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Rhonda Luna by J.P.Yim
©  Copyrighted photo taken by Photojournalist J.P. Yim


5'2" featherweight  Rhonda Luna from Rowland Heights, California was born on April 24, 1978. She was an accomplished softball player at the University of California, and saw boxing as a way to keep her competitive juices flowing.

She now balances boxing training in the evenings with a daytime career as a high school English teacher and softball coach in suburban Los Angeles. She prepared for her career as a pro boxer by gaining extensive amateur experience. She had 14 amateur bouts and twice won the National Blue and Gold Tournament before turning professional. "I think I paid my dues in the amateur level," says Luna.

She made her pro debut on her 25th birthday, April 24, 2003 at the Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, winning a four-round unanimous decision over Rosa Ponce of El Cajon, who was also making her pro debut.

On June 19, 2003 at Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, Rhonda (127 lbs) won by a third-round TKO over pro debut fighter Mayra Trevino (124½ lbs) of Orosi.

On August 8, 2003 at Sports Arena, Pico Rivera, California, Rhonda won a four-round unanimous decision over Miriam Rosario of México City, México (fighting out of Los Angeles) who fell to 2-2-0 (0 KO).

On October 30, 2003 at Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, Rhonda won a four-round unanimous decision over unranked Kimberly Reed of Granada Hills, California, who fell to 1-9-1 (0 KO).

vs. Amber Gideon in March 2004
© Copyrighted photo by Photojournalist J.P. Yim

On March 25, 2004 at Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, a crowd estimated at 2800 saw  Rhonda (127 lbs) win a six-round unanimous (60-54,59-55,58-56) decision over Amber Gideon (124½ lbs) of Chicago, Illinois. They traded on even terms at first, with Luna landing from longer range while Gideon tried to work inside and smother Luna's punches. As the fight progressed both fought in flurries, matching the other's tempo. Luna worked Gideon's body effectively and set up hooks and uppercuts but Gideon replied with a right that landed effectively at times. Gideon began to tire in the later going, allowing Luna to seal the win despite taking some hard rights from the Chicagoan. (For more photo coverage of the fight, see Photo Gallery #159 on the WBAN Member Site).

Gideon, a 2002, 2001 and 2000 USA Boxing national champion who reached the 60-kg semifinals in the 2001 AIBA world championships, fell to 1-1-0 (0 KO) with the loss. "I'm disappointed in myself, I thought I could do a lot better. She didn't fight the way I expected her to fight," said Luna, who prepared for the fight with sparring against Mia St. John, Mariana Juárez and recent Golden Glove champion Danny Martinez. "She threw me off with her lunging. The best thing I can say is at least I won though I didn't perform to my capabilities, and I know now I can go six rounds."

Gideon, 33, was optimistic despite the loss. "I knew coming into the fight this was her hometown, I couldn't leave any doubt that I beat her or I wasn't going to win.  I thought it was a hard fight, Rhonda is a good fighter, she was very aggressive. I thought I gave a good show. People have been coming up to me to tell me I did well. That makes me happy ... it's not going to stop me from fighting other people in their home town. I don't want to be that kind of fighter."

On June 19, 2004 at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, Rhonda won a four-round unanimous (40-36 on every score-card) decision in a toe-to-toe battle with Lisa Martin of Oceanside, California.  Luna came out throwing jabs to the head and body, then unleashed a steady stream of lead rights to back Martin up in the opening round.  The two exchanged hard rights and effective combinations in the second round, with the crowd cheering them on. Luna came out aggressively to start the third, throwing punches from all angles and snapping Marti's head back with powerful hooks. Despite this, Martin held her ground and traded, and neither was significantly hurt. Both landed well in the fourth, but Luna had been busier, especially at the ends of the rounds, and she won a clear decision.  Despite this, she said the wasn't satisfied with her performance. “I can do better,” said Luna. “I’m learning but I know I can do better and should do better.” (See the full fight report by WBAN ringside reporter Mara Castillon). Martin, who won a bronze medal in the 2002 U.S. Amateur National championships in Scranton, Pennsylvania, fell to 1-2 (0 KO) with this loss.

On September 30, 2004 at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, a crowd estimated at 1000 saw Rhonda win a four-round unanimous (40-36) decision over Cindy Christian from Oklahoma. (Read the fight report here.)  Luna was the aggressor throughout the fight and controlled the action with her combination punching and defense. Her left hook snapped Christian;s head back several times.  Christian fell to 0-2-1. "I was pleased the way I fought," said Luna, "I wasn't wild and I was much more aggressive. I was surprised she lasted so long, she was a game fighter."

Rhonda vs. Betty Stephens
vs. Betty Stephens in December 2004
© Copyrighted photo by Photojournalist J.P. Yim

On December 16, 2004 at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, Rhonda won a six round unanimous (60-54) decision over Betty Stephens of Utah in a featherweight bout. Rhonda remained undefeated at 8-0-0 (1 KO) while Stephens fell to 3-2-0 (0 KO). (For more photo coverage of the fight, see Photo Gallery #231 on the WBAN Member Site).

"She was tough just like all my opponents are," said Luna, who  fought cautiously in the third and fourth rounds of her second six-round contest.  "I let it play with my mind," said Luna, "I started thinking maybe I should keep some reserves. I need a little bit more practice fighting more rounds." Luna's trainer Victor Valenzuela had slapped her across the face a couple of times to wake her up. "I almost hit him back," laughed Luna. Valenzuela said they had prepared Rhonda to go to the body and worked on her firing straighter punches. "We worked hard on those things," said Valenzuela, "very few women attack the body."  Luna stepped up her pressure in the fifth and sixth rounds and Stephens responded by going toe to toe with her in a rousing finish that had the crowd cheering them both on.

On February 16, 2005 at the Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California,
Rhonda won a hard-fought six-round 60-54,59-55,58-56 unanimous decision over Margarita Espinosa of Los Angeles. Espinosa, in just her second pro bout, pressured Luna by rushing in with body punches throughout the fight while Luna opened up with her jab and fired combinations when inside Espinosa's reach. Both were willing to trade at close quarters, often exchanging head-snapping shots.  The non-stop aggression of this bout prompted fans to shower the ring with money after it was over.  "I thought I gave the people a good fight," said Luna, "when you're undefeated, everybody comes at you."  Espinosa said the crowd felt she won the fight. "Didn't you hear them?" she said. "Everyone thought I won the fight. At least a draw."  Luna's trainer Victor Valenzuela said "these fighters have nothing to lose so they come at her strong."  Espinosa and Luna split the reported $190 dollars thrown into the tin by the excited fans. Espinosa slipped to 1-1.

On April 28, 2005 at the Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, Rhonda won a six-round split (58-56,59-55,55-59) decision over Sosadea Razo of Santa Rosa, California. Luna improved to 10-0-0 (1 KO) while Razo slipped to 2-5-0 (1 KO).

Rhonda battles Cindy Serrano for the WIBA title
© Copyrighted photo taken by Durell Wambolt

On December 10, 2005, at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York Rhonda (125¼ lbs) fought to a ten-round split draw (96-94 Serrano, 98-92 Luna, 95-95) with Cindy Serrano (125¾ lbs) of Brooklyn, New York for the vacant WIBA World Featherweight title. Rhonda Luna is now 10-0-1 (1 KO) while Cindy Serrano is 12-0-1 (7 KO's).

According to WBAN correspondent Rick McLean, who said this was the best women’s match he had ever seen, "Round one started out fast and furious with Luna moving straight ahead at Serrano looking to land bombs early on. Serrano, on the other hand looked very calm and composed, she was definitely prepared for this bout and rushed nothing in the opening round. Serrano moved back and took her time counter punched Luna effectively with solid straight right and left hands. Cindy moved her head well, snapped out very nice jabs and went downstairs to the body well. What was very impressive from both women was the constant body work throughout the match. They were not just head hunting but were cognizant of the fact that they had to work the body in order to slow each other down. Luna kept the pressure on Serrano and also landed solid combinations to the body however she was unable to land clean punches to the head."

"The second, third, and fourth rounds started off the same as the first with Luna coming straight ahead and moving Serrano back. Serrano landed stiff left jabs and straight right hands that kept Luna off balanced and slowed her forward progress. Cindy also landed impressive counter left hooks to Luna’s head and body. Luna kept the pressure on Serrano and started to find her way in and landed strong right hands to the head.  The crowd was chanting Cindy! Cindy! and by the end of the fourth round Luna had significant swelling under her right eye and it looked as though it would only be a matter of time before the eye closed."

"In the fifth, it was evident that Luna had found a hole in Serrano’s defenses and made adjustments to exploit it because from that round on Luna controlled the pace and momentum of the bout. The adjustment was to start moving her head more and to start landing lead right hands which set up openings for the left hook to the head. This allowed Luna to finally get Serrano pinned on the ropes where she was able to land harder punches. Once pinned on the ropes Serrano was unable to effectively counter like she had been doing through out the bout. Serrano had a confused look on her face periodically during the round."

"Rounds six through eight followed the same pattern as Luna’s punches were starting to get through. Now Serrano was backing up and looking hurt instead of effectively counter punching like she was earlier on. However, Serrano stood in there and traded with Luna and landed devastating straight rights and left hooks to Luna’s head but it looked like it was not having any effect on Luna because she kept moving forward and kept pressing the action. Both women were still going downstairs and landing excellent right and left hooks to the body. By round 9,  Serrano no longer had a cocky and confident look on her face. Instead she had a pained and concerned look on her face as well as a badly swollen left cheek. The crowd was no longer chanting Cindy! Cindy!, but instead were just going wild because these women were giving their all inside the ring. Luna was still slipping punches well and landing solid right hands. Serrano blocked many of Luna’s best punches and countered with her own hard punches. However she did not look like the aggressor and this is what could have cost her rounds on the judges score cards."

"Round 10 was a total slugfest where both Luna and Serrano stood toe to toe and punched with everything they had left.  Both women were definitely going for the knockout and very little defense was shown in this round.  Both boxers raised their arms after the round feeling they had won the match. Even before the decision was given the announcer stated that there would be a rematch between the two at Turning Stone Casino in the future. The bout was ruled a draw and the audience erupted into boos."

On April 1, 2006 in Maywood, California, Rhonda won a six-round unanimous (60-54,60-54,59-56) decision over Lina Ramirez of Mexico.  Luna, the more skillful of the two,  warded off the wild punching Ramirez, countering with effective combinations. Rhonda improved her record to 11-0-1 (1 KOs) while Ramirez fell to 4-7-1 (1 KOs).

On February 8, 2007 at the Marriott in Irvine, California, Rhonda Luna set the stage for an upcoming world title challenge with a hard fought majority (59-54,57-57,60-54) six-round decision over Sosadea Razo of Los Angeles. Fans throw over $200 into the ring to show their appreciation for the two females, who traded punches for the entire six rounds. Razo, with her looping punches, bloodied Luna’s nose in the second round, but Luna’s right cross consistently found the mark and by the third round Razo’s right side was swelling. Both fighters staggered each other in the fifth and sixth rounds with toe-to-toe exchanges. With the win, Luna goes to 12-0-1 (1 KO) while Razo fell to 6-7-1 (1 KO).

Rhonda battles Kelsey Jeffries
© Copyrighted photograph by Mary Ann Owen

On March 22, 2007 at the Isleta Casino near Albuquerque, New Mexico, Kelsey Jeffries (123 lbs) of Gilroy, California won a ten-round split (97-93,94-96,96-94) decision over Rhonda (124 lbs) defending her IFBA Featherweight world title. This was a non-stop action bout, with Luna the heavier hitter starting the fight strongly, and Jeffries throwing the sharper and quicker punches, warming up as the bout progressed. Both threw nice combinations, effective jabs and body shots. In the fourth round, Luna developed a large lump on her forehead, which got larger as the fight continued. Jeffries had begun to find a home for her straight right and showed excellent use of footwork and angles to penetrate Luna's defense. The seventh round was one of the most “brawling rounds” of the fight, with the two exchanging puches ferociously at the end of the session. Jeffries pressed the action in the eight and ninth and the tenth was a barn-burner as both unleashed everything left in their arsenal of solid punches. Jeffries improved her record to 37-9-1 (3 KOs) with the win.  (For coverage of the weigh-in, and fight photos by Mary Ann Owen and Patricia Butaud, see MPEG/Photo Galleries #419 and #420 on the WBAN Member Site).

On November 20, 2008 at the San Manuel Casino in Highland, California, Rhonda won a six-round split (55-59,57-56,57-56) decision over Peruvian-born Kina Malpartida. According to a report by David Avila, "Rhonda Luna ...  needed a last round knockdown of Kina Malpartida to win a split decision. Luna and Malpartida started slowly as both fighter’s styles were not agreeable. Several right hands by Luna probably won her the first round as the extremely tall Peruvian fighter needed to gauze her jab. For the next three rounds Malpartida began to find a mark for her long jab and began peppering Luna consistently. At times a right hand to the body or head would land for Luna, but Malpartida began scoring heavily with the jabs and occasional right hands. Suddenly, Luna seemed to find her footwork and distance in the fifth round. Though neither fighter landed much, it was body work by the Rowland Heights fighter that could have squeezed a point from the judges. The last round seemed to spark both fighters but it was Luna who landed an overhand right hand to drop Malpartida in the corner. She beat the count but the damage was done. Luna forged ahead with punches from all angles but the tall Peruvian managed to evade too many big blows. It was the sixth round that proved the difference in the fight.   'I knew she was that kind of fighter,' said Luna about Malpartida’s ability to stick and move. 'I give her all the respect.'"  Malpartida fell to 8-3-1 (1 KO) with the loss while Luna improved to 13-1-1 (1 KO).

On February 19, 2009 at the Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, Rhonda (129¼ lbs) knocked out Tammy Franks (133 lbs) of San Antonio, Texas at 1:31 in the second round of a scheduled five-rounder. Franks fell to 2-7-1 (0 KO's) with the loss.

On April 16, 2009 at San Manuel Indian Casino in Highland, California, Rhonda won a six-round unanimous (60-54,60-54.59-55) decision over Elizabeth Moreno, who fell to 5-8-4 (0 KO's).

On September 10, 2009 at San Manuel Indian Casino in Highland, California, Rhonda (131½ lbs) fought to a six-round majority (57-57,57-57,56-58) draw with veteran Gloria Ramirez (130¾  lbs) of Sunland Park, New Mexico. The 36-year-old Ramirez, who had been boxing professionally since 1193, moved her record to 10-15-7 (1 KO).

On November 28, 2009 at Sangju Gymnasium in Sangju, South Korea, Rhonda (128 lbs) lost a ten-round unanimous (98-95,96-94,96-95) decision to Ji-Hye Woo (130 lbs) of South Korea for the IFBA Junior Lightweight title. “I was discouraged because from the minute I got off the plane I knew what I got myself into. I knew it was going to take damn near a miracle to pull something off there,” Luna told David Avila. "Even when I eventually saw the scorecard I knew unless I put that girl on her back I pretty much wasn’t going to win that fight. I took it as a learning experience. Any time you get an opportunity how can you turn it down?”   Woo improved to 11-1 (1 KO) with the decision.

On October 28, 2010 at San Manuel Indian Casino in Highland, California, Rhonda (129 lbs) won a hard-fought ten-round unanimous (96-94,98-92,97-93) decision over Ela Nunez (129 lbs) of Jamestown, New York for the vacant GBU Junior Lightweight title. David Avila nominated the final round of this fight as the "Round of the Year" for 2010, and reported that "Nunez’s clever movements in the first round caused Luna to observe more than fire. Left hooks from the New York fighter landed hard.  The second round saw Luna firing three–punch combos behind more jabs. Though few punches were fired it was Luna’s punches that were more effective. Both fighters opened up in the third round and fired combinations at will. A right hand uppercut landed for Luna who was countered by a big right hand from Nunez in a close round. Counter right hands from Luna found the mark in the fourth round. Time after time the counter right hand connected. Toward the end of the round a big right hand landed for Nunez.Luna was winning the fifth round handily but was caught with a big right hand at the bell that sent her into the ropes. In the sixth round Nunez enticed Luna to brawl and she obliged and ran into a right hand that connected flush. Luna shook her head to prove it didn’t hurt and both engaged again. The round slowed a bit in the final 30 seconds. Nunez decided to get on her toes in the seventh round and it cost her as Luna scored heavy whenever she caught the New York fighter on the ropes. At one moment Luna stood still with her hands down to force Nunez to fight. They did and Luna landed a right hand counter flush. Luna won big in the eighth round as Nunez seemed to tire and fire punches wider than usual. Luna connected often with right hands to the body and head. A right counter at the bell landed flush for Luna as Nunez seemed to tire badly. The ninth round saw Luna go back to work on the body and head. Nunez couldn’t muster energy though she was never seriously hurt she was absorbing a lot of blows especially on the ropes. In the final round Nunez seemed to catch a second wind and land some big left hooks and overhand rights. Luna was too strong to be affected by them but Nunez did seem to win the last round convincingly. Some short combos by Luna landed but were offset by Nunez’s bigger shots."  

WBAN's Sue Fox was also at ringside and wrote that "The 10-round fight was an absolute action-packed bout from start to finish with the eighth round being the biggest war for the both of them.  At times----boxing fans were off their seats at the end of each round, and were in a frenzy as the two exchanged powerful and exciting combinations."  Nunez fell to 9-7-1 (2 KO's) with the loss.

Rhonda was named WBAN's "Fighter of the Month" for November 2010 on the strength of her win over Ela Nunez.

Rhonda Luna vs Kina MalpartidaOn April 16, 2011 at Estadio Monumental in Lima, Peru, Peruvian-born Kina Malpartida  (129 lbs) of Long Beach, California won a ten-round unanimous (100-90,100-90,97-93) decision over Rhonda Luna (130 lbs) defending the WBA Junior Lightweight title and avenging her earlier split decision loss.  Malpartida used her footwork and mobility to control the action and withstood a late charge from Luna, who fell to 16-3-2 (2 KO's) while Malpartida improved to 13-3-0 (3 KO's).  

Rhonda says that her amateur experience was an essential precursor to her pro career.  “You have to get grounded in the sport before you just jump into it, especially to jump right into the professional level. I couldn’t imagine myself doing that had I not had the amateur experience. Just the idea of feeling comfortable in the ring, understanding the art of the sport - which is not the idea that a lot of people think, where it’s just stepping in the ring and throwing a lot of punches. The amateur experience gave me so much more of the feeling of being comfortable in the ring, knowing what to look for, and things of the sort. Sparring is one thing, hitting the bag and doing the mitts is another thing. But when you get in an actual fight, it’s a completely different story. I couldn’t imagine not having that amateur experience.”

"Before, I would travel to L.A., East L.A., Chino and South El Monte to spar, now people come over here", says Luna.  Her sparring partners included such experienced pro fighters as Mia St. John and Fredia Gibbs. “I really like Rhonda Luna,” says St. John, "she’s a good tough fighter.”  Luna says that she often works with St. John and seeks her advice when preparing for a fight. “Mia has a lot of experience,” said Luna, "she knows what to do in the ring. With other girls I end up hurting them. They’re too easy to hit.”

Rhonda LunaRhonda is trained by Victor Valenzuela, who trained former WBO Junior Welterweight champion Zack Padilla. Valenzuela says of his female charge: “She looks real good. We have to get experienced fighters for her because she’s too tough for most girls, she hurts other girls who come to spar with her. Not many women do that.

"She has her own style. I can tell she has it,” adds Valenzuela.

Rhonda's boxing career is managed by her brother Jacob, who says “We don’t want to just throw her in with anybody, not at this point, we’re taking our time. She’s young.”

"I know that my future is inside the classroom",
says Luna, "however, my goal is to become a future world champion. I'm hoping I can win a couple of world titles. I know that I need to work extremely hard at what I need to do. I'm taking things slowly and each fight one at a time. My timetable inside the ring will be as long as I am able to fight."

Luna is looking forward to fighting a rematch with Kina Malpartida for the WBA Junior Lightweight title in April 2011.

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