By Robert Coster
Rafael de La Cruz is one of the best known boxers in the Dominican Republic, better known by his nickname, “Kalunga.” Record: 2-31. Weight class: hard to tell. So, why waste ink over such a professional loser ? Well, for one, promoters in the Carribean islands just love “Kalunga.” He is always ready to fight at any time, at any weight from 122 to 160(!), will always put up his best effort while giving young prospects a good scrap. Not the type of opponent to go in there and lay down, “Kalunga”comes to fight and will always try to earn his bucks (pesos, in this case). In his nine-year career as a crowd-pleasing loser, De la Cruz has fought boxers like Joan Guzman, Agapito Sanchez (world champions), Victoriano Sosa, Edison Miranda, Giovanni Lorenzo and more.
Says the congenial, talkative Rafael, “Hey, I went five rounds with Joan Guzman (four with Agapito) and I remember, I think I almost won a round…well, maybe not…but I didn’t lay down. He had to get me out of there by sweating. Kalunga loses but he goes down fighting, right?”
What is most intriguing is Kalunga’s uncanny hability to go up and down weight classes with no apparent effect on his health or his workmanlike (losing) performances in the ring. For exemple, just this year De la Cruz lost a decision to 160lb prospect Joaquin Lopez (weighing 157 lbs.) then traveled to another town to lose another decision to Johnny Nolasco (weighing 143lbs).
Kalunga is admitedly one of the most active boxers in the Dominican Republic, always ready to answer his cell phone at the beckoning of any promoter, ready to tussle with the next prospect that needs him to pad his record, and, yet he’ll give them a good workout.
“Anybody who steps into the ring with Kalunga has to earn his money,” says Rafael. “Yep, I lose…but with dignity.”
How long will Kalunga be able to keep up with his strange boxing career? Well, De la Cruz seems to provide the answer: “I think I have many good years ahead of me and I still have to fight as a cruiserweight or heavyweight…something to tell my grandchildren about.”