Filipino movies

Rolando Dy, son of boxing legend Navarette, makes own path in MMA

Nissi Icasiano
Rolando Dy, son of boxing legend Navarette, makes own path in MMA
Though his relationship with his father Rolando Navarette wasn't ideal growing up, Rolando Dy has followed him into combat sports as a mixed martial artist

MANILA, Philippines – Fathers play many roles in parenting responsibilities to their children. Some are involved in every aspect of their children’s lives, while others work on only selective facets. Regardless of which areas a father chooses, this relationship begins the journey towards an inevitable bond between parent and offspring.

This attachment spills over into other territories such as sports. In boxing, many father-and-son tandems have emerged. Despite the lack of common genes between Floyd Patterson and his adopted son Tracy Harris, boxing hooligans watched with mouths agape over their championship conquest. Avid aficionados intently followed the Mayweathers derisive relationship beyond the ropes. Ditto goes with Julio Cesar Chavez’s bequeathal of his boxing legacy to Julio Cesar Jr. and Omar.

But not all in-ring tales between daddies and sonnies have happily-ever-after conclusions as it has been seen in the case between Rolando Navarette and his biological son Rolando Gabriel Dy.

Before Manny Pacquiao made waves as General Santos City’s favorite son, Navarette dominated the Philippine headlines in the 1980’s as the town’s most famous lad.

Coined as “The Bad Boy from Dadiangas,” the 5-foot-5 slugger formed his fists into a deadly arsenal to fight his way out of poverty, scoring 20 knockouts in his first 52 professional bouts.

In a country that has crafted a marvelous collection of more than two dozen world champions, Navarette earned his entry into the elite cast in August 1981 when he knocked out Cornelius Boza-Edwards in the fifth round to win the World Boxing Council (WBC) junior lightweight title.

Navarette successfully defended his belt against Korean pugilist Chung-Il Choi, stopping the courageous challenger in the 11th round of a controversial contest held in Manila in January 1982.

Four months later, he dropped the WBC strap to Rafael “Bazooka” Limon via come-from-behind technical knockout (TKO) in the 12th round.

The painful setback to Limon was only the first bead to Navarette’s rosary string of misfortunes. First, his prizefighting career went on a downturn, causing him to never again figure in big-money matches.

Circumstances turned from bad to worse with a three-year stint in a U.S. prison for rape, a sequence of failed relationships with women who bore him a total of seven children, various police complaints for wife battery, and a disreputable record of drug use.

The hard-hitting Navarette embarked on numerous comeback fights, but a series of defeats to local and unranked boxers forced him to hang the gloves for good, ending his boxing run with a record of 54-15-3 (30 knockouts).

While his father reeled from the consequences of his rock-star lifestyle, Dy’s mother Jennifer Dy-Subastil was left with no choice but to solely care for and support him and an elder sibling.

“My mother sacrificed for us, to provide our needs and give good education for me and my sister. It was my mother alone who did everything to make the ends meet,” said Dy, who chose to use his mother’s maiden name in honor of her effort to provide a decent life.

Even though he never grew up with his father by his side, Dy admitted that he wanted to follow his patriarch’s footsteps and pursue a boxing career.

“My mom prohibited me to compete in boxing because she wanted me to focus on my studies. Even if I was not raised on my father’s side, it was my dream to be a boxer ever since. I knew I had the talent, but I just haven’t developed it back then,” he recalled.

Born in Parañaque City and raised in Bansalan, Davao del Sur, Dy comprehended that he was predestined to be a prizefighter when his close friend ardently introduced him to mixed martial arts (MMA).

His growing interest led him to join a local combat group in Davao City to learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu before including Muay Thai and wrestling on his résumé.

Dy stressed that the sport’s concept of being a versatile fighter was the major factor on his decision to shift his attention from boxing to MMA.

“Boxing is a one-dimensional sport, but in MMA, you have to be well-rounded in order for you to be successful. You have to learn the necessary disciplines to improve your game because you will never know where the fight will go,” Dy stated.

'I chose MMA because this is the sport that gave me the opportunity to showcase what I got as a fighter,' said Dy. Photo by Josiah Ramos

At the age of 19 years old, he started to strut his wares in amateur MMA competitions such as Universal Reality Combat Championship’s University Challenge and Butuan Xtreme Combat.

In October 2011, he had a triumphant professional MMA debut by trouncing Ryan Taclan with a second-round TKO.

A month after, his career-path directed him towards Pacific Xtreme Combat (PXC) where he is still competing to this day.

“The Incredible” has registered five wins and two losses with three stoppages inside the cage and is riding high on a three-fight winning streak, defeating the likes of Arex Montalban, top Guamanian talent Kyle Reyes and Han Bin Park.

Meeting his second father

In the world of contact sports, a few fighters have found second father-figures with the likes of Pacquiao in Freddie Roach and Mike Tyson in Cus D’Amato. 

Unlike Nonito Donaire Jr. and Erik Morales who have their fathers in their corners, Dy was unfortunate not to have the same privilege. 

However, the 5-foot-9 standout was fortunate enough to have an invaluable mentor in the person of kickboxing guru Raysaldo Biagtan.

Dy met his Pangasinan-native trainer in 2011 when his family decided to reside in Dasmariñas, Cavite, and since then, both men worked closely together at Biagtan’s martial arts haven in the same locale.

“Master Ray is a very good guy. He never gave up on me and always believed that I have a great potential in the sport. He’s incomparable to other trainers out there,” Dy said of his coach.

Biagtan, who synergized Muay Thai, Cinco Teros and Filipino grappling Dumog into one discipline known as Biagtan Martial Arts, spoke extremely of his 23-year-old pupil and added that Dy resembles his father’s skirmishing attitude in bouts.

“I got interested and convinced to train him as a fighter because of his desire to become one of the best. He also got the attitude of his biological father as a brave prizefighter,” Biagtan noted.

In addition, the multi-awarded kickboxer pointed out that Dy can be categorized as an MMA combatant in a complete package.

“I find no more needed improvements for Gab. He got his hands working all the way so with his legs. Now his ground game is also improving. Recently, he bagged the silver medal in the Pan Asian Brazilian jiu-jitsu tourney,” he observed.

If based on the old proverb that “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree,” it can then be supposed that this applies to a myriad of aspects of daily life. But throughout the course of boxing history, this maxim has not held water for the most part.

When it comes to the professional trade of leathers, many sons have tried to fill the boxing boots of their famous dads, but only a particular few have been able to come close, which included Tracy Harris Patterson, Cory Spinks and Guty Espadas Jr.

A good number of spawns of former greats, like Marvis Frazier, came short in their heels. Marvis, the youngster of Smokin’ Joe Frazier, beat several decent names during his time, but his first-round disappointments against Tyson and Larry Holmes became more vividly etched in people’s minds.

Furthermore, the same fate befell other father-and-son connections such as the Camachos, the Durans and the Cerdans.

On a personal note, Dy denied speculations that he picked MMA over boxing because he does not want to go through the failures that most brood of famed boxers suffered or live under the shadow of his father.

“I chose MMA because this is the sport that gave me the opportunity to showcase what I got as a fighter,” Dy insisted.

Meanwhile, Biagtan believes that Dy will become a Filipino frontrunner in the MMA scene someday and expects that he may equal or even surpass the credentials of his father, who was once the nation’s celebrated pugilist.

“Yes, he really got the potential to be one of the top stars in MMA. As a father figure to him, all I can offer to him is spiritual advices or the Word of God,” he shared.

The dream to be a UFC fighter

Since his first professional MMA appearance, Dy has been vocal of his dream to become an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter.

He confidently expressed that PXC is the right platform where he can flaunt his skills and be instantly catapulted to the world’s premier MMA promotion.

“PXC is a great promotion. They take good care of their fighters. PXC serves as the bridge to UFC, so it’s an advantage for someone to fight for PXC if he aspires to be included in the UFC roster someday,” he quipped.

PXC served as the footstool for MMA competitors like Jon Tuck, Hyun Gyu Lim, Dustin Kimura, Louis Smolka and Michinori Tanaka to be noticed by the UFC.

The Guam-based organization has staged 12 of its last 20 PXC fight cards in Manila, and since its first Philippine venture in June 2011, it has become a household name as the company produced talented Filipino contenders, such as Mark Striegl, Ale Cali, Crisanto Pitpitunge, Glenn Ranillo and Dy.

With three consecutive victories inside PXC’s Terror Dome, Biagtan confirmed that his ward has received a surprise offer from the UFC to fight in Macau, China this past March, but the trainer opted to turn it down due to the short span of preparation.

“A week before UFC held a fight card in Macau, Gab got an invitation to fight, but sadly, it came on a short notice. That’s why we had to cancel the offer. But according to our American partner, Gab already got the attention of the UFC executives,” Biagtan revealed.

Dy, an incoming fourth-year Legal Studies student of Lyceum of the Philippines University, remains uncertain of his future in MMA, but he is leaving the door of opportunity wide open.

“Honestly, I can’t predict what awaits me in the future. For sure, I will strive harder to prove that I am not just an average fighter but one of the best in the business,” Dy ended. –

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