Ji-Hoon Kim earned a victory the only way he knew how tonight. He just worked harder than his opponent.
Kim (24-7, 18 knockouts), a lightweight fringe contender from Korea, simply outhustled Alisher Rahimov in the 10-round main event of this week’s ESPN2 Friday Night Fights offering from the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Mo. Scores were unanimous, 96-94, 98-92 and 97-93.
From the opening bell, Kim’s strategy was to throw as many punches as he possibly could at his shorter opponent to keep him at bay. It was one he somehow maintained for the duration of the bout, ultimately uncorking 1,225 of them, or an average of roughly 122 per round.
In return, the 5-foot-5½″ Rahimov fired 624 shots, many of which were more powerful than Kim’s. Ironically, the Russian resident was thought of as the volume puncher by experts heading into the contest. In previous outings, he had been able to overwhelm taller foes with a stellar workrate. Against Kim however, his diminutive stature played a factor, as he was consistently hit with several blows before he could get close enough to unleash his power.
Rahimov’s best moments came in the 7th round, when using subtle steps back, he was able to time Kim coming in and land several flush right hands. Unfortunately, Kim, the younger man, had a second gear and ramped up his punch output during his approaches.
Quantity prevailed over quality tonight.
At 34 years of age, Rahimov (23-1, 12 KOs) simply ran into someone with a better motor than him for the first time in his career. With victories over tough pros such as Sergio Thompson in his back pocket, he is capable of success moving forward, but as the years progress and he slows down, his size will only loom larger upon him in a lightweight division that just gets younger and bigger near the top.
For Kim, Goyang City, South Korea, it’s a matter of how much fuel he has left in the tank to keep that motor running. He produced yet another action fight that he has become notorious for on ESPN, but he’s been in a whole lot of them for a 25 year old. In his steps up in competition against Miguel Vazquez and Leonardo Zappavinga, he has been dominated.
No matter how hard he works, it’s possible that he’ll never be able to take the next step beyond Friday Night Fights, and will remain a mainstay here like many action fighters before him.
If that proves to be the case, it will be both a treat and a tragedy.
In the broadcast opener, fans were subject to a sleep-inducing heavyweight contest between Vince Thompson and Joell Godfrey.
Though Thompson (10-0, 2 KOs) picked up the unanimous decision victory by scores of 80-72 (twice) and 78-74, nobody involved in or watching this fight was a winner. Both men seldomly put punches together, and what they did throw was typically off balance and of the slapping variety. Thompson, 29, Federal Way, Wash., just happened to do more of that in virtually every round.
Godfrey (14-6, 6 KOs), a 31-year old career cruiserweight journeyman, fights so cautiously that for seven rounds of this particular bout, he successfully wore contact lenses in the ring.
Thompson wore “What’s My Name?” written across the waistband of his trunks, but it’s unlikely anyone will remember him after tonight.
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman