For many Filipinos, the ultimate dream is to make it in the United States. Chasing success in another country comes with a price however, as families must be left behind, with social media remaining the lone inexpensive means of communication.
Rolly Lunas, of Tabaco City, Philippines, has been chasing this dream for close to a decade, fighting all over the world in search of better opportunities.
The dream hasn’t come without sacrifices. Lunas, 30, hasn’t seen his daughters Reign, 9, and Rits, 5, since leaving for the States. The longest stretch he has ever spent with them is two months.
All of that remains in the back of Lunas’ mind as he prepares for his first crack at “the American Dream” this weekend.
Lunas (34-8-1, 20 knockouts) will make his U.S. debut this Saturday when he faces sturdy contender Chris Avalos (22-2, 16 KOs) in a ten-round junior featherweight bout at the AVI Resort & Casino in Laughlin, Nev.
The bout will be part of a card promoted by Top Rank and will be televised by Spanish language station UniMas on the Solo Boxeo series.
“This is a dream for me,” said the 30-year-old Lunas, who has been based out of San Diego, Calif., since April, working with manager/trainer Vincent Parra. “I can achieve my dreams here to be the best, to help my family and make my country proud in this hard time. I’m thankful for this fight.”
Since turning professional in 2000, the nomadic Lunas has fought in six different countries, facing some of the best bantamweights Asia had to offer.
After fighting out of Japan for the previous seven years – where he fought under the name Rolly Matsushita – Lunas made his North American debut in August, beating journeyman German Meraz over eight rounds in Mexico.
It was Lunas’ first time working with Parra, who is most noted for working with Filipino lightweight title challenger Mercito Gesta. Parra had been in contact with Lunas through Lunas’ cousin Stephen Lunas, who has worked with Parra.
“That fight was valuable for us leading to a fight like this,” said Parra. “He knows how I work in the corner and I know how things about him as well. There’s confidence in each other more so now. We just key on his strengths and try to fix any holes in his game.”
The fight is a risky one for the 24-year-old Avalos of Lancaster, Calif., who has everything to lose as the WBO’s No. 1 contender at 122 pounds. Avalos earned that spot by beating Filipino contender Drian Francisco in an elimination bout last July.
A win over Avalos could put Lunas into position to fight for a title.
“I want to give Avalos and his team huge credit for giving Rolly this opportunity,” said Parra. “He’s got a No. 1 rating and fighting a guy like Rolly is a huge risk. He’s a fighter, we respect him. This is a fight that could lead to a big opportunity for Rolly. A win would be huge to say the least. Winning is the only option.”
Though Avalos is a former amateur standout who has won most of the top American boxing tournaments, Lunas holds the experience edge as a professional, having beaten former flyweight titleholder Malcolm Tunacao and lasting the distance against Anselmo Moreno in WBA bantamweight title opportunity in 2008 taken on one week notice.
Avalos has been more active lately however, as Lunas hadn’t fought in close to a year prior to defeating Meraz.
“Avalos is strong and young, and he’s very confident,” said Lunas. “I need to use my experience to land my power shots and control the ring. I need to be at my best.
“His style is no secret; I need to be sharp and smart.”
“Their styles are made for each other,” said Parra, who had Lunas spar with Christopher Martin, the first man to defeat Avalos in 2010, during training.
“Rolly needs to use his experience. I believe Rolly’s power will be a big factor. Both guys are big punchers, I don’t see the fight going the distance. We’re preparing for a war.”
Photo / Vincent Parra
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.