NEW YORK CITY-Heather “The Heat” Hardy wants to level the playing field, period, if not for this generation, then for the next. Hardy falls into a long tradition, adding her name to a continuing list of women boxers who have championed the cause and are still, …waiting.
If you look across the aisle, UFC ceased to wait and now has some of the biggest draws to their cards with female fighters like Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm and Miesha Tate. The female fighters in UFC dissolved the thought barriers that had previously kept them out of the sport and off the public’s radar. Their television ratings, sold-out crowds and immense fan bases proved their marketability to rival that of the men. Hardy hopes boxing will take the time to reexamine the current code of ethics within the sport and open the door to equal possibilities.
“The Heat” had her first professional fight in 2012. She received just $800 for fighting after selling $10,000 in ticket sales. Fast-forward to 2016. She currently holds the WBC Super Bantamweight International Champion Title with a record of 16-0, 4KOs. She has fought 6 times at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn selling up to $31,000 in ticket sales per fight, while only making a fraction of that in return.
Hardy has disproved the myth that there’s no interest in fans seeing women’s boxing.
She says “If anybody can prove that people will pay to see female fighters it’s the person who hands in the check for $31,000.”
In 2010, Hardy was 28 years old and found her way into a little karate dojo in her old neighborhood and had her first kickboxing fight within 3 weeks. It was a life-changing moment.
“So I beat up the girl and I won, it was like the most incredible feeling in the world, standing in the ring, with my arm up for the first time in my life I felt like I fought and had won.”
She continued kickboxing and eventually experienced her first loss. Upon returning to the dojo the next day, the owner said, “you know Heather, some people have it and some people don’t and you just don’t have it. We could teach you again, but you’re going to go back into the ring and there’s really not much you can do.”
Eight months later still struggling, unable to pay rent or a coach she walked into Gleason’s Gym determined to improve her skills. She eventually caught the eye of trainer Devon Cormack as he watched her first amateur fights, he said “I see something in you, I see the possibility and where you could go with that heart” and laughed while adding “if the bell didn’t ring then, Heather would still be out there fighting now”.
Hardy went to work and quickly ascended to win the 2011 Metro 125 pounds title, 2011 USA Boxing National title and 2011 Amateur National Champion. Moving on to claim the 2012 NYC Golden Gloves Featherweight title and awarded the honor of “Best Female Boxer of the Tournament”. After her explosive amateur career spanning 18 months and not wanting to hang her dreams on the 2016 Olympics she decided to turn pro.
Since then Hardy hasn’t looked back and has been on a mission to cultivate opportunities for women to be seen on televised shows.
Exposure is the key to attracting the fan base that could lead to sponsorship opportunities, long-term promotional investments and a decent salary. She is fighting to increase the chance for women to earn enough money fighting to support themselves as top athletes. Hardy through her tenacity, non-stop work ethic, fighting style, and courage has created a platform to advocate for change and not just for women’s boxing. She is using her voice and sharing her story to help young people overcome adversity and whatever challenges life may throw at them.
“If I can send that message to just one 13 year-old who’s being abused or being raped, if I can make them feel like they can get themselves out of that hole, then I’ll have succeeded,” she said.
Growing up her passion was baseball and the New York Yankees. As a young kid she could tell you about all the Yankees 162 season games, the players and stats. But girls were not allowed to play Little League. She feels like she is hitting the ceiling again with boxing. Similar to so many boxing champions while promoting an upcoming fight, maybe one day she can fulfill a part of a young girl’s dream and stand in Yankee Stadium and throw out the first pitch.
Heather ends the conversation quite elegantly before heading out to fulfill her daily nonstop obligations as a fighter, trainer and mother.
“Change doesn’t come without chaos,” Hardy says. “There needs to be chaos in order for change to come.”
I, for one, am inclined to think she just may be that agent of change.
Her next fight is June 25, 2016 at Barclays Center, Brooklyn.
How to connect with Heather: