Scotsman Scott Harrison in a WBC/WBO unification bout. Win, lose or draw, you can guarantee that Chi will be fighting until the very end, or like past experiences, Chi will be fighting until the bitter end. Whatever way you look at it, the WBC champion has the resolve and willpower that could make him a great world champion and a sportsman for the people of Korea to be very proud of.
So as the featherweight division continues to be one of the most exciting and consistent weight classes in boxing today, In-Jin Chi continues to go from strength to strength and has now proved himself as one of the best 126 pound fighters out there.
Who knows, maybe the man from Korea is capable of one day cleaning up the entire division.
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