The year is 2008. Zachary Wohlman is 18 years old and he is already in an adult residential drug and alcohol rehab program, Beit T’Shuvuh. His father, David, who is sober several years at this time went through the same program. Zach is a sweet and funny kid. He is strikingly handsome with black hair and blue eyes. He is lovable and affectionate. Traits he gets from his father.


He is also disproportionately built, with hands and feet of a man twice his size. He stands about 5 8’ and weighs 150. He has thick strong legs.


Zach is built like a boxer.


So when he would tell boxing and fighting stories to his new friends in the rehab, they believed him. One of his new friends, a man about 20 years his senior, Noah Shaw, took an interest in him. Noah new world class trainer Freddy Roach.


Zach embraced his Jewish faith while in Beit T’Shuvuh which played a huge part in what was to come.


Zach was also wise beyond his years, he had been living alone in his own apartment since he was 16, so he knew how to play this. He would let Noah make the introduction and then he would show what he could do.


“When I first walked into Wild Card [Freddie Roach’s gym] it was like a pit, super aggressive. The main ring was surrounded with everyone watching two little Mexicans beating the crap out of each other. Freddie told me to put on my gear, I was up next. He didn’t say another word to me. I got in there and both guys beat the shit out of me. For two straight months, every day I took the bus from Culver City and got my ass kicked. Freddie never said a word. I was pissed, thinking he was using me like a fucking piñata. One day sparring I went back to my corner and there he was, telling me what to do. I thought, Damn, I finally earned my keep.That’s the price with boxing, you gotta get the shit kicked out of you and keep coming back for more before anyone takes you seriously.”

Zach took the bus everyday to Wild Card from Culver City.

After winning the golden gloves tournament Zach turned pro a couple years later. And then things got interesting, and real:

“When I was 3-0, I was sober and training hard, and I went to Italy to work as a sparring partner. I’d never traveled in my life, and it was incredible, but I wasn’t able to go to AA meetings. Truth is, I was in Italy and I wanted to drink like everybody else. That was the start of my fall.

I won the next fight, so I was like, ‘Yeah I got this, I can drink.’ I stopped [drinking] for the camp, then for the next camp I stopped a little closer to the fight, and again I won. So for the third camp I didn’t stop at all, and I lost to a guy I never should’ve lost to. Not to discredit him—I got beat, but I know if I’d stayed clean… coming off loss is a total mind fuck. Some guys don’t ever recover from it.”

Zach told me that he felt like Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull. Sugar Ray Robinson just pounding Jake against the ropes. Jake hating himself so much, just dropping his hands and allowing the beating. “I felt like Jake! After awhile I just dropped my hands and took the beating. I hated myself for relapsing. He never got me down though. ‘You never got me down Ray’.”


“That first fight back, your family and friends come out and you wonder: Can I do this? Will I embarrass myself? You step in the ring, and it’s like you’re naked. It was scary, but this time I knew I was sober, and I had a full training camp. I was ready as I could be. Somewhere in round two, we’re banging and I just started smiling. Again I realized how much I fucking love this. I missed it so much, and I was just so grateful I could fight again”.

Self hatred fuels alcoholism. Self esteem fuels recovery.

Welcome back Zach ‘Kid Yamaka’ Wohlman.

Currently Zach is back in training camp for a fight in January in Hollywood. The boxer has already built up a more than respectable following. Wohlman has sponsors and broadcasters and even nerworks like HBO behind him. “The sport needs him.” With the rise of MMA and the slow recent demise of boxing it is easy to see why Zach ‘Kid Yamaka’ Wohlman is the hope of so many.

Written By:

Louie Sabatasso