Mancini's assistant trainer, Chuck Fagan, said in an interview 25 years after the fight "You have to kill this guy to stop him!" At that time in 1982 and in that moment he wasn't aware that thought would come true. He was describing the type of fighter Deuk-Koo Kim was.
Ray Mancini took the name 'Boom Boom' from his father, Lenny Mancini, who was a top contender for the Lightweight crown against Sammy Angott in the 1940's, but never got the chance because he was drafted into the army during second world war. His dream of winning the title was lived through Ray.
The Mancini dream came true for both father and son on May 8, 1982 when Ray Mancini beat Arturo Frias with a TKO win in the first round to capture the WBA lightweight title.
The journey to win the title is difficult, and it's much harder to remain a champion. So in Mancini's mind he needed to fight champion level opponents to prove his theory. Unbeknown to Ray and many others in the fight world, he got his wish... It also proved that they were evenly matched.
Deuk-Koo Kim was raised in South Korea. He came from a very poor up-bringing and turned to boxing as a way to a better life. He got into the sport in 1976 and racked up an amateur record of 29-4. He turned pro in 1978 and eventually went on to win the Orient and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF) lightweight title, and defending it three times. He also won the Korean lightweight title. His opponents weren't of any significance and all but one were fought in Seoul, South Korea.
There wasn't any challengers left for Kim to fight and with a record of 17-1-1 he was rated number one by the WBA and a title fight with Mancini was a sure thing. Nobody in the United States ever heard of Deuk-Koo Kim and officials believed he wasn't going to be difficult for Mancini. Tapes of Kim's fights were sent to Mancini so he could get an idea of his fighting style. He noticed that he threw big punches and never took a step back.
"It's gonna be a war" Mancini said.
Kim got together with a friend before leaving to the United States and told him "All the choice I have is 'to win or die'....that's all."
November 13, 1982, an outdoor arena at Caesars Palace was where the fight took place. Prior to the fight Kim had a difficult time making weight. Sometimes trying to get down to a certain weight is a fight in itself, but it can be done especially when a world title is at stake.
This fight was action-packed! From the opening bell... both fighters stood toe-to-toe and banged it out and they each took their share of punishment. At one point during the fight Mancini stated that he wanted to quit, but his mind wouldn't let him. He took such a beating from this fight than any other fight he had before. One thing you have to understand is that Mancini is a vicious body-puncher and the later part of the fight he was wearing Kim down.
The championship rounds at the time were 11 through 15 and the referee, Richard Greene had a few moments where he could've stopped the fight because Mancini was dominating, but Kim would have that second and third wind and fight back till the end of the round.
Mancini delivers a solid brick right cross that knocks Kim down. Kim staggers back to his feet and Greene stops the fight.
What a battle!
Mancini celebrated in the ring and quickly filled with people including his parents. Meanwhile Kim slipped into a coma as he sat in his stool, and was rushed to a nearby hospital. The doctors operated to release blood clots from his brain. He was examined several times afterward and according to the doctor he never saw any response.
Around three days later Kim's mother traveled to the United States from Korea to see her son. She didn't speak the language and she was told by the interpreter that his brain is dead. She then made the choice to have his life support system be disconnected and have his body flown back to South Korea. Deuk-Koo Kim was pronounced dead on November 17, 1982.
Sadly, about four months after Deuk-Koo Kim's death his mother committed suicide, and on July 1, 1983 the referee Richard Greene also committed suicide. I think the guilt of not stopping the fight sooner haunted him.
Mancini wanted to find peace within himself to carry on but he wasn't the same fighter. His next four fights were wins but lost the last four. With three deaths lingering in his mind, he found it hard to continue because it messes with a fighter's psychology. He ended his boxing career with a 29-5 record.
Not long after this fight boxing changed...all the sanctions reduced the number of rounds from 15 to 12. The medical check-ups before 1982 was only blood pressure and heartbeat. Now, it consist of electrocardiograms, brain and lung tests.
Don't think of Deuk-Koo kim as a tragic figure. He was a great warrior who fought a great fight. He was hungry and humble and dedicated. He gave 110% to the end...
A true credit to the fight game.