Rolando Bohol, a look back at a former fighting pride of the Philippines
By Pete Escobar
On January 16, 1988, Rolando Bohol became a household name in the Philippines by winning the IBF World Flyweight Title over fifteen grueling rounds against a grifty South Korean Chang Ho Choi at the Rizal Coliseum in Manila. Roland, as his friend called him, graduated from Elorde prospect to world champion.
Rolando was born in Bacolod Murcia, Philippines, an only child of Felizardo and Teresita Hersalino, on christmas day 1965. Roland's first interest began with kung fu primarily for self defense, but later on was prodded by an uncle to take up boxing instead. He started to box at the age of twelve using a sack of sand as a punching bag. A boxing tournament they called "kalye tae vs. kalye igit" was formed in his neightborhood the combatants had to be approximately of the same height and t-shirt were used as gloves. Roland would sometimes get a black eye or two, but that diden't stop him from coming back the to fight the next week. In 1979 he began his formal boxing amateur career at Himamaylan High School.
He went on to win gold medals at the 1981 Western Visayas Meet in Bacolod City and at the 1982 National Open at Dagupan city. In one of his last amateur tournaments, he captured the silver medal at the 1983 Palarong Pambansa in Tacloban city. After a successful amateur career that spanned 42 fights and the Elorde's blessing, Roland turned pro in early 1984, winning a four round decesion against Bert Baco at the Elorde Sports Complex in Sucat, Paranaque.
Fighting under the head trainer, International Boxing Hall of Famer Gabriel "Flash" Elorde and managed by Martin Luis Elorde, Roland won his first fifteen bouts before suffering a setback. He bounced back from the loss winning his next four fights including a win against Rey Cogonon which was an undercard to the Penelosa vs. Zapata WBA World Flyweight title fight. For his efforts that evening, he won "Best Fighter of the Night". He also served as a sparring partner for Hilario Zapata in preparation for Dodie "Boy" Penalosa title bid. In his next effort he lost a decesion to Chun Huh in South Korea.
Undaunted by his two losses, Roland forged on, winning his next five bouts. He became the mandatory challenger for the IBF World Flyweight title. After protracted negotiations, a purse bid was won by Lope "Papa" Sarreal Sr. to finally set the date for Bohol to challenge for the title. For his 27th fight, four years after his profesional debut, Roland earned a shot for a world title against a familiar champion. Chang Ho Choi was no stranger to the Filipino fight fans. He won the IBF title belt via 11th round knock out of Dodie "Boy" Penalosa at the Araneta Coliseum just four months before facing Rolando Bohol.
The battle was intense from the initial bell and Bohol was momentarily in trouble in the seventh round, reeling over an intentional head butt. Coming out for the eight with his right eye completely shut and blooded over a cut that would later on require 14 stitches, Bohol fought with a sense of urgency increasing his work rate to earn a split decision in regaining the title belt for his country. He made a successful title defense against another South Korean ChoWoon Park at the Araneta coliseum in Manila. Bohol knock down Park in the first round and dominated the fight winning almost every round en route to a unanimous decision.
By this time, Roland was having difficulties in making the weight limit. His walking was around 136 lbs. and he had to go down to 112 lbs. to compete in the flyweight division. In those days, the weight in was done on the day of the event at 10:00 AM with the fight occuring nine hours later. With the difficulties of making weight, he lost the flyweight title in October to the heavy fisted Brit Duke Mckenzie in London, England.
Moving up in weight to Super Flyweight, he reeled off two impressive wins before getting another title shot. This time the regional OPBF (Oriental & Pacific Boxing Federation) title belt was on the line. The southpaw Maphai Narachawat was an experienced champion kick boxer in Thailand before getting in the sports of boxing. Bohol started the night quick with a vicious body attack that put the Thai on the canvas in the second round. The end came in the six round. Rolando Bohol was a champion once again. For his second defense of this title, Roland went into enemy territory in Fukuoka, Japan to fight Tatsuya Sugi. Getting out of the gate strong, Bohol put Sugi down on the third and seven rounds, but coulden't put away the durable challenger. After twelve rounds, Bohol thought he had clearly won the decision. But it was not to be. After a long delay in announcing the outcome, he lost the belt on a close and disputed split decision. He would later on avenge this loss against Sugi via tenth round knock out in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Following the debacle in Japan, Roland remained a respected ranked fighter losing in a close decision to future world champion Junior "Poison" Jones in Worcester Massachusetts. He was ranked as high as number three by the WBC, WBA and IBF. Bohol continued his high level of competition with bouts against Columbian former WBC Bantamweight champion Miguel "Happy" Lora, Dodie "Boy" Penalosa, Hiroshi Kobayashi and former IBF world champion Tacy Macalos. With his knock out wins against rival Japanese Tatsuta Sugi and Mexican Simon "Kid" Contreras in Honolulu, Cedrick Kushner in a partnership with Top Rank Bob Arum lined him up for his last attempt at a world title. The bout was another climb in weight at bantamweight and the opponent was the hard hitting Orlando Canizales. Bohol lost when the fight was stopped in the fifth round. His last fight was against a prime Johnny "mi vida loca" Tapia in another stoppage loss in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
After ten years as a boxer, all those times spent in the gym honing his craft and preparing for his upcoming fights, Bohol was ready for the next chapter in his life. Roland had no regrets in retiring from boxing. He seattled in Hawaii working in the hotel industry and kept himself busy in the community, working and serving as a chairman for the HIYGG Hawaii International Youth Goodwill Games. Rolando Bohol currently owns a internet electronics store operating from Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, where he resides.
It has been an honor to write about the Champ, Rolando Bohol. I was thrilled talking to him over the phone while he detailed his boxing experiences which I used this introduction to his website. I felt the excitement in his voice as he recounts his memorable fights specially the one where he won the IBF World Flyweight title belt. The champ was very humble and accommodating with his time as we spoke while he driving to work. I smiled from ear to ear, looking back on the times he brought pride and glory to our country, inspiring millions of Filipinos throughout his boxing career.