Zachary Wohlman, the Golden Gloves-winning welterweight known as Kid Yamaka featured in the ESPN+ documentary series Why We Fight and who was the subject of Emmy-winning filmmaker Matt Ogens’ short Kid Yamaka died Sunday, according to his wife and trainer. He was 32.
Wohlman’s death was announced by Wild Card Boxing Club trainer Freddie Roach who wrote in part, “Love and support to the Wohlman family and to all affected. We love you, Zach. You will never be forgotten. Rest In Peace.”
The fighter’s passing was confirmed by Wohlman’s wife, Serafina, on Instagram where she wrote, ” I can’t believe my world has stopped and you’re not here with us anymore…I can hear you telling me that I’m going to be f*cking great but my world is changed forever. I’ll see you on the other side.”
A post shared by @serafinav
Wohlman had a troubled upbringing. His family life was chaotic. He was in and out of the criminal justice system. As a teen he was sent to military school, where he discovered both boxing and drugs.
In 2008, he began working with legendary Southland boxing trainer Roach, whose list of fighters has included world champions Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and James Tony. Wohlman was also trained by Eric Brown. In 15 fights, his record was 10 wins, 3 losses and 2 draws.
Wohlman’s story was chronicled in the 8-episode first season of Why We Fight, a documentary series from Religion of Sports for ESPN+ that followed the charismatic southpaw’s journey has he trained, traveled the world and his struggled against opioid addiction. The Emmy-nominated series is exec produced by Ronda Rousey, produced by Dirty Robber and Religion of Sports, which was co-founded by Gotham Chopra, Tom Brady and Michael Strahan.
Wohlman’s story went beyond the normal rags-to-riches boxing tale. A cover story in the L.A. Weekly referred to him as boxing’s “great Jewish hope.” At the age of 20, he had a bar mitzvah and started attending Shabbat Friday night dinners each week saying, “I got that sense of family and community that I didn’t grow up with.” Among his prominent tattoos was a Star of David across his entire stomach. His nickname “Yamaka” is a nod to the fact that he was one of the few contemporary Jewish boxers. It also recalls a rich boxing heritage that harkens back to the a golden era of Jewish champions between the two world wars.
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