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Kaua‘i’s ‘Yasu’ Yasutake, Isle ‘Knockout King’ of the 1940s

Born in Pakala, Kaua‘i, featherweight boxer Yasushi “Yasu” Yasutake (1919-1991) was one of the great fighters of Hawai‘i’s golden age of boxing during the 1930s and 1940s.

As an amateur, he was crowned the Territorial Featherweight Boxing Champion of 1940 and 1941.

In recalling Yasu’s amateur days, boxing promoter Sam “Sad Sam” Ichinose (1908-1993) said, “He was a good fighter and represented Hawai‘i in the AAU Nationals in 1940. He was a very polished puncher.”

Ichinose, by the way, was Hawai‘i’s “Mr. Boxing” for more than 50 years, having promoted more than 425 fights and having either trained, managed or promoted every boxing champion who came from the Islands, among them world champions Bobo Olson, Dado Marino and Ben Villaflor.

Maui-born boxer Bobby Lee (1921-2020), who compiled a 41-4 amateur record as a lightweight and welterweight in the 1930s and early 1940s and later became a boxing official, said of Yasu, “He was a banger. He could really punch.”

Yasutake knocked out his first 10 opponents as a professional, and compiled a record of 22 wins, 16 by knock out, seven losses and two draws, all against tough competition, between 1941 and 1948, with most of his fights taking place at the Honolulu Civic Auditorium and Honolulu Stadium.

After Yasutake retired from boxing in 1948, he took up the carpenter trade before becoming business agent for Carpenters Union Local 745 in Honolulu.

He and his wife, Ann Akiyama Yasutake, had four children: Joseph, Carolyn, Lorraine and Elaine Yasutake.

In his book “Kaua‘i As It Was In The 1940s and ‘50s,” Mike Ashman wrote about Ann Akiyama: “Whenever I felt the need to save money, I’d skip a hotel meal and head for Barbeque Inn for a stomach-filling nickel bowl of saimin. The Inn also was where young people hung out to pass away idle time. Teenager Ann Akiyama, who was a Hollywood-type beauty, waited on a few tables. She, alone, was an attraction. But she was strictly ‘hands off.’ Nobody had to tell us. Her boyfriend, whom she later married, was ‘Yasu’ Yasutake, the territory’s featherweight boxing champ.”
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Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

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