American boxer Zachary Wohlman, best known as “Kid Yamaka” died as first reported by Wild Card Boxing Club trainer Freddie Roach. He was 32.
Wohlman, a Golden-Gloves winning welterweight boxer was featured in the ESPN+ docuseries, Why We Fight,, which was executive produced by Ronda Rousey. He was also the star subject in the Emmy Award-winning short film, Kid Yamaka, which was directed by Matt Ogens in 2015.
On February 14, Roach tweeted, “So deeply saddened with the passing of a very loved member of our Wild Card Boxing family-friend, brother-Zachary “Kid Yamaka” Wohlman. Love and support to the Wohlman family and to all affected. We love you, Zach. You will never be forgotten. Rest In Peace @ZacharyWohlman.”
A cause of death was not immediately revealed. Wohlman, who first joined Wild Card Boxing Club in 2008, won the Los Angeles Golden Gloves tournament before turning pro in 2019. He was the first amateur boxer to be taken under Roach’s wings, according to LA Weekly.
“It feels good, knock on wood,” he said in 2012. “I’m proud of that, but let’s do something like win a world title and then say I’m the first amateur he’s had, you know?”
Wohlman also trained with Eric Brown, who spoke highly of Kid Yamaka’s talent. “I’ve had him box with world champions and contenders, and Zac’s held his own with all of them,” Brown said. “He’s got mad skills, heart, determination and an eagerness to learn.”
“He’s a good-looking kid with a great personality, and he’s entertaining and people like to watch him fight,” Brown continued. “He’s already starting to get a lot of popularity with only four fights. I can only imagine what it will be like after about a dozen pro fights.”
Here’s what you need to know about Kid Yamaka:
Wohlman’s Wife Serafina Wrote a Moving Tribute Following His Death
Wohlman was married to Serafina, who wrote a heartbreaking tribute to the athlete on Instagram. On Valentine’s Day, she wrote:
My saviour, my love, my Angel, my husband, the biggest pain in my butt. I can’t believe my world has stopped and you’re not here with us anymore. You were changing the world, one person at a time. With great honour and privilege has it been to be by your side through the hell and high water. A talented man, yes you were. A man with demons, yet shared the love of angels.
You changed so many peoples lives all the f****** time. Always giving the shirt off your back to anyone that asked. You have built a legacy that has out lived you, children will have a place to call home because of you and for many years to come. You were meant for me as no one as crazy would have done what we’ve been able to do in the past years.”
The way you loved me was astronomical, the way I loved you was even bigger. This is by far going to hurt like no other. I feel you all over me and when I close my eyes, all I can see is you. Kid Yamaka, Zachary Wohlman, you are forever with me, I can’t believe I’m not going to hear your voice or feel you in this life. I know you’re looking over me right now, I can hear you saying it’s going to be okay, but it doesn’t feel like that. I can hear you telling me that I’m going to be f****** great but my world is changed forever. I’ll see you on the other side.
On Monday, Serafina posted a video on Instagram featuring her husband. She wrote, “YOU WERE CHANGING THE WORLD. I hit the canvas and I can hear you screaming at me telling me to get the f*** up.”
How Did He Get the Name ‘Kid Yamaka’?
Wohlman first discovered boxing at 14-years-old while attending military school and quickly fell in love with the sport. “I don’t remember anything, really, before I started boxing,” he told LA Weekly. “I feel like it’s God’s way of doing me a favor.”
Wohlman took pride in his Jewish religion and chose the name Kid Yamaka as a nod to his heritage. While most men have a bar mitzvah at age 13, Wohlman celebrated his bar mitzvah at age 20. He loved attending Shabbat dinner on Friday nights and got a massive tattoo of the Star of David across his chest.
As one of the few Jewish boxers in modern competition, Wohlman credit his Jewish upbringing for giving him a “sense of family and community that I didn’t grow up with.”
Wohlman’s Last Instagram Post Celebrated 60 Days of Being Sober
While most of Wohlman’s Instagram page was filled with boxing-related pictures and videos, his final post featured a sobriety chip which states that he was “clean & serene” for 60 days. He captioned the post with the hashtag, “HIGH FASHION.”
In a 2012 interview with LA Weekly, Wohlman opened up about his upbringing. “I don’t have the best background,” he said. “I was constantly frustrated. I was always in and out of trouble, fights in school, screwing around with drugs.”
While Kid Yamaka’s life story was one of redemption, he didn’t want that to be the only narrative surrounding him. “It’s my story, so people want to know it. But I’m over it. It’s been written already. The last thing I want is the sob story, and you hear it in boxing all the time.”
Wohlman Co-Founded Ring of Hope Boxing, Which Helps Mentor City’s Youth
Wohlman co-founded Ring of Hope Boxing, an outreach program for young athletes. As stated on their official website, the unique boxing program looks to “connect to our city’s youth, empowering our students to greater health, fitness, and education” through their Stay SHARP! (sacrifice, humility, accountability, respect, and patience) philosophy.
The foundation paid tribute to Kid Yamaka on Instagram following his death. They wrote, “He was a pillar of Hope in our communities, and an ever faithful friend to all. Anyone who knew him would immediately know how special Zach made you feel. His light and joy were infectious, and his support for others was second to none.”