I met the Self-Proclaimed and widely acclaimed Christopher “Bald Bull” Rohland one summer day 6 months before we opened The Club (approx two years ago). It was a stressful time and we were on the marketing circuit building the buzz for the opening of The Club. We were introduced to Chris as the ‘guy to know’ in Boston and quickly knew why he received this namesake. Chris has an energy that is undeniable and when he speaks he glows with love/passion and goodness. After 45 minutes together Chris opened up to us about his “Fight” and we were amazed how much the EVERYBODYFIGHTS mantra really applied to everyday people like Chris and ourselves. We knew Chris would be in our close circle for years to come and we knew we needed him in the gym. He made a few excuses about why he couldn’t come to gym but we challenged…and we challenged. 4 Months later Chris was in the gym every day. 8 months later Chris fought in the Haymakers for Hope charity boxing fundraising event (*whose fight raised the most money) and losing an unprecedented 30 pounds. Chris not only came to the gym but made it a religion. He inspired us and others all while raising money for a great cause. Chris’s fight story is one that shows the ups and downs of Life’s Fight but that Fighting is truly a undeniable spirit and one that shines through no matter how cloudy the day. Read more to learn more about a true FIGHTER in every letter of the word. Thanks Chris for inspiring us and supporting our FIGHT to build a community of Fighters empowering others through their life stories.
I have been a fighter my whole life. However as I got older, life threw some punches at me that could have been knock out blows. You know the saying, it isn’t what happens to you, it is what you do about it that defines you? Well I believe this. To be successful and enjoy life, you have to know that there are going to be challenges. Some are small and some are ridiculously hard. But you have choose to overcome these challenges and do what you have to do to win or the hard times and excuses could literally kill you.
My first big challenge came in 1997. My 27-year-old brother in law, Chad came down with an unexplained illness. He went from being a healthy and normal young man to in the hospital and on a respirator within a matter of days. The doctors were baffled, and so was I. In the end, after trying everything, we lost Chad. We still to this day have no idea what ended his life. He was my wife Cody’s only sibling and one of my best friends. It was an extremely hard time. However we did what we had to do to move on. The following year around the same time, I lost my father to cancer. He was only 57 and he was my hero. So in a matter of two years, I had lost two of the most important people in my life. Devastating? Yes. Life ending? No. Not if you don’t want it to be. I remember thinking at that time that there couldn’t be anything worse that could happen to me. I was wrong.
It was April of 2002. I had been living in Las Vegas, Nevada for over 5 years and had moved my family there after the death of my father to get a fresh start. Things were great. I was the publisher of a successful magazine and working for the largest media company in Las Vegas. I was enjoying the lifestyle there and all the benefits that come with it. I thought I was on top of the world and that having fun and making money was all that mattered. Then on one beautiful Sunday afternoon, as I drove to meet a friend for dinner on the strip, my life and my priorities instantly changed.
It was a white Mustang. At least that is what they told me after the accident. The driver was a young woman who had been out for a few drinks with a work friend of hers. However, she had a few more than a few. They were driving on the opposite side of South Las Vegas Boulevard, which was separated by a median. Before I knew it, she was coming over the median and hit my Jeep at a speed of about 70 miles an hour. The sheer violence of the impact tore her car in half. It was so powerful that it knocked the back axel off of my vehicle. The carnage was unbelievable.
I did not know this at the time, but I had compound fractures in both of my arms, a shattered pelvis, a shattered right ankle and a broken hip. I was also bleeding and in shock. The driver of the other vehicle and her passenger were not so lucky. They both died on impact. The doctors at University Medical Center worked hard to rebuild me. First they repaired my arms, then my ankle. Then finally, the day came to perform surgery to rebuild my hip and pelvis. It was going to be a tough procedure. Everything seemed to go well. However, when the time came to bring me out of the anesthetic, I wouldn’t respond. The doctors were concerned and tried a number of procedures to bring me back. Nothing worked. The doctors then delivered the heartbreaking news to my family. It was most likely that I was going to die. They couldn’t get me back and they were giving me a 5% chance of survival. However, I am a fighter… remember? I wasn’t letting go and I held on long enough for them to try one more thing. They pumped me full of as much saline as they could to hopefully jump-start my vital organs and kidneys. It worked. I came back, much to the happiness of my family and friends. I had beaten the odds. But now the question soon turned to about whether I would walk without assistance again. With so much damage, it was going to take a lot of rehabilitation and even then, it wasn’t certain it would happen. So I got to work. That is what a fighter does, right? They get to work in the face of a challenge. I worked extremely hard. Day by day, I improved. And one day, I went from my wheelchair, to a walker. Then a few weeks later, I went to a cane. Then the day came that I could walk without that. It was huge. But I was sad that I would never run again or participate in sports. Or would I?
In the fall of 2011, I was introduced to Andrew Myerson, one of the founders of Haymakers for Hope. I was now living in Boston, MA and still working in media. A few friends of mine had signed up to participate as boxers in this amazing event and they were training as amateurs for their first sanctioned fight while raising money for cancer research and treatments. Since I lost my dad to cancer, I was very interested in helping Haymakers. However I thought that it was crazy to step in the ring, especially since I hadn’t been able to run or work out since the accident. I went to that year’s event as a spectator and saw how amazing it was. I greatly admired the commitment shown by the fighters. I appreciated the hard work that they put in and the fear and doubt that they faced. But I still didn’t see myself ever doing something like it.
In the fall of 2013, I again ran into Andrew Myerson. This time it was at an event that was recognizing Haymakers for Hope for their work. We talked briefly and then he looked me in the eye and said, “you should do this”. The only way I can describe that moment is that it was a calling. I started to believe that I should sign up if only as a way to honor my father and do some good. I admit I was scared and uncertain. The self-doubt set in. Thoughts like “Could I physically do it?” and “will I get hurt?” crept into my mind. However, I did sit in front of my computer one fall morning and register to fight. Then on the day after Christmas, the e-mail came. I had been selected to fight in the 2014 event and training would begin immediately. So, the week after New Year’s I limped into The Club by George “Monk” Foreman III a fat, out of shape middle-aged guy with no previous fight experience. He didn’t say it at the time, but Monk would later say that he took a look at me that day and he too wondered if I had it in me to make the changes necessary to compete. But I am a fighter. I decided to give all of myself to my training and to my trainer. I put my fears aside and I worked my ass off. For 4 months I showed up. I punched bags, sparred with guys half my age, and took some really good shots. And, I ran. It started out as an awkward jog at first. But after months of training and listening to Monk, I was running three miles a day. Again, It’s not what happens to you, it is what you do about it that defines your life.
On May 15, 2014 I stepped into the Haymakers for Hope ring at House of Blues Boston for my first sanctioned fight. I was 30 pounds lighter and mentally tougher. I had trained hard and done the work. I left everything I had in the ring that night including my blood and sweat. In the end, I didn’t win the bout. My opponent had also trained hard and had what it took to win. But here’s the funny thing. I did win. I beat my fear. I beat my doubt. And I made the negative voices in my head go away. I proved to myself and many others that you can accomplish far more than you think you can if you do the work. And on top of all of that, my opponent and I raised a combined $60,000 for cancer research. Sounds like a pretty good night to me.
One one of the training days very close to my fight date, I thanked Monk Foreman for changing my life. He just looked at me and said, “I didn’t change your life, you changed your life.” And you know, he is right. I did. And so can you.