Zachary Wohlman adapts to his surroundings. I'm not just speaking of his having the rare ability to train at the wild card gym even in the beginning of his pro career; sparring against some of the best, and learning from trainers Freddie Roach and Eric Brown. I'm speaking of the very reason he began boxing in the first place. Most boxers describe themselves nowadays as warriors, at least on these shores. However, Zac Wolhman said he fell in love with "boxing, not fighting", and it is that which guides and facilitates his learning curve. It was not always that way. Writer Chris Strait sat down with "Kid Yamaka", as he prepares for his 4th pro fight next week, against Jose Martell of Arizona, in his own backyard of Hollywood, CA.
CS: Your nickname obviously makes you stand out, as there are not many Jewish boxers nowadays. Where did that come from?
ZW: I actually didn't get bar-mitzvah-ed until a few years ago. I came back to my faith later, and Kid Yamaka (yarmulke) was a nickname given to me in the gym. You either pick your nickname or it picks you. Mine definitely picked me, but the more people heard it, they were like, "hey, that's a really good nickname".
CS: How did you begin boxing? And at what age?
ZW: I was 14, and I went to military school on the Texas/Mexican border. I was nervous to be there, so I told them I was a boxer to gain respect.
CS: Did you know how to box?
ZW: I knew nothing! (laughs), I was so aggressive when they put me in there, to make up for the fact that I didn't know what I was doing. Ironic, now that I am more of a pure boxer.
CS: Did your style come from necessity, sparring against guys like Amir Khan and Alfonso Gomez?
ZW: I always rise to the level of my opposition, so I learn a ton from them. This is my last 4-rounder, and I am looking forward to going more rounds. But I love boxing, not fighting, and that's what this sport is.
CS: Do you feel your style is better suited to longer fights?
ZW: Oh yeah, you're only getting started breaking a guy down in 4 rounds, and if you suffer a flash knockdown, you have to get up and dominate, just to win a one-point decision. I train for longer fights.
CS: You were forced to fight fast a bit in your last fight. Tell us about that experience... getting rocked slightly, and then having your opponent quit with a broken hand.
ZW: Well, I don't think he had a broken hand. My pride/humility won't allow me to take credit for it, but I think he came at me hard, caught me behind the head with a looping shot, and when it didn't finish me, he found a soft spot to lay down in.
CS: What did you learn from that?
ZW: Well, first that I could take a shot - I was still standing, so that's good to know. Second, that I should take my time. I was feeling the KO pressure (his first two fights were decision wins), and I let that get to me.
CS: Did you know anything about him coming in?
ZW: No, I like to have tape, but that fight, I hadn't seen anything.
CS: So, you do like to study tapes of your opponent?
ZW: Yes, some fighters don't, but I would rather know they are good... I have no problem with that. I don't mind them being good, so I'd rather know that then know nothing. I don't want to get to a weigh-in and have that be the first time I see that the guy is a foot taller than me. (laughs)
CS: Being trained and managed well in the beginning of your career (by Freddie Roach and Steven Bash, respectively), you haven't had to take short notice fights. Do you do training camps, or stay in gym constantly?
ZW: I'm pretty much always in the gym. The only break I took was when i went to Italy with Paulie (Malignaggi).. and even then I was sparring with him.
CS: Is he someone you look up to?
ZW: He's like a big brother to me... he was there, helping me before my first pro fight. I hadn't been out of the country before that Italy trip. It was crazy being there as a professional boxer, too. Only had 3 fights, and boxing's already taking me all over the world.
CS: Is Freddie your primary trainer, or is Eric Brown?
ZW: Freddie makes all the decisions, and he will be in my corner this fight. He's the main guy, but I don't want to discredit all the work Eric does. It's about 60/40.
CS: How do you see your development progressing?
ZW: It's step by step. Let's get to 8-0, let's get on ESPN, and keep moving forward. I might move down to 140. My legs and movement are my strength.
CS: Where can people find out more about you?
ZW: At my website, you can get to my FB and twitter from there, too. www.zacharywohlman.com/