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Rolando Bohol’s Christmas miracle

On Christmas Day, former IBF world flyweight champion Rolando Bohol celebrated his 51st birthday. He has always had a cheery disposition and is known to always have something to smile about. But not too many people know that this birthday is a deeply special one to Roland. In the middle of this year, he almost died. 

“I was driving, then I felt a heaviness in my chest. I called 911, and they sent an ambulance over.”

Roland needed an emergency multiple bypass. The surgery was performed, and he made an almost immediate recovery. He attributed the quick healing to the prayers and well-wishes of friends and family on social media, and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. Now Roland watches his diet and is grateful for every new day.

Bohol has not been back in the Philippines for 22 years, but plans a trip in 2017. He will always be thankful for how boxing turned his life around.

“You know why I enjoyed it? Because without boxing, I am not here for who I am. It changed my life.”

Bohol recalls his successful 1988 title defense against Cho-Woo Park at the Araneta Coliseum. It opened the door to an opportunity he never thought he would have: to become an action star in a major movie production.

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“It was a great experience. Oh my God. It never entered my mind to be in a movie on the big screen like that,” Roland gushes. “It was like magic. But you have to accept the fact that when you’re a world champion, a lot of movie producers and TV stations interview you. I think it was my first title defense at the Araneta Coliseum, and Rolando Navarrete was in the undercard. Carlo Caparas and Donna Villa of Golden Lion Films were watching at ringside. Both of us won our fights and they came to me with the idea of making a movie with two Rolandos.”

After losing his belt via TKO to Duke McKenzie in London, Bohol moved up to junior bantamweight and won the OPBF version of the title. Then Bohol suffered a string of five losses against tough opposition, the last of which was against undefeated Junior Jones, which he still thought was a great fight for himself. Bohol briefly visited the Philippines, and kept fighting at least four times a year, with mixed results.

Bohol figured in a car accident in Honolulu, where he had taken up residence. His car was totally wrecked, and he was temporarily sidelined. Still he kept fighting. Starting in September of 1993, Bohol won four of his next five fights, catching the attention of Top Rank Promotions boss Bob Arum, who offered him a shot at the IBF world bantamweight title against Orlando Canizales in Texas. Bohol lost by knockout. Bohol knew something was wrong. He was not the same.

“There came a time when I said enough is enough. After the accident, I recovered, but it was not a hundred percent. All my reflexes were gone. Only my mind and my heart were still there,” he admits. 

Bohol then took a fight with former world champion Johnny Tapia with only two weeks’ notice, and promptly got knocked out again. He knew he could never be the same fighter he once was, and called it quits.

“You have to accept the reality that you’re getting old,” Roland laughs. “You’re not as strong as you were when you were young. 

The Elorde family offered him to come back to the Philippines to become a trainer. But Roland had other plans. Bohol got a job in the hotel industry, just to keep himself busy, actually, and started a family blessed with daughters. He was also chairman of the Hawaii Goodwill Games for the kids. He went back to school and started up his online business, now the very successful 24hourshopnet.com. He made small real estate investments, then moved to Las Vegas in 2006.

“This is my dream,” he says firmly. “Even when I was fighting, every time I would fight in the US, I would say that this is where I want to retire. I developed a love for the US, and the US has been treating me right.”

Roland is proof that there is life after boxing, and that you can reach your dreams. After his health scare, he has managed to continue living his happy, appreciate, prosperous life. And that is the mark of a true champion.

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