Season 3
25 Minutes

E115 | Heather “The Heat” Hardy | Everything That I Am Willing To Fight For

Heather "The Heat" Hardy held the WBO world featherweight title from 2018 - 2019. Heather works as a trainer and continues a career in professional boxing and mixed martial arts into her early 40s. Brooklyn-born and Brooklyn-based, Heather holds a BA degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College in Manhattan.

While in high school, Heather had aspired to become the first female pitcher for the New York Yankees. Mom to a teenage daughter, Heather has been a persistent voice for women's boxing and is an outspoken advocate for pay equity in women's boxing. In 2016, Heather partnered with Dove on their #MyBeauyMySay campaign.

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Heather “The Heat” Hardy  00:00

Pat Tillman, incredible moments as a fighter moments where I thought man little heathered grown up in Gerritsen beach never would have dreamed of this because people where I live, don’t come out and do the things I’m doing. I remember about five years ago 2018 I fought Shelley Vinson at Madison Square Garden for a world title. It was my world title when I had made the phone call and begged HBO and they put us on the show, you know, closed mouths don’t get fed. They put us on the show. We were only the second females to have a fight on HBO. And they all said it couldn’t be done and we got it done. I made that phone call and I got it done.

Achim Nowak  00:35

Hey, this is Achim Nowak, executive coach and host of the MY FOURTH ACT podcast. If life is a FIVE ACT play, how will you spend your FOURTH ACT? I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected FOURTH ACTS. Listen, and to be inspired. And please rate us and subscribe on whatever platform you are listening on. Let’s get started. I am so delighted to welcome Heather hardy to them MY FOURTH ACT Podcast. Heather is an American professional boxer and mixed martial artist. She held the WPA W Bo featherweight title from 2018 to 2019 when she lost the title to Amanda Serrano, Heather is also a trainer living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Heather holds a BA in forensic psychology at John Jay criminal College College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. Heather didn’t start boxing until she was 28. He has been a persistent voice for pay equity and women’s boxing. Just this summer at the age of 41. Heather challenged Amanda Serrano, for the WBA WBC IBF web Oh IBO and the ring female heavy featherweight world titles again, while she lost the fight by unanimous decision, Heather is not done. And I’m very curious about where you go next. Hello, Heather.

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  02:11

Hi there.

Achim Nowak  02:12

It’s a treat to meet you. I always wondered, and I asked this question every guest when you’re a young girl growing up and thinking about your future life, and mom or dad or whoever asked you a question like what was on your mind? What did you think? I wanted

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  02:30

the first girl to be able to pitch on the New York Yankees. I was a little girl. I used to play stickball and wiffle ball and I hung out with all the boys when I was a kid and I always wanted to play be the starting pitcher for the New York Yankees. I watched 162 games a year. My best friend was a boy when I was growing up. But they didn’t let girls play literally. We had played softball, so I didn’t get to play and becoming a New York Yankee was never recognizable Dream Girls don’t play baseball. So we’ve come a long way since I’m a little girl.

Achim Nowak  03:01

Yes, we have and you have which is cool. I also I lived in New York for a while and I know that you grew up in a very sort of secluded neighborhood or Brooklyn called Gerritsen beach. I used to go to the beach in Manhattan Beach. I will take the train you Sheepshead Bay, go off and walk to the beach. But you weren’t even further away. So can you give me a snapshot of what it was like to live in a remote part of Brooklyn? That was sort of a little sheltered?

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  03:29

Sure. I was extremely sheltered. I mean, it’s community. It’s working class Irish people off the boat saw like Irish Americans and very small neighborhood is one road in one road out. Like I said, working class I grew up in a neighborhood where most people they’re both our parents all worked two jobs. So the oldest child, the latchkey kid, I carried the key on my neck on a shoelace. And I will pick up my brother and sister take them home. And we kind of did that everybody, the oldest kid took the younger siblings home and made dinner and did homework and wait for your parents to come home. And they survived. And part of what made me want more from my life was having my daughter and knowing that I wanted her to be exposed to so many things that I wasn’t exposed to until I was well, well later on in life. I

Achim Nowak  04:17

want to talk about how you juggle being a boxer being a mom training, all of that stuff. But one thing as I learned about you that struck me is that your first boxing experience when you were 28. So you were an adult, you had a daughter. Tell us the story of how does somebody suddenly get involved in a boxing event? How did that happen?

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  04:41

Sure. I was 20 years old as 1/3 divorce. I had my degree in forensics but I was working six small jobs at the time just to keep food on the table. I had raised my daughter. I was living with my little sister which I kind of raised her as my daughter as well, because me and my sister both of our kids to say My mom’s no child support. I was really hustling just to put food on the table. And she gave me a gift certificate to a little karate school that opened in my neighborhood. And she was like, I’m tired of seeing all you do is work and sit at home, like you need a personal life. And within a couple of weeks a girls have needed a fighter one of their fights fell out and said, you want to do it. And I thought, okay, so I tried to have a fight. I grew up in a place my mom told me, nobody will beat you like your mama. So I wasn’t scared. And I won that first fight and thought, yep, this is how I’m getting out of this neighbor.

Achim Nowak  05:32

I love the background that you just shared with me. How do you go from the first fight to the second fight? Like how do boxers advance how does that happen for people like me who don’t know how boxing works?

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  05:45

Sure. So this is an amateur fight amateur isn’t as like, strict and licensed. It’s not for any money, you’re just doing it for experience. It’s USA boxing, amateur boxing. So you can fight anytime you want. You just know you can do it with or without a coach with or without a manager. I’m fortunate and I credit this to my college education and my years into adulthood, being a parent being smarter. I managed my career wisely, because I knew I had to make the most of the years I was in it. And I knew I wanted to make this a career to pay the bills and food on the table. So I was very focused on my first fight. Get the next one, get the next one get better get the next one get better. I

Achim Nowak  06:28

would imagine in boxing like other sports, though, at some point, you hire trainers, all that costs money. So you actually have to spend money to develop yourself is Am I hearing? Is that correct? Yes. I

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  06:42

mean, sadly, everything in this day and age, it costs money to make money, it costs money to make money. So when you have trainers and people who are guiding you on a path, and they’re not really charging you a lot of money, right, knowing that I did have a lot of money, I was single mom raising two families time my sisters as well. I just felt like I was really blessed at Gleason’s gym by the amount of people who are willing to help me with my pricing for little to no money. And it’s true. I mean, pricing is a very expensive sport. You have to travel to get to take time off of work, you have to train you have to prepare you need to pay a trainer and then you get into the pros and it’s even more you got to promoter you know, like money goes everywhere. So you have smart you mentioned

Achim Nowak  07:23

a couple times you pride yourself on having been smart I love that being smart mean what surrounding yourself by the right people or choosing the right events to Boxen like what does smart

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  07:36

is everything it’s scripting Martin, who was perhaps one of the first female boxers to ever get on CT Barcia Mike Tyson curtsy Martin said as soon as one ticket is sold to a sporting event, it becomes a business and it’s not as bored anymore. So this board is the background of the business as soon as one ticket is sold to an event. And I think that my intelligence came from knowing my place in the sport. How do I make money? How do I make myself marketable when in a sport that doesn’t want women take place? How can I make myself valuable? And the answer to that was sell tickets. The promoters will want you if you sell tickets, be easy to work with that there are so many factors that go into managing your career as a fighter. It’s not just about being at the gym and having a good coach, like you have to be smart and have your finger on everyone’s pulse kind of when you should do your next fight. How long is too long to be laid off? How to listen to No, right like in any business, people are going to tell you no. And you have to sort out the nodes that are in your best interests and the knows that are just from other people being lazy. And you have to get to the bottom of it. So so really educating myself on how the money is made. And boxing is what kept me on the next step every time.

Achim Nowak  08:47

What I’m wondering about is, in many sports, there’s the inequity and pay. But also especially with women to get commercial endorsements, it’s sometimes no matter how good you are, it’s about your looks, how pretty you are, we can commercially sell you is is that a part of women’s boxing as well, just the physical appearance.

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  09:10

I mean, physical appearance is a benefit no matter what position you’re in as a woman and women will tell you that whether they’re teachers, doctors, lawyers, fighters in the public eye or out of the public eye, being an attractive woman definitely makes it easier for you. But we’re living in a time where you can market anything. You just have to know who your audience is. You don’t have to be beautiful anymore. Beauty is subjective. Anyway, so but now we’re seeing that what you market yourself on can be your looks. It can be your attitude, it can be single motherhood, it could be your church, the music you like, there are so many ways that we can market ourselves where you don’t have to be conventionally beautiful. To be able to hold a captive audience. You just have to know who your market is.

Achim Nowak  09:57

Listen to your story. is inspiring. But I’m also thinking is part of the inspiration, obviously your WBA champion. That’s ridiculously impressive. But part of your story is also here’s somebody who is who has been a fighter outside of the ring, too. You fought for your daughter, you fight for your family, and you just have this big fighting spirit. And that’s part of and you’re making a choice of telling that story. Is that correct? Sure.

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  10:27

I think the one I just spoke about is deciphering nose, you know, your whole life you’re listening to people tell you no. And it’s various reasons like no, you can’t, you know, is listening to that. No. And asking, does this benefit me in any way? And if the answer is no, then to keep fighting for it. That’s what people fight for, for what they deserve for what was rightfully theirs. Right. When you grow up like I did with not a lot of money and parents who weren’t like the important people in the room, you have to fight because people are always going to tell you no, you’re never going to be in front. You have to fight for what you deserve, because nobody is going to fight for you either.

Achim Nowak  11:08

A word from your sponsor. That’s me. I invite you to go to the website associated with this podcast Fourth, you will find other equally inspiring conversation with great humans. And you will also learn more about the my fourth act mastermind groups where cool people figure out how to chart their own for tax. Please check it out. And now back to the conversation. I’d love to invite you to tell us when to set us listeners and me to stories because I think in life there are two sides to every coin one, take us to a moment where you went, Wow. This is a highlight of my life as a boxer. This is a moment where I celebrated what I’m doing. But most of us including myself, we have those moments where you go Why the hell am I doing this shit? Right? So we have both Can you tell us take us to both ends when it comes to

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  12:08

perhaps Pat Tillman, incredible moments as a fighter moments where I thought man little had their little had the grown up in Gerritsen beach never would have dreamed of this because people where I live, don’t come out and do the things I’m doing. I remember five years ago, 2018. I fought Shelly Vinson at Madison Square Garden for a world title. It was my world title when I had made the phone call and begged HBO and they put us on the show closed mouth don’t get fed. They put us on the show. We were only the second females to ever fight on HBO. And they all said it couldn’t be done. And we got it done. I made that phone call. And I got it done. And I remember walking into the fight and seeing right above Madison Square Garden and I was on the Billboard nice. This was 2018. And in 2013, just five years before that would have been 10 years ago now. But five years prior to seeing my billboard on Madison Square Gardens walls on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. I was homeless, I was living out of a little office sleeping on a bed in the gym. I had nothing my daughter was living with my cousins in Long Island because I didn’t have a roof to put over at. So to have come that far in such a short period of time. That was so humbling to me, I could still cry thinking of it. And if I had to think of the moment where I said, What are you doing? Yeah, in 2017, before my world title, I had to do an MMA fight. I was doing all these boxing matches, I was 17 or 18 now, and I had done a boxing match. I had sponsors. I mean, I really went above and beyond sold about $10,000 Out of Pocket tickets. And they put my show on before they opened the doors at Barclays. So I had sold like $40,000 and tickets, and all my fans were outside and I boxed to an empty crowd. So that choice that made me go to MMA Bellator signed me it was a huge thing. They were fighting at the garden. And I had walked out to that Bellator fight. And I looked at the Commission for New York. And I was like what am I doing? I don’t even know how to do this. I haven’t even trained them. I only know how to box and the guy who was like I like grabbed my face. He’s like, just go out there and fight and Damn, I don’t even know.

Achim Nowak  14:20

Thank you for that reality check how because my background is in show business and in show business. People are constantly rejected, right you can make in show business if you can’t handle losses and rejections. But how do you as a fighter handle losses to do they motivate you to do more? What’s your reaction after you didn’t win?

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  14:40

Well, a lot of people think of like they hear fighters after the fights and you listen to the ones who lose and any reason for a loss is seen as an excuse. And I’m real happy in my life about differentiating reasons from excuses, right? Like there’s a reason maybe why I didn’t win that Right and a lot of people don’t take into account that when I fought Amanda the first time. I was still working a full time job. I wasn’t making enough money to retire. We talked about pay equity. And I spoke about this my whole career. You know, I fought for my world title at age on Madison Square Garden, HBO co main event sold out the night and me and my counterpart, my opponent, we made 20 grand. I mean, that’s absurd. Men are making millions. I am a world champion on my banner hanging Gleason’s gym. And I’m still working a full time job. You heard me even this morning tell you I had clients that my job was running over. I couldn’t talk to you. That’s really tough. If I look back on why I lost a lot of fighting simple it’s like it’s not like the boys were you fly me off to Miami and I have beautiful runs under the sun. And I’m at the beach and I can tell her my days to eating right and sleeping right sadly, I was walking a little girl to school doing homework, dealing with the mom stuff working full time like that really goes into it. So if I ever watched any my fights, be it MMA or boxing. I mean, I know that I always give everything I can. But

Achim Nowak  16:10

so what what keeps you going? Because I mean, everybody in life went back we get those voices were that tell us to quit. But you’re clearly Have you fought Amanda Serrano again, just recently, you didn’t win that fight. But I know you’re not done. That’s my sense of you. So what keeps you going? Well,

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  16:28

God blessed me with this talent. You know, like, God blessed me with this boxing. Not everybody can do what I do, but I can. And when you lose a fight at my level, you’re dealing with a whole bunch of women who are one percenters. We are not like 99% of this population. We are one percenters. And when 1% or competes against another 1% of somebody’s gonna lose, it doesn’t mean you’re not great. It doesn’t mean you’re not better than 99% It means that I wasn’t better than that girl that night. And I take pride in what I’ve done my whole life, to be able to say that, right? Like, I feel like, you know, I’ve done enough as a fighter. If I didn’t win tonight, it don’t mean that I’m not a winner. We’ve had what keeps me going. I got a 19 year old in college right now that I got to pay for. And part of what I promised myself as a mother is that we talked about in the beginning, it takes money to make money. I don’t want my daughter going into her life with college films. So I always prided myself that I would pay you through college. And once you get that paper, now it’s on you. I have to finish this. For me, for her for us. I have to get her through college.

Achim Nowak  17:38

I love there’s such a fire in you, as you talk about it’s very inspiring to me, it was talking to you. Has there been progress made and pay equity, I think it’s better today than they were in 2017 2018. Things

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  17:53

are wildly better. It was 2012 before the first females were allowed to box in the Olympics. And that was really holding us back because we weren’t allowed to showcase our skills on an international platform. So in 2012, when the first class of girls were welcomed into the Olympics on that platform, big promoters started signing these women. And things changed over technology changed over, we changed over from streaming fights on ESPN and HBO and Showtime. Now those are all gone. And the only boxing you have is on these web streaming services like the zone. So you also had over the time women boxing the Olympics, but also the sport, graduating from the old school guys who didn’t think women belong fighting to a much newer fresh management, that is welcoming female baits and realize how much money make for them. The money has gone up. It’s not equal, but it is going in the right direction.

Achim Nowak  18:45

I feel like I’m about to ask her a question. But I think most athletes have to sort of think about this someone is at some point, if you your body says stop fighting. Do you think about your life? Beyond that? Do you stay in boxing in a different role? Do you have other dreams or aspirations? Like what does have a think about?

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  19:06

Well, I know that with what I’ve invested in the last 1015 years of my life that boxing will always make money for me because I always I forgot more boxing than most people can learn. In a lifetime. I forgot more. And that doesn’t just mean I’m the best fighter. It means the business of boxing the way boxing works, how money is made. And I know that I can offer so much to the sport not just to women but to the sport. So beyond what I do now to make money which is I teach boxing, I give boxing. Hey, I’m a personal trainer. I mean, there’s promotion, there’s owning my own boxing gym is the possibilities really for a professional athlete in the afterlife, of being a competitive, you know in the sport. The possibilities for what you can do here are really endless. What did

Achim Nowak  19:56

you have aspirations for your daughter and your daughters? Life What do you want her to do that may be similar to yours different to yours? How do you think about your daughter’s future?

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  20:06

The only thing I ever wanted to pass on to my daughter was my work ethic. And I successfully did that. My daughter is not a fighter. You know, kids mostly want to do the opposite of what their mom does. So she never wanted to come to the gym. It was always an option. She never wanted to my daughter’s an artist. And part of what made me realize what I wanted for her was seeing how it was I was 28 where I was introduced to boxing because growing up in Gerritsen beach in like, you know, middle lower class neighborhoods, all there are not sports, there’s not art, there’s not music, there are very few options for kids because these zip codes where the money isn’t there, is not funded. So we have softball or Girl Scouts for girls and the boys played soccer or baseball, and that was it. That was all grown up. So as a parent, all I wanted to do is make sure I brought her to a zip code that embrace opportunities for children to do a lot of things. So she cooked she did art classes. She went, you know, she did marine biology. She was out on boats, testing the water, like I wanted her to try everything to find her passion young. And she found art. You know, my daughter is an artist. So I’m blessed. She worked in art studios. She taught kids art. She’s up in college right now working with animals like she’s good kids. She took my work ethic. That’s all all I want.

Achim Nowak  21:27

How does your daughter think about having a mom who was a world boxing champion that she talked to you about it?

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  21:33

I’ve learned about children. She is wildly unimpressed by me as a mother. And one thing I learned being a mom is that she’s 19 and she still doesn’t see me as a woman. I’m not Heather I’m still mom. Mom is almost like a superhero. Right? Like moms don’t have feelings. Moms don’t have needs mom don’t have one. Mom should always be on call. That’s where at 19 That’s where she is. So mom is not enough. I’m not impressive. I’m not cool. Even if I’m on TV and magazines is not cool.

Achim Nowak  22:07

Because not many people have had the sort of career in life that you’ve had an experience as a professional athlete. What do you know now about life that you couldn’t have known as the young girl growing up in Gerritsen beach? Like if you had to share a word of wisdom with your daughter or anybody else? What have you learned that you go? I would like to pass this on.

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  22:29

It’s interesting. You say that because just this weekend I’d taken my boyfriend who was also my fighter. I miss coach my boyfriend up to a fight in Connecticut. It stayed at Mohegan Sun. It was my actual my it was my fight anniversary with Shelley Vinson for the world title. So I went up to Boston see her one of the shows she was putting on and he was gonna fight and long story short, his fight fell out of the opponent came in overweight, but he was so upset. And one thing I’ve learned is to enjoy the process. Yeah, in 2020, during the pandemic, there was really thoughts and I would retire because I had just lost the world shut down. I was surviving by teaching. And one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t ever enjoy. It was always the next step chasing the next dream. Actually, Louie CK, who was a comedian from New York sponsored me for this last fight. And him and I even spoke about it. Yeah, he had a small period where he wasn’t doing comedy shows, you know, there was some bullshit with him. And he wasn’t doing comedy shows. And he shared the same experience. Like he said, I did the garden eight times. And the thought that had never do it again, made me so mad that I didn’t enjoy it. And I was like, Yes. Like, I looked back at times when I was honored for awards or dinners. And we’d go through fight camps and be at press conferences in the Barclay Center in the garden. And I just felt like I just was going through the motions without really being like, Whoa, this is my life. This is happening to me, look where you are. So if I had any advice to give any fighters it would be like, just enjoy it. You’re doing something that most people never get the chance to do.

Achim Nowak  24:09

That is such beautiful wisdom for anybody whether you’re fine or not. My audience probably are not all boxing fans like you’re used to talking to boxing fans, so some of my audience doesn’t know where they can find out more about you. Do you have a website? Do you? Are you on Instagram? Where would you like to direct people who want to learn more about what you do Heather?

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  24:30

Sure. So I’m on Instagram at Heather the heat you guys can follow me it’s really like my life as a mom my life as a fighter my life as a boxer my life as a coach my life as a trainer. I mean we’re all women wear so many hats. You know most people do anyways but when you’re a parent, you definitely are different head on for everything. So you can follow me on Instagram. kind of silly but punch. Thank

Achim Nowak  24:54

you for this conversation and I’m inspired thank you for being such an amazing I hope you don’t mind this term but role model.

Heather “The Heat” Hardy  25:03

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Achim Nowak  25:05

It’s wonderful to meet you. Like what you heard, please go to my fourth And subscribe to receive my updates on upcoming episodes. Please also subscribe to us on the platform of your choice. Rate us give us a review and let us all create some magical fourth acts together. Ciao


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