Sure, the multi-sport athlete has compiled a record of 21-0 with four knockouts in boxing since debuting in 2010, and is also 2-1 in Bellator as a mixed martial arts fighter dating back to last June. But inside the ring – or the octagon – is only where the fight begins.
Hardy is set to face rival Shelley Vincent (23-1, 1 KO) on Saturday, October 27, at the Hulu Theatre in Madison Square Garden. The fight, which will be featured on the final HBO Boxing broadcast ever, was initially scheduled for the non-televised portion of the card.
Even though the contest between Hardy and Vincent is a rematch of their highly regarded bout from August 2016 at the Coney Island Amphitheatre, which Hardy won by majority decision, HBO had no interest in broadcasting the bout.
So Hardy fought - through social media, through her promotion and through her manager.
“Nothing was working,” the Gerritsen Beach native told BQE Media at Gleason’s Gym following a workout in preparation for Saturday. “My momma taught me, ‘closed mouths don’t get fed,’ so I reached out to some friends.”
So she contacted HBO Sports executive vice president Peter Nelson and he came through. In 45 years, HBO has televised only one women’s fight: Cecilia Braekhus against Kali Reis just seven months ago.
Even Lalia Ali couldn’t make the cut in her prime, a decision also met with controversy. So Hardy wasn’t necessarily surprised that her rematch with Vincent was also stiffed from HBO’s coverage.
“I knew it was going to take something extra, but it was that important to me,” she said. “I couldn’t rest until I tried everything.”
The fight will be one of three world title bouts aired on HBO, as Hardy and Vincent vie for the WBO World Featherweight Championship, which would be a first for either fighter.
The quickness of mixed martial arts to provide an elevated platform and pay rate for women compared to their boxing counterparts has led Hardy and others, like six-time world champion Amanda Serrano and former multi-sport combat champion Holly Holm, to leave the ring for the octagon.
Part of the recent resurgence in boxing, Hardy says, is aided by Olympic expansion. Women’s boxing was first featured in the summer games six years ago, and currently the sport has three weight classes for women: flyweight, lightweight and middleweight.
Boxing has since witnessed 2012 gold medalists Claressa Shields, Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams become rising stars in the sport, complimented by other talent who have broken through in recent years.
Hardy, 36, is helping to pave the way for the current crop of fighters, who are off to faster starts than ever before in women’s boxing. Not lost on her are those who weren’t afforded a television opportunity, who sacrificed throughout their career to pave ways for pugilists like her and Vincent.
“There were schools of female champions before me who didn’t get the opportunities that I’m getting,” she said. “I almost feel guilty taking a spot on HBO when I can think of so many other worthy female fighters who might not be active or managed properly that aren’t getting the same opportunity that I am.
“You have waves of female junior Olympians who are hoping for that spot,” Hardy added. “These young girls have hope that there is a channel to grow up through. That’s a really promising feeling.”
Hardy’s also a single mother to a 14-year-old daughter, a duty she calls her primary role in a life. Growing up in working-class Gerritsen Beach, Hardy was never taught she could be whatever she wanted to be. Instead, she was taught to figure out how to survive.
“I don’t tell my daughter things I don’t show her,” she said. “My girl sees through my example that all things are possible.”
“Being able to balance any kind of job and being a single parent is a tremendous achievement,” Hardy said, before adding with a laugh, “being able to be a champion and completely excel at one job and still excel at motherhood? I deserve two world championship titles for that.”
Hardy returns to action in a matter of days to face a bitter rival, one who crashed her recent Bellator weigh-in to spark a confrontation. While Hardy acknowledges the difficulties in maintaining a level of disdain because they’re both fighting for women in boxing, it’s still a business transaction.
And Hardy is all business.
“A little bit of our souls came out and our legacies are forever intertwined after that first fight,” she said. “That was an epic fight. We’re not going into this fight with that same hate, but that drive to win doesn’t go away just because you don’t have the hate.
“I’ve never hated any of my opponents, but that’s never stopped me from wanting to stop them,” Hardy added.