Heather Hardy: ‘A lot of people counted me out against Amanda Serrano’
She drew looks as she made her way over from the train to the Everlast headquarters, where we chatted.
Stitches, two batches, had passersby on 39th Street near Bryant Park in New York City wondering what happened…
“What happened” was prizefighting; Heather Hardy does it for a living – or, should we say it’s one thing she does for a living – and, last Friday night, she went back and forth with Amanda Serrano, in defense of her WBO featherweight title, at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. Her bout, the most fan-friendly and compelling of the evening’s slate, was put together by Matchroom Boxing and Lou DiBella and screened on DAZN.
So the stitches…Hardy sat down in a conference room, in Manhattan, and gave me the lowdown. Ten stitches overall, one burst on the scalp-line, right side, and one on the right eyebrow.
“I’m good,” she said. Six and four, she relayed…and revealed the the tally over the entirety of her fighting career, which includes mixed martial arts action: 58 to this point. Each mark a badge of courage and resilience, testament to the arduousness of her journey.
“A lot of people counted me out for this fight. I spoke to some of the photographers, some of the officials, some of the refs after that admitted that general talk was, ‘I wonder what round Heather’s gonna get knocked out in.’ But I went in there and I really thought I could win,” Hardy said. “And I showed later in the rounds that I had the skills to do it. I mean, the whole fight camp was a matter of ‘Can I execute flawlessly?'”
She thought she’d have to fight flawlessly for the duration to win and acknowledges that in rounds one and two, Serrano was taking it to her.
In that first round, Hardy walked through a hailstorm of flurries. What was going on in her brain during the worst of it? “I got caught and staggered with a shot later in the round. Your adrenaline is so high, you can barely remember every second but I remember getting caught with that shot; I remember trying to regroup and get my balance. And it was like trying to prevent shots from hitting me in the face, while my head is going, ‘You have to fight back or the ref (Mike Ortega, who deserves immense credit for his calm wisdom) is gonna stop it. I could feel the ref looking in. I was making sure, as much as the best that I could, to fire off some shots in between her combinations, just to show that I was still active, that I was still mentally in the fight. The whole time I’m thinking, ‘Shit, where’s the bell?'”
She giggled, mildly and astonishingly, at that recollection.
“Also, ‘I can’t let this fight stop here; I’m OK, I just need that minute to sit.'”
She said that the risk with a Serrano (age 30; also a Brooklyn resident) is there in round one or 10…but more likely to occur early on, when the bomber is fresher.
And her adaptations, what did she change up? Serrano lost a bit of steam after three. She figured she’d slow down some; that was the scouting report and then she could take her time, pick Hardy off in between shots. Basically it wasn’t that Serrano changed tactics; it was getting to the point where a boxer like her could get some space and breathing room to work against a slugger, a technically sound heavy-hitter.
The 22-1 (with 4 knockouts) Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, native, who taught private boxing lessons for cash flow during training camp, shared that, in the lead-up to the fight, she wanted to say almost nothing. She wanted to concentrate purely on prep. Hardy, part of Team Everlast, admitted to us that she was aware of her foe’s skill set. Hardy thought Serrano was a 70/30 favorite to win, all things considered.
So when a male boxer takes to Twitter and publicly disses Hardy’s form while shadow-boxing, as happened a week before, she could have hopped in and engaged the critic. That dude could have sent a DM and offered some insight into her form. We agreed that this critique, explained by the guy as trying to be helpful, was BS. He was trying to score a point by tearing someone else down and presenting it as a tutorial. However, smartly, Hardy didn’t waste energy on the matter and instead stayed in her prep lane.
We also discussed the interesting dynamic, which saw Hardy get more love and attention in losing than the winner did in victory. “I know that my career isn’t over but that doesn’t make it any less painful,” she said. She reiterated that she expected to win and wasn’t going to be happy going the distance. And yes, she thinks, down the line, a rematch with Serrano, with Hardy having worked on some tweaks to up her skill set, would be an option.
Time and again, post-fight, fans came up to her and said that they’d not been a fan of women’s fighting before but they are now. They said they’d never seen such an exercise in grit, as she made her way through the tsunami in round one and that does help cheer her up a bit when she wishes she’d gotten that W.
We spoke about that continuing push to get better pay for the women. She didn’t shy from pointing out that in many co-feature fights, the combatants would get much, much higher purses than she and Serrano (37-1-1, 27 KOs) received. On the bright side, she said her manager has received tons of calls and things will be cooking because eyes were opened. “Put on the good fights, challenge yourselves…Girls, challenge yourselves,” she said, adding that is one lesson that was cemented for her and she hopes others will also comprehend that coin flip fights can be win/win propositions for all involved.
Nope, she’s not even thinking about her next fight…MMA? Boxing? One more fight before the end of the year? She will rest a bit more, then ponder the near-term future.
And this is instructive: The 37-year-old fighter said she’s got more work to do. “I have a lot of room for improvement. I never claimed to be a perfect fighter. I never claimed to be at the top of my game. I have to work on my power. I have to work on setting down on my hard shots and who knows what comes after? Amanda has some plans, the next six, eight months, I know between (undisputed lightweight champion) Katie Taylor and doing a big headline show in Puerto Rico, with MMA, so I’ll stay in the lab (at Gleason’s Gym), stay sharp. I know that regardless of what the scorecards said, the fans would love to see a rematch but I need to get better first!”
You can follow Michael Woods on Twitter @Woodsy1069.
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