Heather Hardy Wants More: “I Didn’t Come This Far Just To Come This Far”
With only four weeks to prepare, undefeated WBC International super bantamweight champion Heather “The Heat” Hardy (18-0, 4KO) stepped into the ring against her most important opponent to date, Shelly Vincent (18-1, 1KO), last Sunday, August 21st, at the Ford Amphitheatre at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.
The 10 round bout for the vacant WBC International featherweight title was a special one not only for what transpired inside the ring which was fireworks-filled, but also because it was the first female televised boxing match in the United States in longer than anybody cares to remember.
While on a well-deserved vacation with her family, Hardy joined the cast of the all-female podcast 2-Minute Round on the Leave It in The Ring network (leaveitinthering.com) the following Thursday after the event for an exclusive talk where she candidly explained to co-hosts David Avila, Elena “Baby Doll” Reid and Felipe Leon her thoughts on the fight, before, during and after, and what is next for popular Brooklyn native.
The fight, which Hardy won via a majority decision with scores of 99-91, 97-93 and an even 95-95, was a special one from the start, even in the way Hardy was told about the opportunity.
“Lou (DiBella, her promoter) had told me after I fought on the Thurman-Porter card and I had been hounding him to fight on the Santa Cruz card in July. He kept telling me no and he finally told me, ‘listen kid, you are off for the summer, don’t ask me.’ When he called me I was eating pizza, it was midnight, we were watching some fights on the DVR, we were just sitting around and he asked if I wanted to take the fight, so I said, ‘oh my God, we are in the gym tomorrow’ and threw the pizza down.”
For Hardy the build-up for the fight was no different than any of her previously 17 except for one exception, Vincent’s mouth.
“Everything from the press conference to the weigh-in to let’s say the locker room at the fight was very much like any other fight I have experienced to be honest with you,” she said when asked by Avila. “Of course I had an opponent that is a little more vocal so that was quite an adjustment. It didn’t become storybook for me until I heard ‘Girl on Fire (by Alicia Keys)’ playing at the venue and I could hear all 3,500 people chanting my name and singing my song. I could feel the energy inside and I knew it was going to be a special night from then on.”
Once in the ring, the electricity in the air was something that perhaps the 34-year-old Hardy had never felt before.
“It was a different feel for sure. For the whole training camp, like I said, the press conference, the weigh-in, it wasn’t different since I was still training to beat somebody that wanted to beat me. That didn’t really make it different and I couldn’t approach my training any different because to do that would be to oversee what was truly important. What is important is to win. It wasn’t until I was in the ring and feeling the crowd and seeing my promoter be in the other girl’s corner also, all of these things kind of changed the fight for me, changed the magnitude of the fight, but not to say it was different when I got the call eating the pizza.”
DiBella, the former HBO executive now promoter, is a huge supporter of female boxing, featuring not only Hardy on the biggest stage in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center, as well as her opponent Shelly Vincent and current super lightweight Jennifer Salinas among others on his cards. Despite DiBella referencing earlier this year he was working on putting a female fight on American airwaves and it was assumed it would be the ultra-popular Hardy, Heather knows a big part of the equation was that it made financial sense for the promotion held at Coney Island.
“For this fight, we only got the fight because me and Shelly both have the potential to sell a lot of tickets and they needed a ticket seller on the card. I had under four weeks to train and perhaps get ready for the biggest 10 round fight of my entire career. I also had just that amount of time to make flyers, to promote, and market and sell tickets. I sold almost 200 tickets for this fight in just four weeks.”
For Hardy, the opportunity to sell a good amount of tickets, fight on a national televised event, win the WBC International featherweight (which she vacated deciding to stay at 122 pounds) and reach a level most female fighters can only dream of, is not enough. She wants more.
“I didn’t come this far just to come this far, there is so much for me to go,” Hardy said. “I am still not making money, none of us are. There is so much for me to do in terms of getting female boxing out there. This was not the top step of the ladder for me. It wasn’t only to be on TV one time and then go away. The reason women are not making any money is because we are not on television. This wasn’t a huge network TV program where I got my $200,000 dollar check and opened the flood gates for women to keep boxing. This was a tremendous step but I’m vacationing in South Carolina with my family, not the white sandy beaches of Bermuda. There is more stuff that needs to be taken. What is next? That is a sit-down I will need to have with my team and my promoter. Who do we want next? Where can we do it? On what show we can have it so that it will be bigger than the last one?”
Ambitious, ready to do anything it takes to get to the next level, going as far as putting an alarm while on vacation to be able to participate in the interview with the Two-Minute Round podcast team. Following that mindset, she is looking to get in the ring as soon as possible.
“I hope to be in the ring again by the end of the year, I don’t like to be on a drought that long,” Hardy explained. “I will be ready to go in six weeks if the boss told me to be. I don’t know what shows are lined up. If I were to call my promoter’s office and asked him about a fight right now, I think they will disown me. I have been ordered to rest for the week. I think the rematch can certainly happen but there is a lot we need to iron out. I am not just looking to just do a club show, if I am going to rematch Shelly Vincent, I want a bigger stage, not what we had last time but a bigger stage. That was an epic fight we had and the next would be even better so that would have to be negotiated with really attractive terms for it to happen before next year.”
Finally, so what of the animosity between her and Vincent?
It was not secret there was no love lost between the two despite having similar backgrounds and circling each other in the same Northeast boxing scene.
“I was really surprised of how genuine it was that she didn’t like me, for so long I even thought it was a way for her to get into the spot light. I thought there was going to be some point when she would pull me aside and say this is only for TV. There was never anything really like that. It is not for me to say one way or another. I don’t dislike the woman; I think I am starting to understand her better. I think 10 rounds in the ring really gives you a different connection with someone whether you like it or not. It changes your perception of who they are. So after those 10 rounds, I get it, I don’t hate her, I get it. She is allowed to hate me, I really don’t care anymore. If we do this fight 10 more times in the future, she has a chip on her shoulder. She has to be angry at someone and you know what? She is angry at me. So be it, I beat you, I’ll beat you next time, and I’ll beat you 10 times down the line. If you have to take all your anger out on me, for whatever reason it is, and that makes you sleep at night, do what you have to do. It doesn’t change who I am or how I feel.”
To listen to the interview in its entirety, please visit www.leaveitinthering.com or subscribe to the network by searching on your podcast app on your smart phone for Leave It In the Ring and download the latest 2-Min Round Episode.