|Real name||Kim Deuk-gu|
|Nickname(s)||"Gidae" (English: Hope)|
January 8, 1955|
Goseong County, Gangwon Province, South Korea
|Died||November 18, 1982
Desert Springs Hospital, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
|Wins by KO||8|
|Revised Romanization||Gim Deuk-gu|
Kim Duk-Koo (January 8, 1955 – November 18, 1982) was a South Korean boxer who died following a world championship boxing match against Ray Mancini. His death sparked a number of reforms in the sport aimed to better protect the health of fighters, including reducing the number of rounds in championship bouts from 15 to 12.
Early life and education
Kim was born in Gangwon Province, South Korea, 100 miles east of Seoul, the youngest of five children. His father died when he was two and his mother married three more times. Kim grew up poor. He worked odd jobs such as a shoe-shining boy and a tour guide before getting into boxing in 1976.
After compiling a 29–4 amateur record, he turned professional in 1978. In February 1982, he won the Orient and Pacific Boxing Federation lightweight title and became the World Boxing Association's #1 contender. Kim carried a 17–1–1 professional record into the Mancini fight and had won 8 bouts by KO before flying to Las Vegas as the world's (WBA) number 1 challenger to world lightweight champion Mancini. However, he had fought outside of South Korea only once before, in the Philippines. It was his first time ever fighting in North America.
Kim was lightly regarded by the American boxing establishment, but not by Ray Mancini, who believed the fight would be a "war". Kim struggled to lose weight in the days prior to the bout so that he could weigh in under the lightweight's 135-pound limit. Before the fight, Kim was quoted as saying "Either he dies or I die." He wrote the message "live or die" on his Las Vegas hotel lamp shade only days before the bout (a mistaken translation led to "kill or be killed" being reported in the media).
Mancini and Kim met in an arena outside Caesars Palace on November 13, 1982. Mancini and Kim went toe to toe for a good portion of the bout, to the point that Mancini briefly considered quitting. Kim tore open Mancini's left ear and puffed up his left eye, and Mancini's left hand swelled to twice its normal size. After the fight Mancini's left eye would be completely closed. However, by the latter rounds, Mancini began to dominate, landing many more punches than Kim did. In the 11th he buckled Kim's knees. In the beginning of the 13th round Mancini charged Kim with a flurry of 39 punches, but had little effect. Sugar Ray Leonard (working as one of the commentators of the fight) said Kim came right back very strong. Leonard later declared the round to be closely contested. When the fighters came out for the 14th round, Mancini charged forward and hit Kim with a right. Kim reeled back, Mancini missed with a left, and then Mancini hit Kim with another hard right hand. Kim went flying into the ropes, his head hitting the canvas. Kim managed to rise unsteadily to his feet, but referee Richard Green stopped the fight and Mancini was declared the winner by TKO nineteen seconds into the 14th round. Ralph Wiley of Sports Illustrated, covering the fight, would later recall Kim pulling himself up the ropes as he was dying "One of the greatest physical feats I had ever witnessed."
Minutes after the fight was over, Kim collapsed into a coma, and was removed from the Caesars Palace arena on a stretcher and taken to the Desert Springs Hospital. At the hospital he was found to have a subdural hematoma consisting of 100 cc of blood in his skull. Emergency brain surgery was performed at the hospital to try to save him, but that effort proved to be futile, and Kim died four days after the bout, on November 18. The neurosurgeon said it was caused by one punch. The week after, Sports Illustrated published a photo of the fight on its cover, under the heading Tragedy in the Ring. The profile of the incident was heightened by the fight having been televised live by CBS in the United States.
Kim had never fought a 15-round bout before. In contrast, Mancini was much more experienced at the time. He had fought 15-round bouts three times and gone on to round 14 once before. Kim compiled a record of 17 wins with two losses and one draw. Eight of Kim's wins were knockouts.
Aftermath of Kim's death
Mancini went through a period of reflection, as he blamed himself for Kim's death. After friends helped him by telling him that it was just an accident, Mancini went on with his career, though still haunted by Kim's death. His promoter, Bob Arum, said Mancini "was never the same" after Kim's death. Two years later, Mancini lost his title to Livingstone Bramble.
Four weeks after the fatal fight, the Mike Weaver vs Michael Dokes fight at the same Caesars Palace venue ended with a technical knockout declared 63 seconds into the fight. Referee Joey Curtis admitted to stopping the fight early under orders of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which required referees to be aware of a fighter's health, in light of the Mancini-Kim fight, and a rematch was ordered.
Kim's mother flew from South Korea to Las Vegas to be with her son before the life support equipment was turned off. Three months later, she took her own life by drinking a bottle of pesticide. The bout's referee, Richard Green, committed suicide July 1, 1983.
Kim left behind a fiancée, Lee Young-Mee, despite rules against South Korean boxers having girlfriends. At the time of Kim's death Lee was pregnant with their son, Kim Chi-Wan, who was born in July 1983. Kim Chi-Wan became a dentist. In 2011 mother and son had a meeting with Ray Mancini as part of a documentary on the life of Mancini called The Good Son.
Boxing rule changes
The WBC, which was not the fight's sanctioning organization, announced during its annual convention of 1982 that many rules concerning fighters' medical care before fights needed to be changed. One of the most significant was the WBC's reduction of title fights from fifteen rounds to twelve. The WBA and the IBF followed the WBC in 1987. When the WBO was formed in 1988, it immediately began operating with 12-round world championship bouts.
Additionally, on the recommendation of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the number of ring ropes was increased from three to four to prevent fighters from falling through the ropes and out of the ring.
In the years after Kim's death new medical procedures were introduced to fighters' pre-fight checkups, such as electrocardiograms, brain tests, and lung tests. As one boxing leader put it, "A fighter's check-ups before fights used to consist of blood pressure and heartbeat checks before 1982. Not anymore."
Professional boxing record
|Loss||17–2–1||Ray Mancini||KO||14 (15) 0:19||November 13, 1982||Caesars Palace, Nevada, U.S.||For WBA Lightweight title; Kim died 4 days later|
|Win||17–1–1||Tadao Ishido||TKO||4 (12)||July 18, 1982||Seoul, South Korea||OPBF lightweight title|
|Win||16–1–1||Nick Caputol||UD||10 (10)||June 21, 1982||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||15–1–1||Flash Villamer||UD||12 (12)||May 30, 1982||Seoul, South Korea||OPBF lightweight title|
|Win||14–1–1||Suradej Kiongphajorn||KO||1 (12)||April 4, 1982||Seoul, South Korea||OPBF lightweight title|
|Win||13–1–1||Kwang-Min Kim||UD||12 (12)||February 28, 1982||Seoul, South Korea||OPBF lightweight title|
|Win||12–1–1||Katsuhiro Okubo||TKO||3 (10)||December 12, 1981||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||11–1–1||Flash Romeo||KO||4 (10)||September 9, 1981||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||10–1–1||Jun Escalera||PTS||10 (10)||August 16, 1981||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||9–1–1||Hong-Kyu Lim||TKO||4 (10)||April 22, 1981||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||8–1–1||Pil-Gu Lee||PTS||10 (10)||December 6, 1980||Seoul, South Korea||Lightweight title|
|Win||7–1–1||Tony Flores||TKO||8 (10)||July 16, 1980||Metro Manila, Philippines|
|Win||6–1–1||Han-Ki Choi||KO||8 (8)||June 21, 1980||Seoul, South Korea|
|Draw||5–1–1||Chang-Pyo Kim||PTS||8 (8)||February 26, 1980||Busan, South Korea|
|Win||5–1||Young-Dae Kim||PTS||4 (4)||October 6, 1979||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||4–1||Suk-Soo Chang||PTS||4 (4)||September 1, 1979||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||3–1||Myung-Soo Park||KO||1 (4)||March 25, 1979||Ulsan, South Korea|
|Loss||2–1||Jong-Sil Lee||PTS||4 (4)||December 9, 1978||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||2–0||Young-Wung Sung||PTS||4 (4)||December 8, 1978||Seoul, South Korea|
|Win||1–0||Myung-Soo Park||PTS||4 (4)||December 7, 1978||Seoul, South Korea||Professional debut|
In popular culture
- Champion, a South Korean biopic about Kim's life, was released in 2002.
- Alternative rock group Sun Kil Moon recorded a song dedicated to Kim on their 2003 debut Ghosts of the Great Highway.
- Duk Koo Kim and Ray Mancini are featured in the song "Boom Boom Mancini" by Warren Zevon.
- In the second episode of Season 3 of The Americans (2013 TV series), the fight is being shown in the background on a TV in bar. There is a quick cut to the TV to show Kim falling backward onto the mat, then cutting away as the story continues.
- Davey Moore (1933–1963), another boxer who famously died from an injury sustained in the ring
- Kriegel, Mark (September 16, 2012), "A Step Back", The New York Times
- Shapiro, Michael (April 27, 1987). "Remembering Duk Koo Kim". Sports Illustrated via author's website. Archived from the original on November 19, 2007.
- "Then All The Joy Turned To Sorrow", Ralph Wiley, Sports Illustrated, November 22, 1982
- "Duk Koo Kim: The Sacrifice", Eastside Boxing
- "Mancini and Kim forever linked", Yahoo Sports
- Video on YouTube
- SI cover
- "Twenty-five years is a long time to carry a memory", ESPN.com
- "25 Years Later: The Death Of Duk Koo Kim", Las Vegas Review-Journal, November 13, 2007
- New documentary about Kim Duk-koo set for release 30 years after his death