By Simon Ruvalcaba | December 01, 2011

Much like a parent raises their child in hopes of teaching them to avoid the same wrong turns made on their own journey in life, lessons are learned in a similar manner at the boxing gym, the home for the dreams of hope and glory for many fighters. When a young Thomas Hearns walked into Emanuel Steward's Kronk gym in Detroit, he was thrown into the ring to spar an experienced boxer who ended up breaking his nose. The will of Hearns, who didn't mind straightening his nose and fighting on, impressed Steward enough to make him pay close attention to the young talent. Likewise, when Zachary Wohlman walked into the Wild Card gym in Hollywood, Freddie Roach wanted to teach the young fighter a similar painful lesson, putting him in the ring to constantly spar experienced fighters, like a then up-and-coming unbeaten Craig McEwen. It was the fact that Wohlman kept coming back and kept training hard that impressed Roach enough to keep the potential future ace in his gym.

Wohlman had the honor to box as an amateur representing Roach's famed pro gym. The lack of respect for the gym in the amateur circuit, however, kept the young welterweight from big opportunities in the southern California Region. Nonetheless, he went on to win the Los Angeles Golden Gloves in 2010, and after 22 amateur bouts, it was clear to trainers Roach and Eric Brown that Zachary's style was better fitted for the pros. The pro journey for the Jewish warrior known as "Kid Yamaka" starts tonight at Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles against 8-bout veteran Ricardo Malfavon. Being around such a famed gym and working with so many champions has Wohlman a little bitter about not having the nerves and butterflies he may have expected heading into fight week of his debut.

"I get anxious, I get excited when I think about it. I guess because I train with a lot of good fighters and have a great team, I'm ready. I feel calm," Wohlman commented. For Zachary's career to be moving in the right direction, he trusts in the guidance of the fighters that he trains with and a big influence has been former jr. welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi. "I talked with different managers. Paulie's career has been through the ringer and he told me he knew a few guys that he trusted and that he wasn't telling me what to do, just suggesting some people," he explained. So in came Wohlman's management team of Steve Bash and Anthony Catanzaro. About the mentorship that fighters like Malignaggi have given to him, it is a gesture that he hopes he can one day pass on. "I hope I can do that some day to a young a fighter; steer them in the right direction and help them out like Paulie has done with me."

A historian of the fight game, Wohlman's favorite fighter is Sugar Ray Leonard, and having first learned to box in a Marine camp program in Texas, the once troubled youth has a throwback attitude about what he wants to do in the ring. "To me, the jab is my best weapon. I use my legs, use my jab to set things up, keep my hands up; I'm not gonna be flashy or cocky, just professional. I want to be something positive for the sport," Wohlman added. He handles himself well in interviews and has a poster star posture to go with the humble attitude. Perhaps the tough lessons learned in his life is what has matured him far beyond the maturity level of most 23 year olds?

Only time will tell if he turns out to be a significant attraction in the boxing world, but thanks to his boxing father figures, he is aware of the danger curves on the road he is about to travel. Tonight, on the familar turf of Los Angeles where he was born and bred, the engine gets started and Wohlman's pro boxing journey will be off and running.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Photo courtesy of Ian Flanigan at]

APRIL 20, 2019
APRIL 19, 2019