Women’s History Month Interviews: Brooklyn’s Heather Hardy Found Herself in the Boxing Ring
Heather Hardy discovered the sport of boxing in her late twenties during the onset of her separation from her ex-husband, when a little kick boxing school opened in her neighborhood offering late night classes. In an effort to clearly define who she was – not just somebody’s soon to be ex-wife or somebody’s mom, but as she put it, “I just wanted to be Heather for a little bit,” she started taking classes. When she discovered how much she loved the sport and how good she was at it, boxing began to fulfill a need inside of her.
Within three weeks of starting, she had her first fight and won. When her hand was raised and her dad had tears in his eyes, it was a very emotional moment for her, although at the time she had no idea how her life would forever change.
Early on in her career there were a lot of naysayers who advised her to “stay out of the gym and get a real job.” Ignoring these well intentioned voices, she kept her eyes on the bigger picture because she knew what she was capable of.
Having a strong family bond has been like having a life support system. Her mom is her biggest fan, attending all her fights and her sister, whom she fondly refers to as “her other half” was instrumental in helping to care for her daughter, after her divorce thereby allowing Heather to train and pursue her boxing career. The two sisters lived together until a few months ago when Heather moved.
As with any single mom, working and finding a balance between home life, taking care of her daughter and boxing is really challenging. There are many aspects that go into being a professional female boxer, in addition to training Heather has to market herself, sell tickets and promote her fights. Female boxers don’t make a significant amount of money like their male counterparts so she supplements her income as a trainer. At times this can be a little difficult, however living close to the gym has help in her day to day routine and has allowed her enough flexibility to be a hands on mom; bringing her daughter to the gym in the morning, then taking her to school and picking her up afterwards.
Often asked if she gets nervous before a fight, Heather admits she only gets nervous that she’s not going to “win pretty enough”. She’s never been one to think that she wouldn’t win or succeed because there’s something inside of her that just won’t let anyone beat her. Her drive, determination and disciplined learned early in her home life, has taught her to fight through all of life’s obstacles and shaped her as a fighter.
One of the biggest influences in her life was her great grandmother; who came to America from Ireland by way of Scotland with her fourteen brothers and sisters, with no money and successfully raised a family. She taught Heather to persevere and to “go after what my heart says I can.” The lessoned learned from her great grandmother is now being passed down to her daughter, who according to Heather has no interest in boxing and she doesn’t push that on her either. If her daughter learns anything from her she would like it to be that “no matter what you want to do, as farfetched and strange and as much as people tell you that you can’t, with hard work and discipline you can fight for everything.”
One of the things she’s passionate about and actively involved in is Gleason’s Gym’s “Give a Kid a Dream”. Since its inception in 1991 by Bruce Silverglade the gym’s owner, the program has provided children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who were headed in the wrong direction in life or getting in trouble at school, mentorship and a place to come and develop themselves physically and mentally through the sport of boxing. Participants are referred to the program primarily through the courts, churches, or schools. The program is non-profit and is supported by Gleason’s itself and the individual personal trainers who volunteer their time, they pay for all the trips, the fights, the licenses. Heather and her coach Devon Cormack work side by side training these young hopefuls, watching them go from troubled youngsters to confident young adults. It’s that change that keeps Heather so passionate about the program, as she says “if in your span of living on earth, you can change one kids life you’ve died making a difference.”
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