Hardy, 35, is a product of the Gerritsen Beach, the working-class and predominately Irish neighborhood in Brooklyn. She has been a pro boxer since making her debut in 2012 at the age of 30.
With a record of 20-0 (4 KO’s), she now transitions into MMA while still the reigning WBC International Featherweight champion, a title earned via majority decision against Shelly Vincent in the Coney Island Amphitheatre last August.
“If I have to get another job, I might as well get it fighting, right?” said Hardy before one of her final pre-fight training sessions at Renzo Gracie Fight Academy in Williamsburg.
Being a woman in boxing alone is an especially uphill climb, never mind that Hardy is also a full-time mom, boxing coach and personal trainer at Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO.
Female boxers are scarcely televised, earnings are fractions of what their male counterparts make, and people simply don’t respect them to the degree they should.
Last year, fellow Brooklynite and women’s boxing champ Amanda Serrano told this same paper that Hardy “broke down the door” for women to fight at Barclays Center. In fact, eight of Hardy’s 20 fights were contested at the Brooklyn-boxing hot bed, including six consecutive from April 2015 to June 2016.
Now? The bachelor’s degree holder in forensics from John Jay College is looking for a new challenge, which could pay off as a more lucrative one, seeing as how women in MMA are more prominently featured than women in boxing, though neither would be mistaken for rich.
“It’s a pain in the ass,” she said bluntly. “I don’t make enough money doing my job, which is boxing and now MMA. I have to supplement my income if I want to survive. It’s really hard to get into the gym at 5:30 in the morning, then work, then teach clients, because I have to be physically active with them, and then focus on my own training.
“I think it’s probably the same as any single mom trying to balance her kids and her job,” she continued. “It’s different because it’s a fight career and it’s in the public eye, but it’s no different if I was like a waitress or a school teacher or a police officer.”
Hardy’s only boxed professionally for five years, beginning after two years as an amateur where she posted a 24-6 win/loss record, winning several tournament titles along the way.
Since then, she’s captivated Brooklynites, New Yorkers, and the overall boxing landscape.
“I don’t know why people like me but they do,” she said. “I guess it’s because I come from a really tight knit community in Gerritsen Beach. We’re all family so I usually get a big showing of support from there, and at Gleason’s Gym, the boxing community is pretty small.”
Maybe another reason Hardy’s very well-liked is her willingness to give back, even with limited time. For years she volunteered with Give A Kid A Dream Inc run by Gleason’s Gym owner Bruce Silverglade, who lets inner-city kids train at Gleason’s for free.
“I taught and mentored those kids for about four or five years until my schedule got so busy that I couldn’t do it anymore,” Hardy said. “I teach a bunch of teenagers and I get a bunch of fan mail from girls coming up boxing that want my advice. So anytime I can, I give back.”
While still boxing, Hardy started her MMA training, which she says heavily escalated in November in anticipation of a fight in the octagon this past January, but that fell through.
About one year ago, Hardy started wrestling and practicing jiu-jitsu, and moving forward she’ll be co-promoted as a two-sport athlete in MMA and in boxing.
She never ruled out the transition, and wants to make waves in the sport like she has in the sweet science, but isn’t overlooking her first challenge, Alice Yauger (4-5), who went 2-3 as a pro boxer between 2000 and 2001.
“It’s hard to look past the first fight because I still have to get through her,” Hardy said. “Even though I’m 20-0 in boxing, I have to prove that I deserve to be in the cage.
“I’m going to win, I have to,” Hardy added confidently. “I’ve trained so hard and sacrificed so much.”
Hardy’s debut on the Bellator 180 undercard will air on Spike TV this Saturday at 8 p.m.