Heather Hardy with trainers Martin Gonzalez (left), Henry Deleon and the late Hector Roca. 

BOXING: Hardy dedicates fight to late Roca

Excitement tinged with memories of her recently departed trainer are what Heather “The Heat” Hardy brings into the ring tomorrow night when she takes on Brazilian champion Taynna Cardoso in an eight-round super featherweight bout at Sony Hall, in Times Square, mid-Manhattan.

A former world champion, Hardy has dedicated the Thursday night fight to the legendary Hector Roca, her trainer who died on Jan. 3 at age 82.  

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Roca was an icon in boxing. He was considered the number one Spanish-speaking trainer in the world by International Boxing Digest. He’d coached 13 world champions, and trained Hilary Swank for her Oscar-winning role in “Million Dollar Baby.”

“I’m really excited to step back into the ring this Thursday night,” said Hardy, an Irish American.  

“On December 16, Hector was admitted to the hospital after having an allergic reaction to some medication, which over the course of two weeks spiraled into kidney failure and an aneurism in his stomach. He spent the last two and a half weeks of his life in a hospital bed, feeling completely healthy as his body deteriorated. He was in inundated with visits, calls, and gifts from everyone who loved him and in hindsight it was a beautiful way for him to go.”

Hardy said Roca told everyone who could listen about this fight with Cardoso and was excited about it.

“The day before he died, he called Martin Gonzalez into the hospital and told him he had to make sure I was OK for my next fight. He asked Martin to mentor Henry (Deleon) and help him mature into a professional coach and give him all the tools he needed to make sure I was taken care of. Even on Papa’s last day, he was making sure I was going to be OK. I’ll never let him down, this win is for him.

“Me, Henry and Martin will take to the ring in Papa’s honor. In what I hope will be the bridge to my world title shot. Papa said, they all think you are past your prime, but I don’t think you hit it yet. This is your year. So, here we go -- 2023 is for chasing that world title in Roca’s honor.”

In Cardoso, Hardy faces a relatively inexperienced foe out of Jundiai, Sao Paulo. Cardoso has only had six fights since turning pro in 2017 and won the Brazilian featherweight title in just her second fight. She’s 5-1 with one win by knockout.

Hardy [23-2, 4 KOs], the erstwhile World Boxing Organization featherweight champion, will bring "The Heat" once again after headlining Boxing Insider’s promotional debut on Oct. 13 last year.

A graduate of John Jay College, she began boxing in the gym at age 24 and made her professional debut in 2012 at 28. In 2014 she won the vacant WBC International super bantamweight title and in 2016 won the WBC International featherweight title. On October 27, 2018, Hardy became world champion, winning the WBO featherweight title with a unanimous decision win over Shelly Vincent at Madison Square Garden.

She lost the title the following September in a unified title fight to WBC World Champion Amanda Serrano in a clash of women boxing stars. Most recently, Hardy  won a unanimous decision against Calista Silgado on Oct. 22.

Tickets, starting at $85 for general admission, are available from www.ticketmaster.com. Search under Boxing Insider Fight Night.