K-1 veteran and sumo wrestler Akebono Taro passed away at the age of 54

Akebono Taro from Hawaii is a legendary figure in sumo wrestling. Taro made history as the first sumo wrestler to win the highest championship in the sport without being of Japanese descent.

He passed away at the age of 54.

When Akebono’s death was first announced by Japanese media, it was said that he passed away after his hospital admission in Tokyo. The cause of death was said to be heart failure.

Born Chadwick Haheo Rowan in Waimanalo, Akebono completed his education at Kaiser High School. After relocating to Tokyo in the late 1980s, he quickly became well-known on the sumo circuit.

Standing at an imposing height of 6 feet 8 inches and weighing 500 pounds during his prime, Akebono swiftly ascended to stardom within the sumo circuit. He also ended up rising to the rank of yokozuna.

Throughout his career, Akebono amassed an impressive array of accolades, clinching 11 titles and securing over 560 victories.

Other Hawaiian wrestlers like Konishiki and Musashimaru would also rise to fame during his prime. Even as a celebrity, Akebono maintained his modesty and loyalty to his origins.

Seven years after ending his sumo career, he visited the islands in 2008 to promote an international wrestling tournament. Akebono said that his goal was to provide others with the same opportunity that he had.

He said: “Now I have my chance to do something, give the local boys a chance to fight, but not just fight to fight, fight to make some money and make a name for themselves. Like I had a chance to go to sumo, I feel like it’s my responsibility to pass that chance on.”

Akebono’s influence transcended the confines of the sumo arena, serving as a cultural ambassador between Hawaii and Japan. His pivotal role as a pioneer paved the way for other foreign wrestlers to excel in the Japanese sport, fostering a deeper connection between the two nations.

Following his illustrious sumo career, Akebono embraced new endeavors. He ended up transitioning into the world of mixed martial arts and professional wrestling. His versatility and tenacity continued to inspire generations of athletes both in Hawaii and beyond.

Governor Josh Green also expressed his sympathies to Akebono’s family, stating that the athlete encouraged a great deal of young people in Hawaii to follow their aspirations.

He stated: “A champion in both the land of his birth and his adopted island home, he served as an ambassador for Hawaii in Japan and his legacy will live on.”