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Shelly Vincent and Heather Hardy Head to Coney Island
by Bernie McCoy
August 18, 2016

(AUG 18)  Shelly Vincent and Heather Hardy are scheduled to fight for the vacant WBC International featherweight title on Sunday at the Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island. The bout has attracted significant publicity due, in large part, to the media ready accessibility of the two boxers; both articulate, colorful and more than anxious to speak of and for themselves and their sport. This is a huge opportunity for female boxing that, particularly in this country, has gone through an arid period of exposure, particularly on television, print coverage and just plain word of mouth excitement among those who are ardent followers of Women's boxing.

Vincent comes to the bout with a record of 18-0, while Hardy sports a gaudy 17-0 streak. Both records, to me, seem the result of "careful" management of each fighter. This is, obviously, not a recent management strategy in the sport of boxing, male or female. But the fact remains that these two fighters have accumulated 35 bouts against what appear to be decidedly middle-of-the-pack opposition. Vincent's eighteen opponents have a cumulative record that hovers below the .500 mark (46%) and while Hardy's opponents' records is comfortably above that break even mark, nonetheless, it is wise to keep in mind, "it's not what the number is, it's what the number means." Hardy's last opponent, her seventeenth straight win, one Kristie Simmons, came to the Hardy bout with an 8-1 mark. A closer look at Simmons' record shows that three of the eight wins came against fighters with winning records, (two 1-0, one 3-2), the other five wins came against boxers with a cumulative 9-55 mark.

Let me be clear. This is not new to the sport, fighters have been brought along slowly, carefully, since, well forever. It is a fact that both Hardy and Vincent have beaten every professional fighter that they have climbed into the ring with. Fighters fight whomever their management teams put in front of them and both Hardy and Vincent are now handled by one of the premier boxing management organizations in the business, Di Bella Entertainment. Make no mistake, it was that type of quality management, in a sport so often sadly bereft of such guidance for so many athletes, that propelled these two female fighters to the pedestal of exposure that they will climb onto on Sunday in the Southern tip of Brooklyn.

But let me also be clear, crystal clear. These are not two of the elite female featherweights in the sport. (I heard one interview with Vincent that aired on social media in which the breathless interviewer actually compared Sunday's bout to Ali/Frazier. I'm not sure whether he meant Vincent/Hardy compared to the male or female version of Ali/Frazier, but the answer is clear to anyone with a modicum of knowledge of female boxing: neither). This bout is, to me, an elimination fight, the winner, in addition to a WBC title, is awarded the opportunity to step up in competition against the formidable group of boxers that populate the 120-130 lb weight class in the sport. Something neither fighter has, to date, done.

Boxing, like life, has always experienced a sizable gulf between "deservin' and getting'." Shelly Vincent and Heather Hardy are "gettin' " an opportunity on Sunday, an opportunity replete with the kind of exposure only those with long memories can remember two women boxers receiving in this country. I'm glad for the fighters, I'm glad for their sport. I hope, no, make that I believe, that both Vincent and Hardy, who, in truth, deserve the plaudits that every fighter who takes those three step up into a ring deserves, will make the most of their opportunity which is a big one for each of them and a big one for the future of their sport.

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