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Heather Hardy: "New York Fighter"
by Bernie McCoy
February 9, 2013
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(FEB 9) In a Supreme Court ruling on obscenity (Jacobellis v Ohio 1964) Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote, "it (obscene material) is often difficult to define, but I know it when I see it." I thought of those words, this week, sitting in Gleasons Gym, talking with Heather Hardy, the newest incarnation of a proud and select assemblage, generally defined throughout the sport of boxing as "New York" fighters.

Like the subject matter in Justice Stewart's court, New York fighters, ranging, over the years, from Billy Graham (the Greenwich Village welterweight, not the evangelist) thru Paulie Malignaggi to Hector Camacho, are, as a group, often times difficult to define, but you know them when you hear them. Listening to Heather Hardy talk about her sport and her goals in the ring, above the din of a midmorning Gleasons, reinforced an opinion that Hardy fit comfortably into the category of New York fighter, the distaff wing, quintessentially epitomized, today, by Melissa Hernandez. Qualification is not all about attitude, it is not all about self assurance, it not even all about "telling it like it is" on any and all issues, in and out of the sport. It is rather, an in-your-face mixture of all of these elements, along with a quick talking, quick stepping, "what's next" persona that most readily defines a New York fighter both inside and outside the ropes.

Hardy, who turned professional last August, has started 4-0, against a conventional "starter" quartet of opponents, the latest win coming via a four round unanimous decision over Peggy Maerz on January 23. Maerz came to the bout with a 2-2 record and was the lone fighter, of the four opponents, to have a win on her record. This type of debut is business as usual for any promising professional ring prospect and Hardy qualifies, given her bona fides as an outstanding amateur. Notwithstanding, Hardy was eager to provide her perspective on her four bout start: "Look, I spent a year and a half in the amateurs, won metro, regional and national titles, was named an "Outstanding Fighter" in the Gloves (NY Daily News) so I was ready and when my chance came to turn pro, I took it. My first bout, I got knocked down in the opening round (Mikayla Nebel 0-2), I got up and dominated the next three rounds to win on all the judges' cards. I got my chance, came back after hitting the deck to win the fight and got another chance; won that one (UD over Unique Harris, pro debuter in October); got another chance, won that one (Ivana Coleman 0-3 UD in December); got another chance and beat Maerz. So now I get another chance, hopefully stepping up to a six rounder in the near future. It's a process and I just want to keep getting chances until I reach the top."

Hardy fights at 122 and the super bantamweight/featherweight divisions in Women's boxing are among the deepest, most competitive in the sport. I mention Jackie Nava, Lisa Brown, Jelena Mrdjenovich as three examples of longtime, top ranked fighters in the weight class. While acknowledging the talent in the division, Hardy remains solely focused on what the future holds for her: "Go out in the street, ask thirty people about Jackie Nava, who's a very good fighter. I doubt anyone knows the name. What I want is for people, when asked, in the future, about Heather Hardy, to answer, 'you mean the fighter, sure I've heard of her,' that's where I want to get to in this sport. Worrying about other fighters is not going to get me there. Following the plan that they (Hardy points to her trainers on the gym floor) and my promoter have for me, that's what I have to be concerned about."

Hardy's promoter is DiBella Entertainment, the leading local boxing promoter in New York City. Despite the concentration of top ranked female fighters in the largest market in the country, the opportunities for bouts has been, in the past, few in number. (The aforementioned Melissa Hernandez, another outstanding boxer in the 120-130 pound class, fought her debut bout in New York City in October 2005 and, over a 24 fight career, has not been back.) I ask Hardy if she feels that, given the disappointing history of female boxing in New York, she will be able to achieve the opportunities against the top flight competition in her weight class. "I feel I'm working with the best people available in the sport, both in and out of the ring," she quickly and pointedly replies. "I'm positive they have my best interests, as a fighter, as their priority. Right now, I don't concern myself or do I worry about doing extensive research into who I'm going to fight. My promoter tells me when the bout is, my trainer prepares me to get in the ring and I wait for the bell. They know I don't want a career of walkover bouts. I want opponents who will come to fight, who are capable of giving me a good fight. That's going to put fans in the seats. That's going to get me more good fights and more opportunities to get to where I want to go in the sport."

The morning of our interview, Hardy had been featured on NY 1, a local news outlet, in a segment (Tomorrow, AM) touching on her life as a single Mom, her amateur titles and her initial success in the professional ring. She's also been profiled on the local NPR outlet. It's logical, admittedly in a cynical sense, to question whether this type of publicity, for a fighter with just four professional bouts, might be straying into the area of "too much, too soon." I posed the question to a boxing official, a woman with extensive knowledge and insight into the local boxing scene, particular Women's boxing, whether Hardy might be susceptible to distractions that, in the past, have sidetracked several up and coming female boxers. The official replied, "[Hardy) is very different, she is a tough, driven girl, without the Hollywood extras. (I've) seen her fight, (the) potential is there." Again, a cynic recalls what a high school coach once said about potential: "all it means is that you haven't done anything yet.". But facts, somewhat, mitigate that concern with Heather Hardy. She's had a good amateur background, she's started well in the professional ranks and she is bolstered by top flight management. And when you listen to Hardy speak of her plans and goals in the sport, you get a sense that she knows where she wants to go and that she has a fairly clear-eyed view of what it is going to take to get there. New York fighters are like that. And that may be one of the biggest things Heather Hardy has going for her, she's every bit a New York fighter.

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