Shelly Vincent and Heather Hardy Reload

Heather Hardy and Shelly Vincent At MSG on HBO

By David A. Avila

Two years ago Heather “The Heat” Hardy and Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent clashed in a 10 round firefight that had jaws dropped and eyes glued as the two ripped into each other like wild cats.

On the same day the Rio Olympic boxing finals took place. Both female boxing events were televised. The date was August 21, 2016.

Women prizefighters had not been televised in nine years when Hardy, Vincent and the female Olympians all were shown live on television on the same day. It snapped a drought and opened the door for female boxing.

The door keeps opening wider and wider.

Brooklyn’s Hardy (21-0, 4 KOs) and Rhode Island’s Vincent (23-1, 1 KO) have reloaded and this time the prize is the WBO featherweight world title when they meet on Saturday Oct. 27, at Madison Square Garden. Also, HBO will televise the DiBella Entertainment card.

It’s only the second time in 45 years that HBO is televising a female prize fight.

“I’m honored to be on HBO, just to be on television for women in general,” said Vincent. “It’s a blessing.”

Hardy said the offer from HBO was not easy to obtain especially with the network ending its relationship with boxing at the end of this year.

“I think it was a combination of me opening up my big mouth and the Olympics and Katie Taylor and women doing it together,” said Hardy. “One person cannot do it alone.”

The last time Hardy and Vincent fought was at an outdoor venue in Coney Island. Many boxing fans were not accustomed to viewing female prize fights and had no idea what to expect. More than a million watched on television that day, and after that moment, social media sites were flooded with comments about the fiery encounter.

“It was the Fight of the Year,” said Lou DiBella, the promoter of that event in 2016 and for this upcoming fight card. He promotes both fighters.

For 10 rounds both female prizefighters fought fiercely on equal terms before their many fans in attendance. The faces of the crowd shown intermittently during the fight burned images of pure intensity. Meanwhile, the two boxers were steely focused on finding an edge that would give them the win. After the final bell, a collective gasp could be seen on the faces of the fans at the fight shown on the television screen.

“Everybody talks about that fight because it was such a memorable fight,” said Hardy, 36. “It was the first fight televised in a long, long time. It was the Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year. Every boxing fan saw that girls can actually fight.”

After the fight Vincent was unhappy about the loss, but more than happy from the nuclear reaction it ignited for women’s boxing.

“I would have to say the Heather fight is my favorite fight of all because we made history,” said Vincent, 39. “If (television) gave us a little bit more opportunity a lot of people would have wanted to tune in.”

Vincent, in particular, is especially excited about fighting at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m going to try to shoot a hoop there. I’m beyond elated,” said Vincent who showed up to the press conference with a painted on beard as a joke. “When I was a kid I played basketball. I had basketballs in my crib. I sleep on my basketball pillow. My main goal was to shoot some hoops there. Now I’m living my new dream and fighting my rival there.”

Hardy was asked for a rematch immediately after their first encounter but wanted a bigger platform than what was available until now.

“I don’t mind doing a rematch I already beat you but not going to do it unless it financially made sense. I didn’t care who was the opponent,” said Hardy who also fights in MMA. “I have to cover my rent. MMA pays double. I don’t have a choice.”

The disparity in pay is a barrier both female fighters realize they can help break by their upcoming clash. Both plan to emblazon the ring just like two years ago.

“I think it’s going to be the same energy, the same tenacity,” Hardy says. “I’m definitely going to have to chase her down.”

Hardy sees the massive television exposure as another important step.

“It’s definitely heading in the right direction, we have to keep the ball rolling,” said Hardy. “It’s the only way to level the playing field for women.”

On Saturday, both Hardy and Vincent have a two-front battle: one for the world title and another to keep women’s boxing on the upswing.

The fight will be televised on HBO at 10 p.m.