A Brief History
On November 18, 1982, five days after a championship fight for the lightweight (135 pounds) crown, Kim Duk-Koo of Korea died from a blow given by Ohio boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, the defending champ.
Challenger Kim Duk-Koo brought a professional record of 17-1-1 into the fight and held his own early in the fight, but the champ dominated the later rounds. The fight was stopped in the 14th round after Kim was solidly knocked down by Mancini. The fight was not stopped soon enough, however, as just minutes later Kim fell into a coma and never woke up, dying a few days later of a brain hemorrhage. The attending neurosurgeon stated that the fatal injury was caused by one particular blow and not by the accumulation of punches.
In response to the tragedy, the number of rounds in professional boxing championship games was decreased from 15 to 12 and from 12 to 10 in non-championship fights. In the immediate aftermath of the tragic fight, referees were especially cautious and quick to stop fights in order to avoid being blamed for a fatal injury. This approach was encouraged by boxing commissions who admonished referees to follow the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy. In addition, boxers were to undergo extensive medical examinations before bouts.
History and Headlines Fact: Kim had said before the fight that one of the boxers would die. He even wrote the prophecy on his hotel lamp shade!
Kim Duk-Koo, who had left behind a pregnant fiancée, was not the only casualty of the fight; his mother could not contain her grief and committed suicide by drinking insecticide, and the boxing bout’s referee also killed himself. Mancini was also greatly affected, and those close to him say he was never the same again.
So, we are left with the question, “Is boxing too deadly?” Well, compared to some other contact sports, no! In 2013, 8 high school football players in the U.S. died playing football, and as of October 23, the same number have already died in 2014. In 1953, a record total of 22 boxers died from injuries sustained in the ring, but the number has declined sharply since, to the point where a boxing death is a rarity (about 10 deaths per year worldwide since 1990). What about brain damage? Although boxers who stay in the fight longer than they should are highly susceptible to brain damage, football players also suffer brain damage on a massive scale. Furthermore, football players also suffer additional serious injuries such as paralysis and broken bones, torn ligaments and the like.
Question for students (and subscribers): So, what do you think about boxing? Is it just another sport in which consenting persons engage of their own free will, or is it a barbaric gladiatorial spectacle that is inhuman and should be banned? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Kriegel, Mark. The Good Son: The Life of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. Free Press, 2012.
For more on the fight, Kim’s injuries, Ray Mancini’s personal struggles and the public’s reaction, the following Youtube video is a good summary:
For a movie on the life of Kim Duk-Koo, please click here.
The featured image in this article, a ticket stub for Kim’s final fight, is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1978 and March 1, 1989 without a copyright notice, and its copyright was not subsequently registered with the U.S. Copyright Office within 5 years.
For another event that happened on November 18, please see the History and Headlines article: “William Tell Shoots an Apple off His Son’s Head (Real Heroes or Mere Legends?).”
You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube: