UH presidential scholar turns to pro boxing

Photos and story by Kelli Miura

Isaac Arasato won four Hawaiʻi state boxing championship titles, traveled to national competitions five times and was awarded a full academic scholarship But, the 26-year-old UH psychology major from Kaimuki is no where near finished as he entered the professional boxing industry this month. “It’s a good opportunity and I’m very thankful, so I just want to do my best,” said Arasato, who debuted against Jace Armond on Sept. 27 and will compete in Japan the following week.

Isaac Arasato practices in the ring with coach Joel Kim of Palolo Boxing Club.

His history

Arasato picked up boxing when he enlisted in the Marine Corps upon graduating from Kalani High School in 2000. He began competing when he was stationed in San Diego, but was forced to put boxing on hold for nine months while he was deployed to Iraq in 2003. He was later stationed in Hawaiʻi for two years and he resumed boxing at Palolo Boxing Club.

It doesn’t take much to notice that Arasato’s dedication to boxing extends to his education after learning that he received the University of Hawaiʻi Presidential Scholarship. After leaving the military in 2005, Arasato began pursuing his education at Kapiʻolani Community College and transferred to UH-Mānoa last year.

“Boxing doesn’t last forever,” he said, noting that some professionals rely solely on their boxing career to make a living. “That’s why I’m pursuing my education. Because when boxing stops, I don’t want to have to force myself to continue to fight for money – I’ll have other options.”

Being able to get matches locally is a challenge for Arasato, who is is already undefeated in Hawaiʻi in the 132-pound weight class. “The level of competition here is not as great as it is on the Mainland, so you have to travel far distances to get good competition,” he explained, while citing the decline in the sport’s popularity as the root of his challenges.

His potential

Palolo Boxing Club head coach Joel Kim said Arasato has become much more of a “complete” boxer since the two began working together in 2002. He came in with average speed and power, but his work ethic made him easy to coach, Kim said.

Arasato trains at Palolo Gym three times a week to prepare for his entrance into professional boxing.

Arasato alternates every other day between practicing at the gym and running three to five miles. His only day of rest is Sunday. “If he keeps the work ethic like he is and he keeps the desire he has, I see him making big strides,” Kim said.

Now that Arasato has competed to his highest capabilities at the amateur level, Kim feel that his move towards a professional career is best because “there’s nobody else to beat in Hawaii.”

The bond between teacher and student is strong for Kim, who described Arasato as “almost like a favorite son.”

“To see him do so well, it gives me a good feeling,” Kim said. “I see a lot of the stuff he’s doing now – his speed, his power, his moves – it reminds me of (myself) 20-something years ago.”

Not only has Arasato’s dedication reflect his accomplishments, but it also sets a good example for younger, up-and-coming boxers. “They see where he’s at, how he works and they know what it takes to get there – that kind of work ethic,” Kim said.

Coach Pedro Torres, also of Palolo Boxing Club, said Arasato is on the A-level right now because of his motivation, dedication and consistency. Torres agrees that professional is the direction Arasato should be moving here because of the limitations of Hawaiʻi, which doesn’t have a professional boxing industry. Just like the MasterCard commercial goes, Torres called it “priceless” to have been a part of Arasato’s accomplishments and see him move toward a professional career.

His future

Arasato will be the first to say that professional boxing is a business. “You don’t work, you don’t get paid,” he explained. “I’ll take it as far as it can go, maybe three or four or five years.”

Arasato is also working with a promoter and hopes to enter the boxing industry in Japan later this year. “Being a Japanese boy from Hawaii, it might bring a little bit of flair considering I’m an outsider, but I’m still Japanese by ethnicity,” said Arasato, who departs for Tokyo this Tuesday. “They really do enjoy people from Hawaii.”

With the help of technology, Arasato made it clear that his education is still a priority with his plans to school through online courses if he has to move to Japan. Arasato is expected to graduate next spring and plans to apply to graduate school at UH this year to pursue a Master’s degree in communications or counseling and guidance.

“There’s many things I want to do,” he said. “I could go back into the military, (go) into the education field, or maybe I’ll start my own business." But, Arasato’s ultimate goal is to remain a positive role model to kids in the amateur boxing community. He hopes that motivating them to continue boxing will enable the sport to thrive locally.


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