Remembering a Hall of Fame coach, a pitching phenom, and a “Blessed” UFC champion

Remembering Hawaii
Max Holloway_190119

December 4th is the birthday of the three major figures in Hawaii sports history: Dave Shoji, Jerome Williams, and Max Holloway.

Dave Shoji

Shoji was born in California in 1946. He was a two time All-American volleyball player at UC Santa Barbara before heading to Hawaii to coach, first at Kalani and then at Punahou. In 1975, at just 28 years old, he took over the UH women’s volleyball program, which was coming off a 9-1 season that ended with a loss in the national title game. There was plenty of pressure to deliver continued success. Shoji exceeded the already high expectations. 

Throughout his 42 seasons as the head coach of the Rainbow Wahine, he amassed a record of 1202-204-1 — the fourth most wins in NCAA history — which translates to a remarkable .855 winning percentage. His teams made it to the NCAA Final Four 9 times, including three national championship teams in 1982, 1983 and 1987, and runners-up in 1988 and 1996. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1982 and 2009, and was named the coach of the NCAA 25th anniversary team in 2005. These awards and achievements only scratch the surface of his Hall of Fame career. Shoji retired in 2017.

Jerome Williams

Today in 1981, MLB pitcher Jerome Williams was born. 

Williams was the 1999 Hawaii Player of the Year as a senior at Waipahu High School

That same year, he was drafted in the first round by the San Francisco Giants in 1999. As a rookie, Williams went 7-5 in 21 starts with a 3.30 ERA, but his performance on the mound slowly fizzled and his ERA nearly tripled by 2008. He bounced around the major and minor leagues, eventually landing in Puerto Rico and Taiwan, the latter he credited as saving his career. After a stellar career in Taiwan, he found himself in the MLB once again, this time with the Angels. In 2011 he picked up his first major league win in six years. 

He finished his career on a string of high notes. In 2012 he pitched a shutout and a save for the Angels, and in 2014 he set a peculiar record by beating the same team (Oakland) while pitching for three different teams — all in the same season. He finished his playing career with the Cardinals in 2016, and is now a pitching coach for the minor league team the Kingsport Mets.

Max Holloway

Exactly ten years after Williams was born, Max “Blessed” Holloway was born in 1991. 

The graduate of Waianae High School began his professional fighting career when he was still a teenager, winning the lightweight championship of the local X-1 promotion when he was 19. By the time he was legally allowed to order a beer, he had a 6-1 professional record and was 2-1 in the sport’s biggest promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was the youngest fighter on the UFC roster when he made his debut in 2012.

Despite his current reign of success, Holloway did not look like a future all-time great when he first entered the UFC. He started off with a 3-3 record, losing to his most high-profile opponents while earning a reputation as a wild, reckless and exciting action fighter. Yet ever since his unanimous decision loss to Conor McGregor in 2013, he has transformed into a winning machine. He won 13 fights in a row — tied for the second most in UFC history — and became the UFC featherweight (145 pounds) champion, which he has now defended three times. His win streak was snapped in a lightweight title fight against Dustin Poirer this past April.

He holds the record for the most strikes landed in a UFC fight (307 against Brian Ortega), the most knockout wins in the featherweight division (8), the most wins in the featherweight division (16), and the most consecutive wins in the featherweight division (14). He boasts a professional record of 21-4, and a UFC record of 17-4.

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