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Zachary Wohlman: “This Is Not A Sob Story By Any Means”

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zachary wohlman6“The long and the short of it is that I got into heavier trouble and heavier trouble. I got reunited with my pops when I was like 15 or 16. And he was a criminal. I started running with him and we got arrested together. But we have both been clean ever since.

“My dad is my best friend in the world. This is not a sob story by any means. My dad’s clean. I’m clean. Basically I met my dad and we started doing some crime together. We got arrested. He went to prison. I went to juvie because I was a juvenile. I got out at 17 and worked on the oil tanks in San Jose just to make a living and stay out of trouble. When he got out, I was 19 and he had already cleaned up for some time. And he helped me set my life straight. And then I got taken to Freddie Roach.”

Boxer Zachary Wohlman lives a good life. Based in Los Angeles, getting paid for a sport he loves, and working with arguably the best trainer in the world, it couldn’t get much better for a freshly turned professional preparing for the second fight of his career.

Wohlman 23, trains at Wild Card in Los Angeles. He likes to call himself the puppy of the gym shared by the elite, and he learned boxing at a military school based on the border of Texas and Mexico.

 “I went to military school and learned how to box when I was 14. They had a boxing gym there. When I got there it was hard because the school was international. It was run by the Marines. You had to be tough. So I lied and said I was a boxer from LA. They said ‘great, we have a boxing gym’ and called my bluff. They put me in the ring and I had a natural instinct to fight.”  

Zachary says boxing gave him a sense of purpose, a second chance at life. He learned discipline in military school but back home in the San Fernando Valley of California, trouble was always close.

“I was focused on boxing because I was away from everyone I grew up with. I fell in love with the sport. When I was 14 the internet wasn’t everywhere so I’d go to the library and read old boxing books about Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Jersey Joe Walcott, and I fell in love with the sport.” 

Zachary was sent to military school to straighten up his life. Bad choices, an unstable upbringing, and influences by others held him back. After school, Wohlman lived with his father, who was battling some demons of his own at the time.

“I got in trouble for drugs and crime, things of that nature. When I finished military school, I never did well with my mom and stepdad. I moved out of there and didn’t have a place to live. I hadn’t seen my father in a long time. He called me. We reunited. And that was just the lifestyle that he lived. And when we got arrested, he went to prison, and cleaned up. Now he has a successful business. He is my best friend. When he got out prison, I saw what he looked like clean. And I told myself, I don’t want to end up like him. I don’t want to be 50 years-old smoking meth and doing crime in the Valley. So I cleaned up.”

Like a fighter, Zachary switched gears. No longer worrying about the things that slowed him down in life, Zachary tried to find ways to stay positive. He turned to boxing.

“When I was 19, I cleaned up. I loved boxing as a kid. But I kept weaving in and out of trouble. My counselor, who was in charge of me at the time, knew Freddie. He told Freddie ‘I’ve got this kid. He knows how to fight a little bit.’ Freddie said, ‘Bring him in. I’ll take a look.’ And it went from there.

Roach was tough with kid they call “Kid Yamaka” because of his Jewish heritage. Roach wanted no mistakes. We hear stories of boxing saving people, providing hope, and a sense of self restraint that can hardly be gained from outside of the ring, not even military school. Wohlman thinks his life is a product of boxing.

“Yeah, boxing saved my life, absolutely. The deal with Freddie was ‘no drugs, no crime, and no alcohol. If I hear you mess around in the street you’re out.’

Wohlman said he was the only amateur training at the Wild Card when the famed trainer threw him to the wolves. Wohlman sparred with practically everyone that walked into that gym near his weight class, like Amir Khan, Alfredo Angulo, and Paulie Malignaggi, but not Manny Pacquiao.

Malignaggi and the young Wohlman grew a friendship. And before he turned pro, Wohlman turned to the Magic Man for guidance.

“You know it’s hard to find help in boxing and Paulie has always been there for me. He came in the Wild Card, we got set up as sparring partners, and we worked really well together. And I couldn’t find the right manager. I got offers from a few but my gut just wouldn’t settle with it. Paulie gave me some direction. He told me ‘You don’t have to go with these people. You have options.’ And he was with me when I signed my contract.”

With the support of champions, Wohlman signed a management deal with Malignaggi’s manager, Anthony Catanzaro of NY, and Steve Bash. Wohlman worked with Freddie Roach for four years before his professional debut on December 1st against Ricardo Malfavon, a four round unanimous decision victory.

Wohlman is excited about the win, he watches it obsessively, but for Roach it is business as usual. 

“About my fight Freddie said I had good boxing, good head movement, and good lateral movement. But he doesn’t give me too much. And you have seen Freddie coach. He gives you one thing at a time.”

“Every amateur fight, my nerves were all over the place. In my pro debut, with Freddie in the corner, I had no nerves. I just felt ready. I just totally enjoyed the experience. Golden Boy treated me great. My management was great. I wanted to wear some ten ounce Grants (gloves) because I was spoiled rotten. And I got to wear the Bernard Hopkins custom-made Grants because those were the only ones that they had. And I took them home with me and I am playing with them in my hands right now, which is awesome.”

Now life has come full circle for young “Kid Yamaka.” No more bad decisions. “I guess you always know when life is good when you have had it bad,” he said. “As far as boxing goes, if you decide to make a living getting punched in your face, something probably went wrong at home.”

Wohlman lives a positive life even though he got a late start. “Kid Yamaka” had a realization to change his life before it got any worse. And so far with boxing, he is on the right track. Wohlman’s next fight is on January 20th against Tatsuro Irie at the Warner Center Marriott, in Woodland Hills, Ca.

“Yeah, this is my dream. I have been waiting for this for ten years. And there have been some hardships in between there. My next fight is on January 20th and then Golden Boy wants to have me again in February. I had almost 400 people come out to see me last time. And I love the energy.’

Wohlman cares too much about the sport to come off brash. He wants to work for success.

“I want to fight the best fighters there are when I am ready. I am not going to say I want a title shot. I want to be tested like everyone else. And don’t get me wrong, I have watched my pro debut obsessively. There is plenty of room to improve. My job is to learn to get better at boxing. It beats welding on an oil tank any day. I don’t want to come off as some thug because I’m not. I don’t want to disrespect the sport. That is the last thing that I want to do. I love all the people around me. I have a chance to bring something refreshing to boxing. I just need to continue to listen and train. ”

Follow Ray on Twitter @RayMarkarian

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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