It has been more than two decades since former IBF world flyweight champion and movie actor Rolando Bohol has returned to the Philippines. Now based in Las Vegas and owner of a successful online business, the amiable pride of Negros opened up to The Philippine STAR in a recent exclusive interview about his life in the ring and beyond.
“My earliest memory of boxing was in my province, in Himamaylan National High school in Negros,” Bohol recalls. “I was in second year high school. You know how you have the intramurals, inter-city, and so on. I started in the intramurals. I was so scared, I kept looking at the canvas. I never looked at my opponent. But I won that fight, and the rest is history.”
From there, the diminutive fighter joined an inter-city meet in Bacolod City, won the gold medal at the West Visayan meet, was sent to the 1983 Palarong Pambansa in Tacloban City and won a silver medal. At that point, boxing was just a hobby, but the growing joy inside made him believe it could be something more.
“It never crossed my mind to be a boxer,” Roland explains. “I was the only child from my Mom’s first marriage. My father was a politician. We weren’t rich, but doing well enough to make a living. Early on, I was interested in kung fu. My Mom told me to stay away from it. She wanted me to get a good education and become an engineer. But it was not meant to be.”
Bohol kept winning as an amateur, and a feeling developed in him that, he liked boxing. He asked his mother for a chance, for two years to work at becoming successful. Had he failed, he would have gone back to school and probably stayed in the province as a civil engineer. But he was just so happy to be in the ring, even when he was getting hit, he was smiling. Bohol didn’t realize that his unfettered joy was also unnerving his opponents. Still he had to face the fact that boxing was not going to sustain him financially.
“It was very hard, especially back in the ‘80’s,” says the star of the film “Kambal na Kamao”. I remember I went to a fiesta, and was matched up against somebody just because we were the same height. It didn’t matter what you weighed, as long as you were the same height. I got paid P50.”
Now Bohol is the founder and owner of 24hourshopnet.com, a fast-growing online merchant site which deals in electronics, apparel and a wide variety of products. Bohol also partnered with some of the biggest online traders. He still remembers the difficult days as an up and coming pug.
“When I turned pro, I had four fights at four rounds and got paid P600 per fight,” he laughs. “And you still have to pay for the trainer and so on. I don’t know how I survived. Back then, I wasn’t even working. Luckily, I was living with the Elorde family. They provided for my food and I had a place to stay.”
Bohol beams with pride and is even at a loss for words when he tells of how boxing legend and former world junior lightweight champion Flash Elorde was his personal trainer before the latter passed away in the late 1980’s. The boxer turned businessman is also unrestrained in his gratitude for the Elorde family for helping nurse his career to a world title.
“I didn’t even think about becoming an international champion, a world champion. I just wanted to make a name in the Philippines,” he said.
With a record of 14 wins, two draws and a loss, Bohol went into the ring against Titing Dignos in March of 1986. Dignos was the current Philippine flyweight champion, one weight class heavier. Yet Bohol beat him handily via unanimous decision. That fight brought him attention in the international community. A few months later, Bohol left the Philippines for the first time to fight in South Korea. In January of 1988, Bohol was fighting for the IBF world flyweight title in the venerable Rizal Memorial Coliseum.