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Hardy and Vincent Shine at the Beach
by Bernie McCoy
August 22, 2016

(AUG 22)  Heather Hardy and Shelly Vincent brought their unbeaten records to the southernmost tip of Brooklyn, commonly known as Coney Island, staging a ten round donnybrook that stole the show at the Premier Boxing program, promoted in conjunction with Lou Di Bella's Di Bella Entertainment at the open air Ford Amphitheater, hard by the Coney Island boardwalk, on Sunday afternoon. The boxers gave the frenzied, raucous crowd, which had a plurality of Hardy supporters, but also included a somewhat smaller but nonetheless vocal Vincent adherents, most of whom remained standing for the entire 20 minutes of action, everything they had come to expect from this highly anticipated battle of unbeaten featherweights.

Vincent, 125.3, fighting out of Providence, came to the bout with an 18-0 record, while Hardy, 125, 17-0, was fighting in her local borough of Brooklyn. Vincent, the shorter fighter by four inches, started the first round quickly, setting a pattern that would hold throughout the ten rounds, coming forward and pressing the action, following her left jab, attempting to get inside against her taller foe. In the subsequent three rounds, Hardy settled in to the strategy of keeping the Rhode Island fighter at a distance where the Brooklyn boxer could utilize her longer reach. Vincent finished the fourth round strong and carried the momentum in the fifth stanza, possibly her best round of the fight. The second half of the battle, continued apace with both fighters maintaining what seemed to work best for them; Vincent aggressively pressing the action, Hardy, moving side to side, pot shottng her always advancing opponent with lefts, rights and uppercuts. Each fighter took turns at grabbing the momentum in the final ten minutes, the advantage shifting , seemingly at thirty second intervals. Hardy seemed to be landing what could be considered the cleaner, harder, long range blows, while Vincent often succeeded in getting under Hardy's punches and effectively working up and down to Hardy's head and body. The fighters went bell/bell in each of the final five stanzas, and were still furiously trading blows at the final bell.

Both corners and boxers exulted at the final bell, the fighters being hoisted into the air in a victory salute as the crowd expressed it's appreciation for the ten rounds in the manner all good fight crowds do: with a sustained standing ovation, which given the excitement that permeated throughout the venue during each and every round, such a final tribute might have seemed almost ironically redundant, but, nonetheless, richly deserved. This was ten rounds of good boxing, not good female boxing, good boxing.

The decision came after what seemed a somewhat lengthy delay in the ring and hushed the still vocally vibrating crowd. Judge Joe Pasquale called the fight a draw, 95-95, provoking non committal murmurs from the assemblage. Both Robert Perez and Bernard Bruni had the hometown fighter ahead, 97-93, 99-91 respectively. My extremely unofficial count had Hardy ahead 96-94, with the full knowledge that all ten rounds were very close with changing momentum between the fighters occurring often. But I must add, recognizing the wisdom of questioning a licensed, professional ring arbiter, the awarding nine of the ten rounds to either fighter in what was, to me, a very close fight, was mysterious (the kindest euphemism that comes to mind).

That aside, both fighters are to be congratulated for the show they provided for the crowd at the Ford Amphitheater and the female boxing fans who have been yearning for just this type of bout, with just this type of excitement and exposure in this country for far too long. I would render a guess that, given the gift of hindsight, NBC, which relegated the Hardy/Vincent fight to their sports cable channel (NBCSN), on a "db" (delayed broadcast) basis might opt to put the women on "live". On this particular Sunday, in this particular ring, both these fighters put on a show that was fully ready for prime time.

Hardy, who now possesses the WBC International Women's Featherweight title, appears to have crossed a boxing Rubicon of sorts, free now to wade in the waters of elite female competition that adorns the 120-130 female weight division. Vincent is probably anxious for a rematch with the Brooklyn fighter although she too, off Sunday's performance, seems poised to explore that same talent rich weight class. Regarding a rematch Vincent did express a caveat, at the post fight news conference, "I'll take the rematch.....(but) I want her to come to Providence." Providence, Coney Island, wherever, if a sequel happens, one thing should be apparent even to risk allergic TV moguls, NBC and Premier Boxing probably wouldn't, or certainly shouldn't, think about any kind of coverage other than "live and in color."

Bernie McCoy

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