Heavyweight Tom Hardwick laces up his gloves for the first time as a professional at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City this Thursday night against Derric Walker (1-4) in a fight scheduled for four rounds.

The Coolock, Co. Dublin native has been busy in Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn with trainers Jihad Abdul-Aziz and Grant Seligson as he prepares for his first fight in the paid ranks.
The 26-year-old has been sparring hard with experienced pro Derric Rossy to ready himself for the fight.

“I’ve done almost 50 rounds of sparring with him. He is a very intelligent fighter and we have worked well together,” Hardwick told the Irish Voice.

Not only has the Dubliner been working hard on the tactical side of his game, he has also been bulking up his frame to meet the demands of professional heavyweight boxing.

Hardwick fought at the 201-pound limit (just one pound above the cruiserweight limit) when he won the Golden Gloves novice title last year, but he decided to bulk up to become a heavyweight instead of considering a career at cruiserweight.

To do so, Hardwick spent the last few months working out at the Sports Lab in Manhattan with fitness trainer Matthew Olszewski, who counts tennis professional Andy Roddick among his clients.

He has gained about 20 pounds of muscle, and as his pro debut approaches he feels he is growing into the weight.

"I've adapted very well. I feel my speed coming back at that weight.  My body is getting used to it. We put the weight on slowly so as not to affect my agility,” Hardwick said.

Though he will be on the smaller side for a heavyweight, the potential size difference against the larger men in the division does not deter him.

"I like fighting the bigger lads.  I like getting under the punches and working the body.  I am not stupid.  I know one punch can end it all, but I have to keep moving my head to avoid that," he said.

Hardwick’s opponent won his debut fight in 2008 but has lost his last four on the trot. The 32-year-old from Georgia was last in action on December 3, when he retired halfway through his fight with John L. McDermott IV.

Hardwick is working with promoter Jim Foley, a Tipperary native who formed Old World Boxing to help up-and-coming fighters. 

“I want to help Irish fighters and Brooklyn fighters,” he says.
For Foley, the chance to promote someone like Hardwick was an easy choice.

“First of all he is a nice young man.  But I also believe in his boxing ability, there is no point in being a nice guy if you can’t fight,” Foley says.
Foley has no qualms on how far he thinks his fighter can go.

“We really believe that he can become a world champion. We believe has the potential to do so if he can avoid bad luck and injury,” he feels.

If everything goes to plan and the Dubliner emerges victorious and unscathed, he will return to action in the first Old World Boxing-promoted card at the Cordon Bleu in Woodhaven, Queens on June 24.

He is clear about his goals as a professional. ”I want to keep a clean sheet. I have not been beaten as an amateur and I aim to continue that, and I want a world title,” Hardwick says.

For tickets to the fight, visit www.oldworldboxing.com.

In other boxing news, middleweight Andy Lee (25-1, 19 KOs) will fight Alex Bunema (31-7-2, 17 KOs) on Wednesday, May 18 at the Donald Stephens Center in Rosemont, Illinois, in a fight scheduled for 10 rounds.

Lee has been training hard at the Kronk Gym in Detroit as he prepares for the potentially dangerous challenge of the Memphis-based Congo native.

“Training camp has gone really well. I sparred mostly with ‘K9’ Cornelius Bundrage, Marlon Tomas and a guy named Will Price. They are all Detroit-based professionals and all are similar in style and size to Bunema,” Lee told the Irish Voice on Monday.

Lee also worked out with one of the Kronk Gym’s newest and high profile fighters.

“I sparred Chad Dawson one day, just to move around with him and that was a very enjoyable session,” he said.

“As I've said before, I expect a hard fight. Bunema has proved his credentials with his past performances, so it would be stupid of me to underestimate him.”

Though he did beat former world champion Roman Karmazin in January 2008, Bunema has come up short against the other quality opponents on his resume, losing to Kasim Ouma, Jermain Taylor and Sergio Martinez over the course of his career.

However, Lee will have to make sure he is ready for this challenge, as he needs to win and impress if he wants to stay on course for bigger fights later in the year

“I've done everything I can in training to ensure a good performance, I'm in very good shape and I'm prepared to go the distance if I have to.”

The pair will fight for the vacant NABF middleweight title.  Also in action on the undercard of the fight is Mayo light middleweight Henry Coyle (14-2) who is set to fight Vance Garvey (8-32-6) in a six-rounder.

Tom Hardwick’s promotional poster for his pro debut.