There's a long and winding road that we must travel
and a prize that waits for all who will prevail
There's a place for those who stand up tall in battle
up against all odds determined not to fail~
– Usher Raymond, “Dreaming”
It was Cinderella who told us to “Have courage and be kind.”
Faced with immeasurable odds, even The Little Glass Slipper would be hard pressed to place non-casino straight bets on herself with little more than passionate belief in the unforgiving sport of Women's Boxing. I saw magic in a little girls eyes last night, the kind you see on a big screen, when I asked about new WBO featherweight champion Heather Hardy (22-0, 4KOs), a woman of unjust oppression and triumphant reward.
Almost five years ago on a bitter cold Brooklyn morning around 6am, I walked into an old Gleason's Gym full of nostalgic regalia and discovered something new. There was an unusual fire to her that I would've noticed had I not known who she was. It was a mundane Monday that immediately transformed into Friday, somehow, and “The Heat” was counting money like a bank teller with a short till. “We're almost there… just gotta grind a little harder,” she tells a big avuncular looking gym sidekick named Un. She's actually about to face Nydia Feliciano that coming Friday and ironically, Jay-Z's “Can't Knock The Hustle” is coursing through my headphones as I watch her as… herself. When I did introduce myself and basically conduct an interview while she was training with ultra diligent partner Devon Cormac, she never changed. Still hasn't.
She's far removed from the homeless single mom eking out a bare existence as a gym rat, but in many ways she's not. She's on billboards now, even as she's been “sentenced for life” after being assaulted as a child. The movie documentary, “The Heat”, chronicling her hardships, was rotating around boxing circles at that time, even as she was transforming the squared circle with a flawed style nuanced by substantive grit. She got her ass kicked in MMA and almost pulled a Jake LaMotta in response, as if to say: “But you never put me down.” All the while editing, directing and starring in her own film culminating in the WBO featherweight championship on HBO last night and no one ever yelled “Cut!” And she'll never win an Academy Award.