Yesica “Tutti” Bopp Wants It All
By Felipe Leon
BUENOS AIRES-In the female boxing world Yesica Bopp is not alone when it comes to independent, hardworking and multi-tasking women. You have Jackie Nava and Marian Juarez out of Mexico, both mothers and world champions, one is a senator in her country and the other a business woman. In the United States Melissa McMorrow, a former world champion, doubles as an architect while Adelaida “La Cobra” Cruz is a mother of three, a nurse and an up and coming prospect.
Argentina is no different with their biggest female boxing star, WBA light flyweight champion “Tutti” Bopp (34-1, 15 KOs) with her hands full in all kind of different projects. From defending her title various times since giving birth to her daughter as well as gearing up to officially open the gym that bears her name in the suburbs of Buenos, Aires, Argentina, her home town.
“My idea to open my gym came from when in 2003 my trainer, Delfino Perez, the one who made me, passed away,” said Bopp in an exclusive interview in the third floor of her establishment. “When he passed away I didn’t have a gym to train so I started to look for a place. I found this one. More than anything I wanted my own place but I also have a business so I thought why not have my own gym? Give the people what I have learned and give them a place to train and achieve their goals. It has been growing, we began with only the bottom floor, now there are three.”
The gym quickly grew when her patrons saw that they could actually train with the world champion since she is on the premises most days working out. The well-equipped gym offers anything from boxing, to cross fit, strength and conditioning, free weights and cardio.
“This is a safe place for women, being that I am a woman who is in this sport,” explained the charming Bopp with a smile while adding the gym is open to both genders. “They can come here and train and be ok. They see fast results. We have a nutritionist who also helps.”
Along with the gym, the 34-year-old beautiful “Tutti” explained about the social service she is looking to provide in her hometown soon.
“I also want to finish setting up my foundation, the Yesica Bopp Foundation, where we look to work with people in social causes. I am a psychologist. I love to help people. We want to work against drugs and to give young people a place to learn this beautiful sport.”
Finding the sport
Bopp’s entry into the sport is like many others, it began with curiosity at the age of 17. At first her mother was not too keen on the idea of her little girl getting punched in the face but eventually came around.
“At first she didn’t like it when I told her I was practicing the sport. That just wasn’t common. It wasn’t common like today when a woman can go to a gym and knows she can practice boxing. I told her I wasn’t going to go get hurt, that I was learning this beautiful sport. She went to my first exhibition fight and she loved it and now she goes to all my fights.”
“I always liked sports. In school I played volleyball and handball. One day a friend of my brother’s told me to go to a municipal gym that was teaching boxing,” she reminisced. “I didn’t think they would take girls but he told me there was some already there. They began to teach me and most of the techniques I took up pretty quickly and if not, I would stay extra to keep practicing them.”
After six months she found herself in her first amateur exhibition against a local fighter by the name of Alejandra Romero. Now Romero is one of the instructors at her gym.
“It was in our neighborhood, with all of our friends there,” she said. “That is when my story in boxing began. From 2000-2005 our goal was to get in the national team which we did and we won the only gold medal in the Pan-American Games as well as medaling at the world championships in Russia and India.”
She along with a handful of others pioneered female boxing in Argentina. Before Bopp came along in the South American country, Argentina did not have a female boxing team.
“We created female boxing here in Argentina,” she explained. “’Tigresa’ Acuna was trying to open doors outside of the country. For the first Pan-American Games, we had to search throughout the country to make the team, there wasn’t many women fighting. You had to travel throughout the whole country looking for opponents, most of the time giving a size advantage just to get fights. At that time ‘Tigresa’ was making her name in the pro ranks and I was doing the same in the amateurs.”
Bopp kept on fighting in the amateur ranks while making a name for herself inside the ring with her elegant boxing style founded on fundamentals and speed. The same style she has now but adapted to the pro ranks.
“After my last Pan-American games in 2007 I went pro in 2008. By the end of the year I was a world champion. Since then we have been defending my world title.”
Along with her hard work and dedication, Bopp has enjoyed a relatively easy journey through the paid ranks, winning a world title early in her career, facing and defeating a number of recognized names and becoming the biggest example of female boxing in her country.
“We have been with the right people. We have worked behind the scenes as well. That is something I have done. As an amateur, I went directly with the director of the Argentinean Federation and looked for his guidance. He is the one that told me to go pro since it didn’t look female Olympic boxing was going to be in 2008.”
Bopp also hooked up with Osvaldo Rivero, the world-renowned Argentinean representative of Argentinean boxing talent. Along with Bopp, Rivero also guides the careers of Marcela “Tigresa” Acuna and Omar Narvaez among others.
“He told me my career wasn’t going to be easy but that he would do what it took,” she said. “He promised to bring opponents from other countries because here there wasn’t many in my weight class. They came from Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, so he did his part so I had to do mine and I had all that amateur experience so I was able too.”
After making her mark in the sport Bopp looked for a challenge leaving her native Argentina in 2013 and facing Mexican Jessica “Kika” Chavez in Mexico City. Although the fight was announced for Chavez’s WBC Silver 112-pound title on national TV in Mexico, in reality it turned out to be for the world championship.
“She first came here, we fought for the title and I won via decision,” Bopp said of her first fight against Chavez in 2009. “The time passed and she captures a world title and they offer me the fight. There I began to learn about the other side of boxing. Once in Mexico I was in the same hotel as the judges and I ran into the Spanish one assigned to our fight. He said to me, ‘I can’t go alone against two Mexican judges.’ I called my representative because if a judge says something like that then there is something going on. There should have been judges from other countries and not two from Mexico.”
“At that point I was upset,” she explained. “I told my rep that I wasn’t going to make the weight so that the fight wouldn’t be for the title. If she was going to beat me, it was going to be as a boxer, but not for the title. I was the one risking. If I fight for the title and I lose, then I can lose my titles so I decided not to fight for the title. I ate and didn’t make the weight.”
As things tend to be in boxing, the fight was still announced for the world title for the sake of the television broadcasting rights and the weight she officially gave was not announced.
“We came to an agreement behind the scenes and the fight was not for the title,” she says of the only loss on her ledger. “I went into the ring very upset. I was very unfocused and I had some troubles at home that didn’t help either. I fought but I wasn’t trying, I threw punches but the fight was boring because I didn’t do anything. I recognize that I lost, I’ve never spoken about that fight and I have never claimed I was robbed or anything like that. It didn’t affect me, being undefeated has its own pressures so I thought at least who beat me has a name, she is known and it opens the door to a third fight.”
Target: USA and Mexico
Bopp, now in her mid-thirties, looks towards the twilight of her career and she wants to fight against the biggest names she can get inside the ring while fulfilling a career long dream of fighting in the United States.
“I am interested in the third fight against Chavez but she is pregnant,” she says. “When I found she was pregnant, I wanted to die. I want to fight the biggest names because that is what sells. How many defenses can I do here? How do I motivate myself? I am willing to go back to Mexico for the third fight, I am an athlete, if I am going to beat you, it will be here, in China, wherever.”
Another name Bopp is interested in soon is a past opponent. In her last Pan-American Games in 2007 in Ecuador, Bopp defeated the then amateur standout and future bronze medalist Marlen Esparza. Bopp wants to face her in what she thinks would be a mega fight in the United States.
“She has the experience and I think we are at the same level. I went pro and she kept going in the amateurs and won a bronze medal,” she says. “I think it is the right time, she is known in the United States, I’m known in Latin America and I think that is the fight to make this year, at one point she is going to want my belt. I want to fight in the United States so I have what she wants and she has what I want.”
The proud Argentine also mentioned another fight against Ibeth “Roca” Zamora of Mexico, Naoko Fujioka of Japan or the aforementioned Esparza.
“There is a lot of names and many of us that want to fight in the United States so I would wish they would mix and match us and just have us fight.”
Not surprising, Bopp, a consummate world-class athlete, wants a true challenge with the appropriate purse, in the last stage of her career which she says is only for the next couple of years. Bopp mentioned she is willing to go up to super flyweight or even bantamweight to challenge one of the biggest names in female boxing, Mariana Juarez.
“That would be a mega fight and that is what I am looking for,” she said of the Mexican superstar. “As far as the weight, I am used to my opponents being bigger than me, Bermudez was and many have been bigger than me once inside the ring. If I can box then there is no problem, the worse that can happen is that I get knocked down. With a good preparation, I don’t think there should be a problem.”
After her career, Bopp has her life well planned.
“I want to move on with my business, my gym, my foundation and here in the gym we have some real talent so when they are ready to go into the pros, then I would represent them. I know how to live outside the sport but I would still need to get used to it or else I would be fighting for the rest of my life.”