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By Homer D. Sayson

Even without a belt: BoomBoom is a winner in life
Sat, 22 Nov 2008

CHICAGO -- The cruel sport of boxing is littered with the carcasses of past champions who had squandered their fortunes through wretched excess and loving neglect.

Mike Tyson immediately comes to mind. Once the Baddest Man on the Planet, Tyson pocketed over $300 million in fight purses. But after a few divorces and one highly-publicized bankruptcy, Iron Mike apparently hasn't stashed much of his cash.

Aaron Pryor, who knocked Alexis Arguello out twice in his storied career, used to carry around $10,000 in spending money. But after battling his drug demons, Pryor doesn't have much to spend anymore and is reportedly struggling just to get by.

Leon Spinks is another sad tale. He fell from the heavyweight throne all the way down to washing floors at a high school gym in Minnesota. From getting million-dollar paydays, Spinks was reduced to earning minimum wage, albeit through honest and dignified work.

Filipino boxing great Rolando Navarette had also been through one of life's heart-rending freefalls. Once the featherweight king, his rise was as fast as his demise. He, too, lost all of his money. And a lot of his personal pride.

The above-mentioned fighters and their tragic fall from grace are valuable lessons that Rey "BoomBoom" Bautista is taking seriously at heart. That's why he makes sure that every dollar, peso or whatever currency he earns is parlayed into money well-spent.

Just 22 years young and with only 26 fights under his belt, BoomBoom is still a zip code away from earning millions of those mighty US dollars that every gym rat covets. But he had seen his tidy share, and he has a lot to show for it.

Needless to say, the young Boholano is grateful for the bounty his dangerous sport has provided him. And grateful as well for the Aldeguers -- patron Antonio (aka Antonio Lopez Aldeguer) and his son Michael -- for helping him manage his finances.

BoomBoom has yet to earn a jaw-dropping seven-figure payday, and hemay well possibly get it, granted he fulfills the promise of his early start and light the super bantamweight division on fire. For now, though, he is content with what he has.

Thanks to a handful of fights in the US, BoomBoom is now the proud owner of a three-bedroom house. His modest abode is home to his parents and four siblings and it sits proudly near the heart of Tagbilaran City, Bohol. His ancestral home in far-flung Candijay has also been fixed and remodelled, and he stays there on occasion.

Not very long ago, BoomBoom used only his tired feet to travel from point A to point B. He was so broke he could barely pay attention and respect, as the saying goes.

But these days, BoomBoom prowls around town with a regal Kia Rio, while his father no longer relies heavily on two-wheeled contraptionssuch as motorcycles. Courtesy of BoomBoom's generosity, "tatay" now performs his errands while steering the wheels of a Mitsubishi Adventure.

A woman of simple needs and wants, BoomBoom's "nanay" doesn't care much for life's finer things such as cars and SUVs, but she's ecstatic at presently being an enterpreneur, who runs and manages a large sari-sari store in Tagbilaran which is financed by his famous son.

BoomBoom has also invested heavily on his siblings, setting aside cash to ensure that each and every one of them gets the benefit of a college education. It's what you may call the BoomBoom Bautista Scholarship Fund.

Ever relentless, BoomBoom is determined to expand his business
horizon. After his ring assignment this Saturday night at the MGM Grand, beneath the undercard of the Hatton-Malignaggi pay-per-view tiff, BoomBoom will fly back home to Bohol and work on acquiring a franchise to operate a fleet of jeepneys that will service Tagbilaran and its neighboring suburbs.

I fondly remember one of the many interviews I've had with BoomBoom. It happened in Tampa Bay, at a cozy restaurant nestled in the lobby of a four-star downtown hotel.

Over steak dinner dinner with his trainer Edito Villamor, BoomBoom told me how desperately he wants to keep fighting, win titles for his fans, and earn a small fortune for himself and his family along the way.

Although winning a universally-recognized championship belt still a work in progress, BoomBoom has already accomplished most of his goals, leaving him contented, and joyful beyond words.

Fate sometimes plays cruel games on good people, which leads us to fear that BoomBoom may never capture the belt that he so cherishes.

But given what he has done to better himself and the lives of his loved ones, BoomBoom Bautista, in my eyes, is a rare winner in a sport that has made losers out of many champions.

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