When Heather “The Heat” Hardy took her 22-0 record into the ring in September 2019
to face Amanda Serrano, she did so in the knowledge she would be facing one of the best female fighters in boxing, and certainly the best opponent of her career.
In the first two rounds, Serrano hit Heather Hardy with everything–including the kitchen sink–but couldn't put her away. Serrano went on to win a 10-round unanimous decision, handing “The Heat” her first loss.
Afterwards, Serrano said, “My God, is that lady tough. She never stopped trying. Ever! She was relentless…and tireless. She shouldn't feel bad, because she lost to the best. And I'm proud, because I beat one of the best. Heather Hardy is a champion in every way. I am proud to have shared a ring with her. She should continue to press on. Nobody else would have beaten her tonight.”
Heather felt differently. Immediately after the fight, she announced her retirement.
Seven years of being a single mom, working from sunup to sundown as a Personal Trainer while getting in her own workouts in between and fighting 22 professional fights had worn her out. It was over.
But, as with nearly all fighters, retiring doesn't mean turning your back on the sport and walking away, even if that was their intention.
Twenty months later, Heather Hardy was back in the ring. Her opponent was smooth-boxing,
light-hitting Jessica Camara of Canada, the owner of a 7-2 (0) record.
Combined with the 20-month-layoff and Covid lockdown, Hardy had little, other than the huge heart which has become her trademark. Camara outpointed her over eight rounds.
“That's it!” said Hardy after the fight. “It just wasn't there. I'm not gonna' fool myself. It's over!”
Once again, she retired.
Then came 2022. Even without training to compete, Hardy was around boxing. She kept
her regular job as a Personal Trainer, working with her white collar clients at Gleason's Gym. She couldn't help but hear daily boxing news. In April, she watched as Amanda Serrano and Katie Taylor became the first two females to fight in a main event at Madison Square Garden. Other females were making constant news as well.
Claressa Shields would be fighting Savannah Marshall. Mikaela Mayer would be facing Aylcia Baumgardner. Unbeaten Seniesa Estrada signed with Top Rank and was exploding in popularity. Welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill was also rapidly-rising in popularity.
Heather Hardy had gotten out of competition just as the doors to female boxing had finally swung open.
“I'll be honest–it hasn't been easy watching from the sidelines as the popularity of Female Boxing explodes,” admitted Hardy this past spring. “I've got to give this one more try.”
In addition, the little girl Hardy has raised by herself is now a freshman at the University of Albany. College is costly. So are daughters. Hardy could use a nice payday–or several–to help defray some of those costs.
“I am training harder than I ever trained before,” Hardy told NYFights. “There is still plenty of ‘Heat’ left! I will fulfill my dreams!”
Hardy's longtime promoter–Lou DiBella–got together with businessman Larry Goldberg, the owner of the website “BoxingInsider.com.”
Goldberg, who has put on amateur shows, took out his Promoter's License” with the New York State Athletic Commission.
He put together a five-bout show, co-featuring Ukrainian welterweight contender Ivan Golub and Heather Hardy. The venue was Sony Hall–a 500-seat playhouse-type theater–housed in a century-old building on W. 46th Street in the Theater District in Midtown Manhattan.
On a stormy night with heavy rain and wind, a packed crowd turned out for Goldberg’s initial show, on Thursday evening. It was a pleasant surprise.
Five bouts, including Hardy’s comeback bout–which was scheduled for six rounds–kept the crowd on its collective feet all night.
Included was a first-round stoppage by young, local flyweight sensation Andy Dominguez Velazquez, who upped his record to 8-0 (6), and a fourth-round stoppage by Golub, moving him to 21-1 (16).
Then, after the four crowd-pleasing fights, it was time for the Heather Hardy comeback. Her opponent was Calista Silgado, a never-stop-trying 34-year-old from Barranquilla, Colombia. Silgado brought with her a deceiving record of 22-15-3.
Why is that deceiving? It’s deceiving because Ms. Silgado is much better than that record portrays her.
Since her debut in 2011, she has insisted on facing only the best. She has done exactly that. “I didn’t have the connections to be moved properly,” Silgado said through an interpreter. “So, early on, all I wanted to do was fight the best. They could come to me or I’d go to them, it didn’t matter. I’d fight them in their backyards. Just pay me!”
Salgado became a traveling opponent.
In her 11-year career, she has fought local stars in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Mexico. She has also made several trips to the United States, each time as the B-side. She has faced–and lost to Amanda and Cindy Serrano; Melissa St, Vil; Maureen Shea; and to unbeaten WBA Super Featherweight Champion Hyun Mi Choi in a title fight in 2020.
To her, Heather Hardy was just another local favorite whom she planned on making work hard for victory.
First into the ring was Silgado. Although 34 years of age, her rugged face, which has stopped thousands of punches, gave her the appearance of someone much older.
The crowd was louder than the thunder outside when Hardy made her way to the ring. The small venue, which holds slightly over 500, was packed with perhaps a few hundred more. It reminded some of us of the days at Sunnyside Garden in Queens, N.Y. in the ‘60’s and 70’s, when SRO crowds at a boxing match were commonplace.
At the opening bell, Hardy tore into Silgado, hoping to surprise her. However, nothing surprises Silgado. She’s seen it all. She fought back. The crowd roared its approval.
Silgado turned up the velocity in round two, looking to win the round as Heather Hardy was fighting, not just Silgado, but over one year of inactivity. Longtime trainer Hector Rocca implored Hardy to keep the pressure on, and to “keep your hands up!” Hardy listened.
The two-minute rounds melted away, with Hardy constantly putting on pressure and throwing punches, as Silgado sometimes danced behind a jab, and sometimes waded in, ready to trade punches.
At the final bell ending the sixth, both ladies threw their hands up in celebration. However, Hardy raised her hands for several reasons:
She was proud of her comeback effort.
She was proud of the fact she was able to fight so hard against such a tough opponent.
She knew she had won.
Silgado threw her hands up because she had given another local hero such a rugged, splendid performance.
The scorecards were all Heather Hardy.
One judge scored it 60-54. Two other judges had it 58-56. The NYFights scorecard was 59-55 for Hardy.
On a stormy night in New York City, Heather Hardy brought her heat back to the ring to continue her dream. Boxing is a world of improbability, made up of so many dreams.
With her drive, work ethic, heart and determination, her dreams just may come true.