HONOLULU (KHON2) — A local boxing club opened its doors Sunday, but it’s been around since the 1930s.
Kakaako Boxing Club began as a way to help residents in the fishing village learn the sport and train, later becoming a hub for professionals before rehabilitating into a haven for Keiki and young adults in Kalihi under the tutelage of Masa and George Nakaoka in 1980.
“It’s been 90 years we’ve been involved in the community since we’ve been established and thankfully today marked the first day we can open up to the community,” Kakaako Boxing Club Vice Chair and Coach Sean Fitzsimmons said.
The team made of 50 students and 4 coaches were stuck without a place to train after their facility was sold during the red hot real estate rise, so Fitzsimmons and Club Chair Reno Abihai weaved to find a new home at the former Pau Hana Lounge in Kalihi.
“I just felt it had the grit that we had in our other gym. A little bit of touching up that we could make it work,” Abihai said.
Fitzsimmons took some convincing.
“It was an abandoned bar with leaks all through the roof, I didn’t see it at all but thankfully with the help of all of the boxers in the gym we were able to come together demo the bar and construct what you see here behind me,” Fitzsimmons said.
Now they can move forward with what they love to do: helping underserved and at-risk Keiki and young adults gain confidence in the sweet science, with a goal of helping them succeed outside of the ring.
“The fight is the same thing as the job interview same thing as the exam it’s, all the same, it all requires the effort and focus and dedication. Once you see the path one way you see the path all ways,” Fitzsimmons said.
It’s a bout that Abihai knows well, as a former student at 19 years old he says the sport turned his life around.
“Three hours here took me out for the whole night I couldn’t be out in the street after coming here. I feel like they spend a couple of hours here and we got them for the whole day basically,” Abihai said. “This is a place that they can come and feel safe, be themselves without being judged.”
Today proved to be extra-special with Abihai’s sensei Masa giving his blessing.
“Without people like him Hawaii not so good in boxing. So I’m grateful for him and he kept the name going,” Nakaoka said.
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If you or someone you know would like to learn to throw a right hand or lend a helping hand, visit the Kakaako Boxing Club website. to learn more.