Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Ill Health Forces Matsui’s Retirement

Matsui w/the Big Dog

Jack Matsui recently announced his retirement from the Big Island Boxing community where he had become an icon in the sport.

Matsui had been involved in boxing for more than 60 years and had trained some of the best fighters to ever take to the ring from the Big Island and Japan.

At age 87, and in frail health, Matsui decided that it was time to step down.  “My health is declining and my legs are bothering me so much that I need to use a wheelchair,” Matsui said from the Hilo Medical Center Long Term Care Facility.

Matsui, who was born in 1922 and raised at the Waiakea Mill, received his first taste of boxing at the age of 12 when he began to learn to box.

“Every camp had a boxing club and I needed to learn to defend myself,” Matsui said.  “Boxing and self defense was just a part of learning to grow up.”

Matsui became a flyweight at 112 pounds and gained the attention of the Honolulu Catholic Youth Organization who felt he had a promising career in the sport.

“The CYO brought me to Honolulu to train at their gym on Fort Street,” he said.  “It was during my training in Honolulu that I saw former professional boxers cleaning the gym, talking to themselves and not knowing what was going on.”

Through his experience with seeing “punch drunk,” brain damaged former boxers, Matsui made a promise to never allow his fighters to get hurt.

“I went back to Hilo to teach kids not to get injured.  I’ve always believed that kids should box one or two years to learn the necessary skills to protect themselves, then quit fighting in the ring,” Matsui said.

Over the years Matsui had started both novice and amateur boxing clubs on the Big Island and has trained some of the island’s best.

“I’ve always believed that we can help the kids to learn to make a positive contribution to their community through boxing,” he said.  “Over the years I’ve been asked many times by the juvenile department to help work with certain kids and to steer them in the right path by teaching them self-discipline through boxing.”

Matsui’s coaching list of former boxers is a who’s who list of some of the very best that has ever come out of the Big Island.

Matsui coached and trained the Asuncion brothers, George, Gerald and Dennis, all of which were good fighters during the late 60’s.

“George (Asuncion) was the first boxer from Hilo to make the Olympic team in 1968,” Matsui said.

Matsui also trained Charles Cabral, Frank Flores, Fred Mensha and Ralph Aviles, just to name a few.  Mensha went on to become an all-Japan boxer during the 1970’s, while Aviles headlined a professional card and was ranked, at one time, eighth in the world.

Matsui was also recognized as an outstanding boxing coach/trainer and was invited to go to Japan eight times to help train their fighters.

The highlight of Matsui’s Japan connection came in 1988 when he was asked to help train the Japanese boxing team for the Seoul Olympics.

“I loved going to Japan as they treated me very well and paid for my expenses while I was there,” he said.

Matsui also speaks fluent Japanese, holds a fourth degree black belt, yodan, in judo and has received countless accolades for his lifelong dedication to the sport that he loves.

Along with keeping boxing in the forefront for the Big Island community Matsui has also been instrumental in founding the Big Island Athlete of the Month Program, with the help of Hugh Clark, and is the founder of the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame.

“I’m not happy with retiring from boxing,” Matsui said.  “It has been a part of my life for so long that this is hard for me to give up.   My whole life has been boxing.”


December 27, 2009 Posted by | Profiles, Retirement | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment