At the height of his popularity, Rey “Boom-Boom” Bautista could do no wrong in the eyes of boxing fans. It was a pleasure hearing the crowd go “Boom! Boom!” with every Bautista punch that landed.
But the booms turned to boos in his last fight in Cebu on March 3, 2012 against Heriberto Ruiz, which he won by decision. You are not supposed to use the past tense in headlines but I made an exception for that fight: “BOOM-BOOM BOOED!” A headline that was referenced by a national daily in its report.
Michael Aldeguer, who took over the handling of ALA Promotions from his father in the early 2000s, later told us that Boom-Boom was crying after that match.
“Grabe ang crowd sir, kung ma-knockout nako, mu-cheer, kung dili, mu-boo. Dili nako muaway diri sir,” he said.
Boom-Boom never fought in Cebu after that and a year later figured in once of the most controversial fights in Philippine boxing, though no fault of his own nor ALA. He was supposed to fight a world-rated Genaro Garcia but the fighter who showed up only shared the name and not the skills and had more losses than wins. The awkward pre-fight pose for the pictures by Garcia confirmed Michael’s fears, they got, in the word soc-med savvy kids are familiar with, pranked.
They had a hastily-called press con on the night before the fight to announce the refund of tickets, causing a major financial dent. On fight night, Boom-Boom carried Garcia 2.0 for a round before ending the unintentional farcical fight in two.
Fans, over the years, have questioned the decisions of ALA and Michael explained it to us that night. They don’t make “business decisions” the way Bob Arum does because they don’t view their fighters as business products. They’re family and they know when they’re facing off-court problems that becomes a factor in their decisions.
They had multi-stage plans, too, for a lot of their fighters. Unfortunately, most of the plans got derailed when they lost.
“You can plan for so much but at the end of the day, you can’t fight for them,” Michael said.
Albert Pagara lost in the big stage. AJ Banal lost twice in title fights he was leading and of course there was the Z Gorres incident. Michael was there, he saw it all. Gorres, after winning the fight, getting to his corner before collapsing.
“That was one of the worst moments,” he said.
Gorres and Boom-Boom were there too and shared a funny anecdote. Boom-Boom, now a corporal in the army didn’t recognize the now pudgy Gorres and gave him a salute, thinking he was an officer.
“Perting nakong katawa kay gi-salute ko.”
“Kinsa man ni? Basi officer ni, mao to ako gi-salute.”
“Hoy, wa ka kaila nako?”
The two shared their funny exchange while we listened to them as they were about to leave. Gorres, gave his friend a salute and in turn Boom-Boom offered one to ALA before asking, “Permission to leave sir.”
I swear I saw Sir ALA’s eyes smile with that exchange.
Of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete without Donnie Nietes, one of the greatest Pinoy boxers of all time. Still a contender at 40 but now a businessman, Nietes told me that he’ll only consider on a fight if the offer is right. Fifteen years ago, that right offer finally came to sir ALA and on Sept. 30, 2007, he finally had a world champion when Nietes defeated Somporn Seeta for the WBO minimumweight belt.