In August of 2016, Heather Hardy and Shelly Vincent became the first women on a nationally televised Premier Boxing Champions undercard. It was the one of it’s kind and it was one of my favorite fights of recent memory. It was two fighters at peak performance fighting for something more than money — and it’s a fight every sports fan should know about.
Heather Hardy says her career began as “almost a fluke“. She started boxing when she was finalizing her divorce and she didn’t have her first rookie fight until she was 28. Her ex-husband had wiped out their savings and, before her boxing career took off, she was working six jobs to support her kid as a single mother.
Shelly ‘Shellito’s Way’ Vincent comes from New London, Connecticut. Growing up, her father was in and out of jail, and her childhood was painful and full of abuse. She found boxing when she was 18 years-old and it gave her life structure. She would later tell Brooklynfights.com: “I’m fighting to prove there’s hope and always a way out of anything. So on fight night you’re fighting me and all my demons.”
Both fighters have talked openly about their history of sexual abuse. Both fighters are pushing for women’s equality in sports. And, going into their first fight, both fighters were undefeated.
Before the two women faced off in a 10-round fight for WBC International Women’s Featherweight title, things got heated between the two of them. Vincent told reporters that Hardy was “everything that’s wrong with women’s boxing”. Hardy responded by telling the press: “People have been waiting for me to beat this girl up. Friends of mine.”
They ended up going the distance, and Hardy won by decision (95-95, 99-91, 97-93), but Vincent shook off the loss, saying:
“I got head-butted all night long. I came here and everybody told me I’d get robbed. I’ll take the rematch but I’m not playing by these rules. I want her to come up to Provide.”
It was a great fight, but hopes for a rematch collapsed because promoters allegedly couldn’t deliver the $100,000 purse that Hardy’s team wanted. Instead, Hardy defended the WBC title against Edina Kiss (twice). Hardy again won by decision, but neither match was as close as the fight with Vincent. Now Kiss, the loser of that fight, is scheduled to match up against Vincent on May 5th at the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut. If she wins, it’ll should get Shelly one step closer to the rematch that fans really want to see.
While we all wait, Hardy’s team has her fighting MMA over at Bellator. Her record’s now 2-1, but she can’t quite escape the legacy of her biggest fight…. Literally. Vincent showed up Hardy’s Bellator 185 weigh-in and accused Hardy of “hiding” in MMA. During the fight, Vincent was ringside glaring at the girl who beat her. Shelly’s mad and she sees all of this as a roadblock to the rematch she deserves – and, frankly, I don’t disagree with her. The MMA world doesn’t need Heather Hardy, but boxing does.
Right now, there are two fights that I want to see in 2018: I want to see Joshua-Wilder and I want to see Hardy-Vincent 2.
Having Hardy fight Vincent again is good for boxing, and if the purse is all that’s stopping it, then somebody needs to step in and get it done. Both fighter are now both in their late 30s and time’s running out for another marquee matchup. Women’s boxing doesn’t get many big fights, and the world deserves the chance to see this one happen.