Argentina’s Victoria Bustos: “There is always something to be learned”
By Diego Morilla
Every boxing career spans a wide range between a fighter’s best and worst performance, and Argentina’s Victoria Bustos has already tested the limits of that gap throughout her short but eventful career as a fighter.
Unfortunately for IBF lightweight titlist Bustos, her victory against former title challenger Kimberly Ann Connor on Saturday, March 18th in the city of Vera, Argentina, will be remembered among her least brilliant outings. And yet, “The Lioness,” ever the optimist, sees the opportunity to improve on the back of her razor-thin defense of her IBF lightweight crown.
“The fight was tough, it was a strategic fight against a very good opponent,” said Bustos, minutes before boarding a bus to take a vacation after her win. “She was very strong, truly, and came to fight and take the title from me. But we did our part, we stayed on course. We did a spectacular training camp, and we had a great game plan too: to box, use combinations, work on counterpunching and trying not to be a stationary target at any time because we knew the opponent was taller and rangier. We kept our plan throughout the entire fight.”
Bustos improved to 17-4-0 with her lackluster but fair win, but as it has always been the case with her, she sees the rewards of her work in the future and in the priceless gift of a learning experience in her career.
“There is always something to be learned, but I agree with one of those cards that gave me four or five points,” said Bustos. “From the middle of the fight and onwards I believe I settled myself in the ring, I got a second air. I always feel much better in the second half of my fights. And that’s where I made the difference, which was noticeable in the last two rounds. But even though my opponent got tired towards the end she never ceased to come forward. We could not make any mistakes because I could have paid dearly. We tried to box and pile up points until the end of the fight to make sure we got the nod.”
The taller and much rangier Connor (12-3-2, 5 KO) had her moments during the fight, but for the most part she was unable to produce the kind of performance that wins hearts and minds in judges and observers alike enough to lift a title on foreign soil, conceding Bustos her fourth defense of the crown she lifted in 2013 from Ana Esteche and that she proceeded to defend against Roxana Laborde, Natalia Aguirre and Claudia Lopez.
Bustos was surprisingly comfortable in the weight department for this fight, so much so that she is already pondering an unusual move.
“I am really comfortable with the weight. I was almost half a pound lighter than the division limit, even though I ate normally the day before. And for that, we were thinking with my team that we could drop down to an even lower division,” said Bustos, who made a crude attempt at a jump in weight back in July of 2016 when she moved up to challenge super lightweight titlist Erica Farias. “I could be fighting at super featherweight, which was the division I started in when I was 21. I am 28 now and everything’s different, but as time goes by the body changes. But since I did so well in this fight I would like to try to go down but I need to see whether I can carry my strength too. If it benefits me, I will do it. But the risks are also that if I stay in this division I give up height and reach. (Connor) had about 10 inches on me! They are all tall, and if I go up I will suffer this situation all the time. These girls go up a few pounds after each weigh-in, and I only gain a few ounces. It is a tough decision to make but we’re working on it, especially if there is a title on the line or a big fight. But only time will tell.”
Whatever she may end up doing, confidence is the only thing Bustos will never lack, having famously faced the already awesome Erica Farias barely one year into her pro career in her sixth pro outing, and then beating the suddenly hot Ana Esteche in her 11thbout to win her first belt. And now that Farias is getting ready to face pound-for-pound queen Cecilia Braekhus, and Esteche is a unified titlist two divisions above hers, the stakes are high for Bustos to show she is definitely at their level – or more.
“Honestly, I would love to get another title,” said Bustos, regarding her goals for the rest of the year. “I would love that. Because I am now more experienced, I have a terrific team now, and I am more settled and confident. I would love to challenge Ana Laura Esteche, an opponent I defeated already for a title but she is now a triple unified champ in a higher division. We need to evaluate this because we need to see whether I can go that higher. I believe I can win again because our first fight was the Fight of the Year in Argentina, and it was only my 11th fight. I believe we had a great fight, and after that I beat some other girls who became champions, like Claudia Lopez and Yohanna Alfonzo. I believe I have defeated the best in Argentina. And that gives you strength and confidence.”
And even though she has not yet fought outside of her native country, the current explosion of extraordinary female fighters like Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields, Marlen Esparza and others may create opportunities that were not available before, and Bustos is ready to take advantage of them.
“Yes, I am very hopeful now that the level of female boxing is on the rise. I believe nothing stop us, even though nowadays it is not possible to make a living out of this sport,” said Bustos, who currently works at a printing facility to supplement her income. “But I am hopeful that it will happen. I hope all this attention brings more resources to the sport, because we’ve grown slowly but surely, and it’s time to reap the rewards of our work already.”
(Photo by Ramon Cairo)