Photo by Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing
Now is the time to pay attention to Heather Hardy.
To those outside the Brooklyn and NYC area, you may have heard her name in the past few months as being part of the only female undercard of major Premier Boxing Champion fights like Danny Garcia vs. Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan vs. Chris Algieri.
She’s undefeated and the current holder of the WBC International super bantamweight title. Don’t expect her to babysit that belt—she’s in it for keeps. Hardy returns to Barclays Center August 1 on the Paulie Malignaggi vs. Danny Garcia card to defend her title once again.
I had a rather candid conversation with Hardy about her upcoming rematch with Renata Domsodi, her training and the state of women’s boxing. Two things are refreshing about Hardy: First, rather than being a hater, she is a champion for women in the sport.
Second, she is not afraid to vocalize the obstacles of making it in the “free-enterprise” boxing industry, especially as a woman.
Hardy has more than potential to be a star in boxing. Her efforts are slowly, but surely paving the way for female fighters to be a visible and rightfully celebrated part of boxing’s future.
Round By Round Boxing: You’re back at the Barclays Center [August 1], which is really great. It’s kind of like unfinished business you have with Renata Domsodi. What are you looking forward to most in this fight?
Heather Hardy: I’m most looking forward to defending my title. I felt like she gave up a little prematurely in the last fight, which is why I didn’t really want to give her the chance with the rematch. But her team was asking for it.
RBRBoxing: You had said you were disappointed with how the last fight went. Do you think that it’s going to go the same way this time or you do think she’ll bring something different?
HH: You know, I really hope for the sake of boxing that she brings a little something different. I’m definitely going into this fight more annoyed with her. I felt like we were on the first ever female fight on a PBC card back in April and we had a lot of responsibility to put on a show, not just for a fight defending the title.
This was a huge platform to make a debut and I felt like she kinda quit early. And that’s what people expect women to do. I hope that she heard all the shit that I said about her and wants to come back and teach me a lesson [Laughs].
RBRBoxing: But you know what’s funny is, people really seem to think, even though it ended early, that you were winning the fight. Almost like if it had gone on that people were pretty confident you were going to win.
HH: Yeah, I was pretty confident I was going to get the stoppage and I felt like the accidental headbutt was her way out the door before that happened. Then also her thing is to come back and get another purse. You know, get more visibility.
People are saying her name again. Why? Because she’s fighting Heather Hardy. Whether she quit because she wanted another chance at [Barclays] or she quit because she didn’t want to get her ass kicked anymore, I still felt like she threw in the towel.
RBRBoxing: You’re fighting again, but even before the first bout she had lost a couple of her fights before that. Was the first fight supposed to be a showcase fight or were you actually anticipating she’d be a competitive opponent?
HH: She was supposed to be a step-up opponent for me. You have to remember for women’s boxing, women’s records aren’t really indicative of how well a fighter they are. For guys, if you have a 20-9 fighter, they’re an opponent.
Alicia Ashley is 22-10 and is probably pound-for-pound, one of the best female boxers that has ever gotten in the ring. You have 14-0 fighters who can get an easier fight than say, a 9-9 fighter.
RBRBoxing: But you’re the exception to that, right?
HH: Yeah I mean, and other people say this about me and it’s really true—I bring something different in the ring. I bring in a will not to lose.
RBRBoxing: In your training do you spar with guys?
HH: I do sometimes, but the guys don’t really wail on me. When I was coming up in kickboxing and karate, I used to spar full-force with grown men. So I think that’s where my chin came from [Laughs].
RBRBoxing: I was curious about that because I’ve sparred with mostly guys actually, and some have no chill while some of them do. And I definitely think there’s a different energy when you spar with women versus men, but I was curious if having done so maybe helped you have a little more grit when you go into the ring?
Women have grit too, but the energy is definitely different when it’s woman-to-woman than man-to-man.
HH: Yeah, and it’s funny, I go back to my karate and kickboxing days when I sparred grown men. They would hit you out of embarrassment. Boxing is a little different. If I’m going to spar with the guys it’s gonna be the professionals who are really just looking at me to throw punches at them.
The great thing about training at Gleason’s Gym is that I have so many high-caliber females to spar with, I never feel like I don’t have proper preparation for training.
RBRBoxing: That’s good. Now I’m wondering since we are getting into your training, are you doing anything different to prepare—I would say from your last fight, but why not just talk about from your last fight with Renata?
HH: Every camp I train differently because I’m still learning. I’m really young in this sport. It’s only my fifth year in boxing and that includes my amateur training. So I haven’t been doing this for long like most pros. They fight and they’ve already perfected their style.
Every chance I’m trying to work on what’s not so great. My defense is not so great, my movement is not so great. I’ve been working on that. A lot of extra strengthening and conditioning training, so I’m going to be ripped for this fight.
RBRBoxing: What is probably the easiest part of getting ready for this fight? I know training is never “easy,” but if you had to pick one thing that’s like “yeah, I got this,” what would you say?
HH: I would never say that because people who saw me two fights ago don’t see the same Heather Hardy. I can’t sit here and assume, “Oh, I’m going to have an easy time with this girl because I remember what she did last time,” because I don’t know what she’s doing to prepare.
So it would be really arrogant of me to say that anything is going to be easy. The only thing I know is going to be easy is that I’m going to fight so hard every second of every round, and it’s going to be easy for me because my training has been hell.
RBRBoxing: How do you even step up for your training because following you on Instagram it seems like you’re never “off.” You always seem to be in shape, working out in the gym.
HH: I know. It’s like I said before, I’m still learning. And in my off time I love training, I love boxing. I pretty much live in the gym because I teach people. I’m a personal trainer, so I’m always here and I’m always active.
When I’m not training, I love to eat. I love to eat cake and ice cream, and drink wine. So when I’m training I have to do without all those things. My diet is probably the hardest part of my training.
RBRBoxing: I think for most fighters cake, ice cream and wine is probably on the good list compared to a lot of professionals when they’re off.
You were saying how you still consider yourself new in boxing. What do you think is probably the hardest thing you’re trying to work on, to get towards mastering boxing for this fight and in the future?
HH: The hardest skill I’m trying to learn?
RBRBoxing: Yeah, the hardest skill.
HH: Being in a good position to hit people. Which sounds kind of funny cause it’s not something you really talk about or think a fighter would have trouble with. I think it’s [being] off-balanced a lot, which is something we work on in the gym.
RBRBoxing: I’m curious to see how you negotiate that in the ring because seeing Renata fight, she has more of a patient style. I’m not sure if that’s because of age, because she is 40, which in theory isn’t old but in boxing years it is.
You seem to like pressure, so do you think that won’t be as big of an issue for you? Or do you think she has more experience or a different quality of opponents?
HH: I’m not worried about her having more fights and more experience. I spar with girls who are way more experienced than her. I’m in shape to fight every second of all eight rounds. [Pressure] was my go-to when I was in the amateurs and in the pros.
Leon “Cat” Taylor said, ”You know sometimes you’ll be in there boxing and it ain’t working so you gotta take it to the f-ckin’ streets. Sometimes you box and you move around and you get touched with a jab a little too much and try to be patient… and then you just take it to the streets like they stole your mother’s wallet and you have two minutes to get it back,” [Laughs].
RBRBoxing: Ha! Yeah it is sometimes like you need that grit to turn up a bit. Where do you think yours comes from?
HH: I think in life when you go through so much shit that it requires 100 percent of you. There were days I would work 18 hours and still not make enough money to pay my bills and feed my kids. But when I fight, when I give 100 percent. I always come out on top, so I think that’s where it comes from because I know how to fight for my life. I’ve fought for my life before, and I can do that in the ring.
RBRBoxing: You’re honestly doing it really big for women in the sport and I think it’s fantastic. Have you noticed, at least since you’ve been fighting at Barclays and on the PBC cards, a growth in your popularity or your platform?
HH: I don’t really think I have that big visibility that we had hoped fighting at the Barclays Center because the female fight is still untelevised. You know, I think that female boxing needs to become part of the conversation somewhere, and that’s really what I’m working on.
There are incredibly exciting fights that will forever be unknown, unwatched and unappreciated because people don’t know they exist.
RBRBoxing: I think even you being the only female boxing undercard on a card like Khan-Algieri is great because you stick out like a sore thumb. My one bone to pick, not with you, is that it was difficult for those not at Barclays to see you fight.
HH: I have to take [ticket sales and press] like a résumé, and be like, “what’s next?” Why can’t ESPN put us at least on their website as trial run? Why can’t they advertise that there’s going to be a female fight and see if people watch? It wouldn’t cost them a thing to put us on a live stream.
With the way Ronda Rousey has taken over UFC, the fighter of the year at the ESPYS, I don’t see how there isn’t a case for giving us a shot.
RBRBoxing: And that’s true because I don’t watch UFC and I totally know who Ronda Rousey is.
HH: The only reason why women get on these cards is because of my ticket sales. The big networks like ESPN, Showtime, HBO and pay-per-view, They have anti-female fight policies where they won’t televise female fights. So because of that a promoter looks at a woman as a dead-end investment. Right now [ticket sales] is the only thing keeping me with a job.
RBRBoxing: I do think women get the short end of the stick in this scenario. As a boxing culture we have to do a lot better. Even in terms of organization, it has no structure. We don’t even have a league in boxing. It’s so free enterprise, kind of like anyone makes the rules.
RBRBoxing: So maybe we just have to make a league and we’re going have to start with women boxing, and you. Then they’ll have to ask your permission to get into the league [Laughs].
HH: [Laughs] Yeah!