Heather Hardy Deserves Better From Boxing

Tonight, at 39-years-old, Heather “The Heat” Hardy lost her return to the ring after a two-year absence to Jessica Camara in a fight that was broadcast on UFC Fight Pass, and took place in Murfreesboro, Tennesse, and had very little press or build-up to it. In short, it was a club show.

Heather Hardy’s career has been inspiring and tragic in the same breathe and is a boxing story that all young boxers should be aware of not unlike the Bruno Escalante story. Hardy turned professional in 2012, which is now nine years ago, as Hardy brought marketing to women’s boxing that we hadn’t seen prior.

A year into Hardy’s career she had an award-winning short film made about her. Hardy fought on DiBella Entertainment cards on some of the biggest fight cards in the New York area, being featured on Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman, Errol Spence undercards, and often selling just as many tickets in the local market. Hardy was an early adopter of social media as well, and after doing a slew of media interviews looked to be this generation’s breakthrough women’s boxer.

Hardy is a no-nonsense fighter, who is an attractive single mother, who was not willing to take crap from anyone, but still came off respectful – in short, she was a New Yorker’s New Yorker.

As a fighter, Hardy was distance fighter willing to exchange, who at times kept her hands a little low, but her heart on her sleeve. Hardy in the ring always gave an honest effort, and that is more than a lot can say.

Yet, despite a following, training out of the historic Gleason’s Gym, being a known ticket seller, Hardy never seemed to get featured on the television portion of cards, especially during the prime of her career.

When Hardy beat Shelly Vincent in 2016, on the record-breaking telecast of Errol Spence Jr. vs Leonard Bundu, Hardy’s fight was taped delayed on NBC Sports, despite a high demand. For perspective, with an Olympic lead-in, Spence’s fight totaled 4.8 million viewers, her fight on NBC Sports did far less and was hard to find – let alone most knew the result before watching the bout.

Despite being a massive ticket seller, Hardy would see her fight at the Barclay’s Center, occur before patrons could enter the arena, a tough blow as she sold a lot of tickets for the arena. Hardy demanded respect, earned respect, yet still couldn’t get a billing that merited what she was putting into the sport of boxing.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over-and-over, while expecting a new result.

Hardy is not insane and saw that mixed martial arts while being a different sport, treated women fighters with dignity and respect, something boxing has struggled with thus far in its existence. In MMA, women were headlining fight cards, and having highly anticipated fights, while getting equitable purses in relations, to their counterparts in boxing, in which maybe ten-or-so boxers are able to fight full-time without having another job.

In 2017, Hardy would debut in Bellator MMA, on a card from Madison Square Garden, Hardy would knockout Alice Yauger in the third-round. MMA pundits touted Hardy as a star-in-the-sport of MMA, but her second bout saw her lose by way of technical knockout to Kristina Williams, which was a deflating feeling to Hardy supporters, and probably the Bellator MMA organization as a whole.

Hardy would have two more MMA fights, one against former world champion Ana Julaton before losing to Taylor Turner by knockout. In four fights, Hardy had lost two of them, and by way of knockout. Hardy was on the verge of changing her training situation and relocating to the Serra-Longo Fight Team, but the loss derailed her MMA career as that was her last mixed martial arts fight.

Hardy would return to rematch Shelly Vincent on HBO on one of their final cards, defeating Vincent once again, this time on national television. Hardy would face one of the best women fighters to ever grace the ring in Amanda Serrano, as she lost a wide decision.

The Serrano bout was on DAZN, when DAZN was new, and fresh, and exciting. Yet, the loss which took place on the Devin Haney versus Zaur Abdullaev, seemingly left Hardy’s future in the sport influx.

Hardy was in her era one of the best, but as age began to catch up with her, and obvious inequities were afoot, Hardy moved MMA, which she was ill-prepared for, but sought respect that boxing wouldn’t provide. Hardy’s return to the sport, felt more like a necessity than a want or a need.

Hardy’s fight tonight could be a metaphor for her career. Hardy came out so strong, dropping her opponent in the first 20-seconds, and then lost steam late in the fight to lose a close decision.

It is just a shame how Heather Hardy impacted so many, inspired so many young girls who will box because of her, and yet in the big scheme of things will never get contextualized like her male counterparts.

It was once told to me that ‘the plains are built on the blood of pioneers’, if I could remember who said that I would give them credit, but in Hardy’s case, she might be a pivotal piece in women’s boxing getting pushed to the forefront.

It is a shame how we often criticize fighters, but never build them up, and Heather Hardy did a lot to make women’s boxing better than it was prior to her involvement.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle