By: Sean Crose
If you’ve been following the sport of boxing over the past decade then you probably know who Heather Hardy is. Nicknamed “The Heat,” the New Yorker earned considerable popularity by being an action fighter who knew how to win. As a result of dedication, and training under famed coach Hector Roca (who she called Papa), Hardy earned herself the WBO world featherweight title after a terrific rematch with Shelly Vincent in 2018. Hardy lost that title to the great Amanda Serrano that next year, and, after dropping a decision to Jessica Camara in 2021, appeared ready to ride off into the proverbial sunset. Appearances, however, can be deceiving.
For it’s been announced this week that Hardy will be facing Serrano again in a rematch set for August in Dallas. Not only will Hardy get a chance to regain her WBO title, she also stands to win the WBC, WBA, and IBF featherweight titles as well should she succeed. In short – the veteran fighter stands on the cusp of becoming an undisputed champion. Not that Hardy faces an easy task. Serrano is known as an all time great for a reason. Aside from having earned world titles in numerous divisions, Serrano is nothing if not the picture of practiced, high end boxing while in the ring. Hardy, however, is ready to grasp the moment.
“I’ve had it on my mind all year,” Hardy says of the rematch. “I have to go out guns blazing, in honor and in memory of Papa.” Indeed, Roca, Hardy’s trainer and mentor, passed away at 82 years of age earlier this year, an event that clearly moved Hardy deeply. “We spent every day of 2021 together,” Hardy says of the late Roca, “rebuilding my confidence, my boxing technique, and the day before he died we sat on his hospital bed and he told me: ‘Everyone thinks you passed your prime, but you didn’t hit it yet. This is your year, baby.'”
Sure enough, Hardy, who is now in her early 40’s, has only fought twice since her loss to Camara. She won on both occasions, but Hardy’s most recent battle, a February victory over Taynna Cardoso, saw the former titlist look particularly impressive. What was notable that night was the sheer stamina Hardy showed. For round after round, she simply outboxed an opponent roughly seven years younger than her. It was a performance of note, to be sure. Still, even though Hardy has called out Serrano for a rematch, she is grateful for the opportunity she’s now been presented with.
“Not everyone gets second chances,” Hardy says, “and I was prepared to go out on this loss, but am very grateful to Amanda and her team for giving me the shot.” Of course, there are still the naysayers out there (perhaps they haven’t seen the Cardoso fight), but Hardy is eager to prove such people wrong. “Everyone is talking about I’m old,” she continues, “and how I already lost, and how I don’t deserve the shot. But don’t sleep on an 80s baby from Brooklyn, New York. We are built different. I promise you, I’m not your mamma’s 40. I’m not just coming to fight, I’m coming to WIN.”
Indeed, sometimes age is simply a number.
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