When Heather Hardy returned from a nearly year-and-a-half layoff to defeat Calista Silgado last October, she knocked the rust off and proved to herself that she could still compete in the hardest sport.
Last month, she outpointed Brazil’s Taynna Cardoso and got her mojo back.
“It's never easy changing your coach, it's never easy adapting to new things,” said Hardy. “I'm learning how to do things I've never done before. If anything, my last fight showed the world this: I'm not fighting like I'm 41 years old. I banged out eight rounds; whether it was neat, whether I came out with two black eyes, no two ways about it, I banged out eight hard rounds. I am not fighting like I'm 41. I got one more year left in the tank, and I only want to be fighting these girls for world titles. 126, 130, 135, give me the shot.”
Already a former world champion at featherweight, Hardy isn’t looking to go quietly into the night in her final year as a pro like she could choose to do. Take a few easy fights, sell a boatload of tickets for her farewell tour, and sock away some money to finish off her daughter’s college education. She’s earned the right to do that. But the Brooklynite wants to go out like Tony Montana at the end of Scarface – only big fights, only championship fights. She’s earned that, too, and going out guns blazing has to be liberating, in a sense.
“It is liberating because I work my ass off and I look at girls before me, the girls who crawled so I could walk who didn't have the opportunity to end their careers with a run, and I have another year,” Hardy said. “My body can still do it, right? Most women who started where I started don't get to see what I can see, what can be there for me. I can win these world titles, I can make six figures, I can make a living off boxing. They told me that I couldn't when I started.”
But over the course of a career that began in 2012, Hardy made her business to do what many thought couldn’t be done. She was one of the biggest ticket sellers in New York boxing back when boxing was a real thing here. She fought on cards in Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden’s Theater and had big televised fights on HBO and on NBC Sports Net. Add in the world championship, and Hardy has had a career to be proud of. But she’s not done yet. The only question is, will the champions she wants to fight dance with her in the next 12 months?
Undisputed featherweight champion Amanda Serrano, who decisioned Hardy in September of 2019, said she would give her fellow New Yorker a shot, but after the Puerto Rican star was sidelined by injury and forced out of her May rematch with Katie Taylor, that puts the rest of the year into question. So who’s next on the hit list? The undisputed queen at 130 pounds, Alycia Baumgardner.
It’s a fight Hardy wants, she says the WBA told her they will sanction it given her resume in the sport, but “The Heat” isn’t about talking trash or telling the world how she’s going to beat one of the most accomplished young champs in the sport.
“I ain't never disrespected nobody,” she said. “I would never speak out of line with any fighter because I am a fighter and because I am a woman. And I always kind of felt that as women, we’ve got to stick together because we’ve only got each other. So I would never disrespect another fighter. I know what it's like to be at the top. Not I’m looking up at these girls saying, ‘Hey, will you give me a chance?’ Not I deserve it, not you owe it to me, none of that because life don't owe you sh!t. These girls don't owe me sh!t. So I'm sitting here now, saying, okay, I was at the top once, now I'm not. Now you’re the top dog up there. Will you give me a chance? That's it.”
As for her path to victory, Hardy’s not going into any of that. She just knows that when the bell rings, it’s going to be a fight.
“It's not about how I could win this fight as a fighter,” said Hardy of facing Baumgardner. “My mentality has always been that I could win every fight. No fighter goes into a fight thinking, ‘I'm going to lose.’ That's crazy. I think it's never 0%, right? Anything can happen. And I know that I got the heart and the drive and the will and the work ethic to go in there and put on a good fight, put on a good show and make a little money. That's why we’re in this. I ain't in this to pick fights with nobody. (Laughs) I'm in this to make sign contracts. Make deals.”
And win another world championship. It would be the perfect way to go out, but win, lose or draw, Hardy has just one wish.
“My reason for calling out these champions is because I want to retire on my terms,” she said. “I don't want to retire on some tiny little show; I want to be my fights to be remembered. There was that saying, ‘I walked, so you could run.’ I want to run, too. (Laughs) I want to f------ run, too, but give me one year to run.”