On Sunday, March 27, at Gwangmyeong Cave in Gwangmyeong, South Korea, WBA World female super featherweight champion Hyun-Mi Choi (11-0-1, 4 KOs), aka “Defector Girl Boxer” from Seoul, South Korea, by way of Pyongyang, North Korea, defends her title against Diana “La Leona” Ayala (19-11-4, 13 KOs), from San Pelayo, Colombia.
Choi won the vacant WBA World featherweight title in 2008 in her first fight by defeating Xu Yan Chun by unanimous decision. She successfully defended the title seven times. In August of 2013 she moved up in weight and won the interim WBA World super featherweight title by defeating Fujin Raika over 10 rounds.
In May 2014, “Defector Girl Boxer” TKO’d Thailand’s Keanpetch Superchamps to win the WBA World super featherweight title.
The fight with Ayala will be her third defense of the crown.
Choi’s journey from North to South Korea is one she will not forget.
She was recruited to be a boxer from the age of 11 and trained in North Korea until she defected with her family in 2004.
“The boxing gloves were just one thin layer of leather,” she told CNN. “The older female boxers had hands that weren’t intact. Their fists didn’t even seem human.”
Unlike most of her rivals, who were from poor families who fought for extra food and money, Choi’s father was a successful businessman in Pyongyang.
“I had to compete with people who were fired up with thoughts like ‘we have to delight General Kim Jong Il,’” she recalled. “Thinking about fighting against those North Korean boxers makes me go blank. They have to win the gold medal to eat and make a living. I could be the reason they lose their job.”
No one likes losing, but losing in North Korea is something else.
“There is a thing called ‘ideological conflicts’ where you are forced to stand up in front of a crowd in North Korea and everyone condemns you,” said Choi. “You get denounced to an extent that, wow, you almost wouldn’t be able to continue competing.
“[But] seeing my parents go through tough times trying to adapt to the South and going to school and study subjects totally different from the North, I felt I had to succeed.”
The three judges for the fight are Chalerm Prayadsab (Thailand), Takeshi Shimakawa (Japan), and Kazunobu Asao (Japan). The third man in the ring will be the Pinit Prayadsab (Thailand).
The supervisor overseeing the bout will be Shim Yangsup (South Korea).
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.