After compiling a 29–4 amateur record, Soth Korean Duk Koo Kim turned professional in 1978. In February 1982, he won the Orient and Pacific Boxing Federation lightweight title and became the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) #1 contender. Kim carried a 17–1–1 (won-lost-draw) professional record and had won 8 bouts by KO. He went to Las Vegas as the world’s (WBA) number 1 challenger to world lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom”Mancini.
The press reporter visiting Kim noted that Kim had written on the bathroom mirror, in blood, Live or Die. The fight lasted 14 rounds out of the scheduled 15 rounds. The bout was extremely brutal, especially for Kim, who had begun to wear down in the latter rounds after absorbing tremendous punishment from the champion. Kim surprised the boxing world by going toe to toe with Ray Mancini for 12 rounds. In the 13th round Mancini hit Kim 39 times without Kim being able to hit back. But Kim did not give up. In his culture stepping back was shameful. In the 14th round Mancini knocked Kim down. Second time Mancini hit Kim with a crushing right hand that caused him to fly toward the ropes and hit his head on the canvas. Kim was able to pull himself back up but the referee stopped the fight and declared Mancini the winner. Kim was taken to the hospital. He was in a coma for 4 days and then died.
Out of the hundreds of recorded ring fatalities, Kim’s death was one of the saddest. Kim’s opponent, Ray Mancini, would never again be the same caliber fighter, and it was widely reported that he blamed himself for Kim’s death. Kim’s mother committed suicide three months after her son’s death by drinking a bottle of pesticide. The bout’s referee, Richard Green, consumed by guilt, also committed suicide shortly after the fight.
Boxing was never the same either, with the World Boxing Council (WBC) quickly deciding 15-round fights were too dangerous and cutting the championship limit to 12. Several years later the WBA and International Boxing Federation (IBF) would follow suit and by the time the World Boxing Organization (WBO) was formed in 1988, 12 rounds were the norm.