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How a tragic world championship match changed boxing

Ray and Kim
How a tragic world championship match changed boxing. Photo/ VOI
  • A boxer puts their life in danger anytime they step into the ring. And several boxers have passed away during a fight or after a fight. 
  • The titanic battle between Kim Duk-koo and Ray Mancini is one of the most memorable fights in boxing history. 
  • Kim lost his life after the fight while in a coma. The tragic world championship match led to a change in boxing rules. 

The tragic world championship match between Kim Duk-koo and Ray Mancini led to a series of rule changes in boxing. 

The U.S. boxing establishment lightly regarded Kim despite having a pro boxing record of 17-1-1. On the other hand, Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini took Kim seriously and saw the world championship match as a war. 

Before the match, Kim struggled to lose weight so he could weigh in under the lightweight’s 135-pound limit. The South Korean boxer said he either dies or his opponent dies during the fight. 

He even wrote in a hotel room where he was staying before the fight, ‘kill or be killed’. Unfortunately, Kim is the one who passed away after the tragic world championship match.

Ray and Kim

Ray and Kim in action. Photo/ VOI.

Kim’s death led to the introduction of new boxing rules, which have been in practice up to date. 

Kim Duk-Koo Vs Ray Mancini 

Kim flew from South Korea to Las Vegas so as to face Ray Mancini for the WBA Lightweight title. 

The duo met on November 13, 1992, in an arena outside Caesars. The first rounds of the match were exciting as Kim and Mancini exchanged blows from one side to another. 

Kim took control of the match and even gave Mancini a punch that tore open his left ear. The South Korean boxer further puffed up Mancini’s left eye. 

Mancini’s left eye later closed completely as his hands swelled twice the normal size. Well, everyone knew that Kim was winning the match.

However, Ray Mancini bounced back in the latter stages of the fight and started throwing heavy punches at Kim. Boom Boom buckled Kim’s knees in the eleventh round and completely took control of the fight. 

Ray Mancini launched an attack of 35 punches on Kim, who protected himself, so the punches had a slight effect. 

As the duo stepped into the ring for the fourteenth round, Ray Mancini charged at Kim and hit him with a strong right. Boom Boom then threw a left which Kim luckily missed. 

Ray Mancini gave another flurry right to Kim, who immediately went flying into the ropes. The South Korean boxer pulled himself up the ropes and rose unsteadily to his feet. 

However, the match’s referee saw Kim couldn’t continue the fight and declared Boom Boom, the winner. Ray won the fight by TKO nineteen seconds into the fourteenth round.

Kim and Boom Boom

Kim Duk-koo Vs. Ray Mancini. Photo/ Sportscasting.

How Did Kim Duk-Koo Die? 

A few minutes after the fight, Kim collapsed into a comma. The South Korean was carried out of the arena on a stretcher and rushed to the Desert Springs Hospital. 

Kim’s mother flew from Seoul to the United States so as to be with her son in the hospital. The doctors noticed blood in his skull, which led to an emergency brain surgery. 

Despite the efforts from Desert Medical Springs Hospital, Kim died on November 18, five days after the tragic world championship match

Kim’s mother committed suicide by drinking a bottle of pesticide three months later. 

Ray Mancini, on the other hand, went through a prolonged period of depression. 

How Did Kim’s Death Change Boxing Rules? 

Kim and Mancini’s tragic world championship match brought about changes in boxing rules. 

There was a suggestion to change the length of the rounds between boxing from 60 to 90 seconds. However, it was later cancelled. 

The standing eight counts was imposed as a result, and several new rules concerning the suspension of licence were also put into practice. 

The World Boxing Council (WBC) reduced title fights from 15 rounds to 12. Five years later, the IBF and the WBA also reduced the rounds to 12. 

World Boxing Association (WBO) began operating with 12 rounds after its formation in 1988. 

The tragic world championship match led to the introduction of new medical procedures to fighters’ pre-fight checkups. 

Abraham Odhiambo is an avid sports fan who loves to write about football, boxing and wrestling. He's a big supporter of Manchester United. He's pursuing a bachelor's degree in Communication and Media at Egerton University.

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