If we’re being realistic, Heather Hardy never should have been the star she is today.

Sure, “The Heat” could fight and she always gave the fans a show to remember when she stepped into the ring. But when she made her pro boxing debut in 2012, women’s boxing – especially in New York City – was nothing like it is today.

At the time, good fighters were consistently being produced in the Big Apple. But who knew who they were? Alicia Ashley, a future member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, spent much of her career fighting in her opponents’ backyards. Melissa Hernandez, a world champion, had long been a road warrior. Even current superstar Amanda Serrano was forced to travel overseas for her first shot at a world title.

So what chance did Hardy, a relative newcomer to the sport 12 years ago, have? None.

But here she is, one of the last big ticket sellers in the area, a former world champion and someone who has broken through several glass ceilings for her peers. Now, at 42, Hardy isn’t choosing to exhale and walk off into the sunset. Instead, she’s adding a couple new job descriptions to her business card as an adviser and co-promoter.

“A lot of the problem is that fighters come up and have to go through managers and coaches that don't have a clear path for them,” Hardy said. “They just go to the gym and think, ‘I'm going to box and I'm going to win my fights and my coach or my manager or the businessperson on my team knows where to put me.’

“And I watch fighters from Gleason’s every single day make the worst choices. I used to go to [promoter] Lou DiBella with my fights, pre-match, knowing that when I beat the girl, I'm going to move up in the rankings, and to put [the WBC’s] Jill Diamond on notice. I was doing so much s**t I didn't even know I was doing, and now I'm watching fighters not do it for themselves. So I want to step in and be that person that goes, ‘No, no, no. This is how you have to do it.’”

It's not just a needed voice of experience, but a voice of reason. Boxing isn’t a meritocracy like baseball or football. In those sports, if you win more games than your divisional peers, you make the playoffs. And if you score more runs or points than your opponent, you win the game.

In boxing, winning guarantees nothing. Sometimes a fighter gets knocked out and is gifted a draw. And while plenty of representatives have money, they don’t always have connections – or vice versa. And even if they have all the prerequisites on paper to lead a fighter to the promised land, they guarantee nothing if a promoter or network only wants to work with a familiar face. In other words, in the Wild, Wild West, you need a trusty gunslinger.

Enter Hardy, who is working with a couple fighters on the March 7 card at New York City’s Sony Hall. It’s not the Garden. It’s not a show filled with big names. But if these kids do their thing in and out of the ring, they could start making their way to big fights on big shows that will be seen around the globe. That requires winning, of course, but also dealing with the world in 2024, which means doing plenty of media, telling your story and having a presence on social media. 

“There's a lot of ways to the top and also a lot of things you have to do outside of winning that most fighters don't know,” Hardy said. “And I opened so many doors in boxing, MMA, bareknuckle, kickboxing, whatever it is, and there was never any money behind me. So now I'm in a position where women and men, I can make money for them, because those doors are still open.”

Call that striking while the iron is hot. Hardy is still a name, she was in a world title fight with Serrano just last summer, and while mixed martial arts (in which she fought four times from 2017 to 2019) seems to be in her rearview mirror, she will make her bareknuckle debut later this year against BKFC world champion Christine Ferea. Fighters fight, so Hardy is embracing the ones she’s directly involved in, as well as those being waged by others who could use her guidance. That’s not just the businesswoman in her, but also the mother. And mom sounds like she’s thrilled about this new venture.

“I'm excited about it because I've really spent the last six months doing a lot of work for free,” Hardy said with a laugh. “And while I was doing the work for free, I was watching people get paid for it who didn't deserve to. So, right now, my aim going forward is to reach out to all the unrepresented people. I'm not looking to take anyone's clients or do anything better or s**t on the industry that's already working beautifully without me. My idea is more reaching out to clients in New York, kids in New York, local fighters who are confused that are in the amateurs and stuck.

“I liken it to the Golden Gloves, which is like getting a college degree from John Jay or from Kingsborough. You do your college, you do everything, you pass your class, you make dean’s list, you get your degree, and then they forget your name. And that's just what happens. You're standing there with the Golden Gloves and you're like, ‘What do I do?’ And nobody knows what to tell you.

“So that's where I would like to say, mom's here,” Hardy continued. “I have my office at Gleason's, and I'm charging a consultant fee; obviously, I’ve got a kid in college. But mom's here. I will tell you what you need to do, realistically – whether it's transition from amateur to pro, transition from being a mediocre pro to getting on the right side, whether you need new coaching, better advertising, good marketing. Mom's here.”

And her door is always open.

“The bottom line is that I will give you the most hurtful, honest response on what it's going to take for you to make some money or reach your goals in the combat sport you're looking to go in,” Hardy said. “Because I know the path. I know how much everything costs. I know what you're going to have to do. I know how your social media's going to have to look. I know the friends you're going to have to make early. I have the information you need, and I'm not going to lie to you.

“Everybody who knows me in the industry for 12 years, I don't think they're going to feel like, ‘Oh, Heather's a piece of s**t.’ The reason these doors are all still open is because I do business the way my father taught me to do business and my grandfather taught me to do business. People who shake my hand know that it's real. So if I tell you I'm ready and I know, I know.”