Like so many New York stories, this one begins on the subway.
It was a few years ago on a city train when Heather Hardy found herself looking at poster promoting boxing at Barclays Center. In one fleeting moment, a dream began to take form.
"They had the boxing posters up and I was like, 'Man, I want that to be me one day,'" Hardy recalled. "I couldn't even tell you how satisfying it was when it actually happened."
That Hardy won, defeating Jackie Trivillino via split decision on the night of June 14, 2014, inside the billion dollar showpiece on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues made it all the more gratifying.
And now, she's back, defending her perfect 12-0 mark against Renata Domsodi (12-6) in the first Premiere Boxing Championship card emanating from Barclays. Saturday night will mark the first time Barclays Center hosts a card that can be watched on free television, as it will air on NBC.
A self-described "really aggressive fighter," Hardy did not pull any punches when discussing the state of women's boxing with two New York-based media outlets during an open workout at Barclays Center Tuesday.
"The networks--Showtime, ESPN, HBO--have anti-female fighter policies, and they won't put females on TV. And that is where a promoter makes his money. He looks at a prospects and says, 'Well, in two years I can get this kid on Showtime, then I'll make my money back.' But knowing already the females can't get that spot on Showtime, the promoters don't want to waste time.
Interestingly, Showtime, when it partnered with the Mixed Martial Arts company Strikeforce, used to air women's MMA fights, including those involving current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey,UFC Bantamweight fighter Miesha Tate, Cristiane 'Cyborg' Justino Santos and Gina Carano.
It is a fact that isn't lost on on Hardy.
"Showtime is the one network that said, 'If we're presented with an attractive enough offer, we'll bite. But until that happens, no,'" Hardy said.
Unlike athletes who argue their job is solely to perform on the field of play, Hardy views promotion as a responsibility.
So here I am, doing $30,000 worth of tickets for the fight. That's attractive," Hardy said. "Christy Martin, who was a famous female boxer, once said, 'As soon as one ticket is sold to a sporting event, it becomes a business and not a sport,'" Hardy said. "This is a business. It's not the promoters discriminating against us, they're just looking to make their money back. It's the networks who won't give us airtime.
"I make just [as much of] an effort to sell tickets as I do to win. It's part of the job of fighting to me, getting people into the seats. When I can walk in and the guy who owns Barclays, the director of operations, says, 'Heather, how are you?' [it's because] I sell a lot of tickets. That's the kind of attention we need, to show that people will come and watch us fight. Put us on TV. Let us make money.
"When I started, I knew marketing myself would be a key to success. I just wasn't willing to accept a female couldn't make a living in the same area a man could."