“La Princesa Azteca”
The Aztec Princess, Three words that when uttered to any Tijuanense, it brings a smile to their face, whether they are woman, man or child. She fights like they live, always coming forward with skill but always ready to go down swinging. After two hard fought highly popular wars versus Ana Maria Torres, the former two-time female super bantamweight champion Jackie Nava comes back to her home city to in her view, give back to the people.
“I would like to give back to the city of Tijuana, all the support they have given me,” the thirty-one year old Nava said with a smile after an intense work out at the Reyes Gym in east Tijuana. “I know that all the fans here in the city have been waiting for me to come back and they often ask me when I am going to fight in Tijuana again. I want to give back for all their support. I want to give them a great show and up close.”
Nava (24-4-3, 11KOs) will be facing Soledad Edith Matthysse (9-2-1, 1KO) of Telew, Chebut, Argentina, on Saturday, October 8th, at the Tijuana Municipal Auditorium. Matthysse is the sister of current jr. welterweight top contender Lucas Matthysse. The ten round bout will be broadcast live in Mexico on the Azteca channel and on Fox Sport Net in the United States.
Nava, the oldest of four sisters, began in the art of karate at the age of twelve at the prompting of her mechanic father Rodolfo who also practiced the sport. She climbed the ranks of the discipline briskly. Sadly, her father succumbed to cancer after a six month battle eleven years ago.
“He was always a strong man, he would not drink or smoke, very healthy,” Nava reminisces with a smile on her face. “It was all of a sudden. He was the one that introduced me to karate, little by little.”
The karate training eventually led to kickboxing and by 1996, Nava was fighting professionally in that sport under the tutelage of her trainer Miguel Reyes. Around the same time, Nava met her husband Mario Mendoza who now is part of her team and along with Reyes, works her corner.
We met in the gym training, we began to talk and things developed from there,” Mendoza stated of the relationship that led to a now seven year old marriage.
In 2001, by chance Reyes was offered a boxing match for a woman in Hawaii. He immediately thought of Nava and offered her the opportunity to fight in her first professional boxing match, “As I was told, the fight was against a woman who had two or three pro fights and an extensive amateur career. The fight was in Hawaii so he asked me if I wanted to go, that he would train me for a month and a half and then we’ll go. So I agreed and we went.”
The opponent was Vicky Cozy who Nava defeated via a unanimous decision. Despite kick boxing and boxing sharing some similar techniques, Nava quickly realized that they were two different sports which needed to be respected.
“It was different, in my first fights I would be very squared up,” Nava says of her style in her early fights as a professional. “I did know what it took to box coming from kick boxing but I was squared up and coming forward. They would catch me with the jab as I went straight in.”
Nava soon understood that she would have to choose between kickboxing and boxing, “There was a time I was doing both as professional. That didn’t help and it would make it more difficult. When I would box, my stance would be too squared up and when I would kick box, I would get to low and get caught with kicks. Eventually my trainer advised me to decide for one or another.
Reyes laid out the pros and cons for each sport and Nava soon realized that boxing was to be her sport since there were more opportunities to perform and better pay.
Nava kept winning and four years later with a record at that time of 8-1-1, 6KOs she disputed her first world title, the vacant WBA bantamweight strap. The person to make the bout possible was none other than Erik “Terrible” Morales and his promotional company Box Latino.
“It was thanks to Erik Morales. After I had about four or fights, he took an interest in us and he began to support us,” Nava says of Morales who just recently earned his fourth world title in as many divisions when he captured the WBC jr. welterweight title. “He guided me to become the first WBC female champion and also the first WBA female world champion. In fact, it was in the same year, one was in February and the other in May.”
In February, Nava stopped Martha Alicia Arevalo in seven to earn the WBA strap and earned a unanimous decision over Leona Brown in May to capture the WBC super-bantamweight title.
According to Nava, she wasn’t the first choice of the World Boxing Council for their first female champ, “At the time, they wanted Laila Ali to be the first but Erik Morales worked it out for it to be me. Thanks to him we were given the opportunity.”
Nava defended the title twice before being stopped in eight rounds versus Alejandra Marina Oliveras in ’06. In 2007, Nava traveled to Oliveras’ home country of Argentina to challenge for the title but came back to Tijuana with a draw. Later that year in Las Vegas, Nava was able to regain a piece of the title when she earned the interim version by unanimous decision versus Donna Biggers. After defending that title two times, Nava challenged for the full-fledged version once again in 2009 but against another Argentinean, Marcela Eliana Acuña. Nava suffered another unanimous decision loss in the bout held in Argentina. In early 2010, Nava captured the WBC interim strap again versus Chantall Martinez. This time she defended the title three times.
After ten years toiling inside rings from Tijuana to Buenos Aires, Nava reached a level that called for a mega fight. The kind of fight that whether win or lose, takes the fighter to a higher level, both professionally, personally and financially. Nava found that in Ana Maria Torres. Their two fights held earlier this year, the first in April in which both women fought to a draw in an all-out war and then again in July in which Torres took a razor thin unanimous decision and the first female WBC diamond belt, have been two of the highest rated bouts for both the Azteca and Televisa Mexican broadcasting channels.
“I know that those two fights have been a big leap for my career but I have been climbing since the beginning,” Nava, who also holds an architectural degree, said choosing her words carefully. “I’ve had big fights with big expectations on big fights cards but despite of that, a bigger fight was needed so that the boxing public would take more interest in female boxing. We had to face another recognized fighter at the world level and we had to risk ourselves and commit ourselves to prove that we can fight at that level.”
Even though the twenty rounds that she battled Torres catapulted her to a new found popularity and to bigger purses, Nava is not satisfied with the decisions rendered and is looking forward to having another opportunity to face Torres.
“I am not happy with the decisions given by the judges,” Nava stated. “In the first fight, I began slow but finished well. In the second, I had to change my style in the middle of the fight and they took the fight from me. Our styles are very difficult to judge when put together. I don’t regret anything about those fights and I am looking forward to the third fight and I am sure she is too.”
Nava mentioned that the third fight has been spoken about and is slated for early 2012, perhaps in March or April but first, Nava must get past Soledad Matthysse.
“I know she is a strong fighter, I have seen videos of her,” Nava says of her next opponent. “I believe she has twelve or thirteen fights and I am going for my thirty-second but you can’t be over confident. I have fought against fighters that don’t have many professional fights but are good and can fight. We know that she is strong and is coming to fight and I am sure if given the opportunity, she is going to take advantage of it.”
As Nava trains at the Reyes Training Center in the east part of town, she is quick with a smile for all those who wish her good luck and does not feel pressured as all eyes are on her in the small gym, including those of young ladies who take their first instructions in the sport just as she did all those years ago from Miguel Reyes.
“I have met a lot of girls that have told me that they want to train and succeed and when I have the chance, I tell them it is not only about training and wanting to do it but you have to sacrifice a lot of things and to be constant,” Nava says as she reflects in her ten year career. “It is a motivation for me seeing the young women train the gyms and for them to say they do it because of me, it is a big motivation for me to keep growing in the sport.”
One of the things Nava has had to sacrifice in her life is the family life expected in a Mexican society from a woman. For her husband Mario Mendoza, there are other more pertaining goals to achieve.
“I am very proud of her and I am proud of being part of her team, it’s a great satisfaction,” Mendoza said. “I would like for her to achieve all her goals. I want her to do everything she has set for herself in her career.”
With eyes towards a third go around with Torres, perhaps dropping down to bantamweight to earn another title in that division and with the dream of going overseas to Europe and challenge one of the champions of the old continent, it doesn’t look as Nava is ready to trade in her gloves for an apron anytime soon.
“I think we all decide what we want to do with our lives,” Nava says with a warm smile. “My plan is to have children but everything at its due time. I was given the opportunity to take advantage of the sport. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and then plan for children since I still have time. Some of us are born to have a lot of children and some of us are born to do other things.”
“I didn’t know as a girl that this would happen but I wanted to take the opportunity, work hard and be somebody. It has been difficult. They would tell me it couldn’t be done, that it would be to hard but I was determined to do it because they told me it would be difficult and we said we are going to do it.”