Legendary Okinawan boxing trainer closes gym

Legendary Okinawan boxing trainer closes gym

On June 12, in the Ishimine district of Shuri, Naha, Shinkichi Kinjo looks back on his memory with photographs of the past champions hanging in the Winner Boxing Gym. (Photograph taken by Masatoshi Moromizato).

June 14, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

This year, Shinkichi Kinjo, manager of the Okinawa Shogaku High School boxing club, will close the Winner Boxing Gym, which he has been running for the last 30 years in Shuri, Naha. The gym has turned out many famous boxers and has had a significant impact on Okinawan boxing history. Having seen the gym’s boxing ring covered in the sweat and tears of many boxers, Kinjo said, “I am grateful to have met so many children and that so many people have supported the gym.”

Kinjo was a boxer at Southern Agricultural and Forestry High School and Nihon University. He worked as the manager of the boxing club at Konan High School for 29 years from 1969 and at Okinawa Shogaku High School after that. He produced many national champions in invitational tournaments, inter-school championships and national sports festivals. Kinjo taught the fundamentals to many boxers who turned professional and became champions both inside and outside of Japan. They include Yoko Gushiken who was WBA Light Flyweight champion from 1976 to 1981 and Akinobu Hiranaka who won the WBA Light Welterweight title in 1992.

Kinjo put in his own money to make the gym by renovating his house.
Working with his wife, Kiyoko, who died three years ago, Kinjo has supported many boxers in the pursuit of their dream. Boxers from outside Okinawa came to seek coaching from Kinjo and he often let them train in his gym.

Kinjo decided to close his gym because it provides a venue for practice for Okinawa Shogaku High School, which will wind up its boxing club this year. Soon to turn 70 years old, he said that his advancing age is another reason behind his decision.

Many people know Kinjo as a strict taskmaster. His approach originated in his college days before Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese administration. Kinjo sensed the gap between Okinawa and the main Islands of Japan and became hungry to win; hence naming his gym “winner.” On the wall in the gym he posted the expression: “You must win against yourself before winning in a fight. Cry in practices and smile after fights.”

Kinjo is a compassionate character. He said, “It’s not all about results. I am happy if when my students go on to become a member of society, or parents, they feel that boxing was good for them.”

He talked about the sadness of closing the gym, saying, “I could even say that it is like part of me.”

Kinjo will continue to work for boxing. He has been the manager of the Toyo University Boxing Club since 2011 and works for the Okinawa Prefectural Boxing League. He said, “I am still passionate about boxing and love the sport.” Many people honor Kinjo by referring to him as the likes of “a legendary trainer,” “a fierce trainer” and “a smart trainer.” Sixty-eight-year-old Kinjo still keeps a close eye on the sport.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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