GREG STEENE, who died last week aged 67, will be remembered for taking Dennis Andries from the scrapheap to the WBC light-heavyweight championship.
Steene, who remained a manager and matchmaker until his death, bumped into Andries in 1982 and found him “despondent” and on the brink of retiring.
Andries had been offered £2,000 – the annual wage at the time was £6,000 – by a promoter as a pension, being told: “You’re not going anywhere and you’re getting in the way of people who are.”
Though Andries was going to accept, Steene discovered there was no written agreement and he decided to take on a fighter he regarded as “undervalued.”
Steene grew up with boxing. His father Alex – who went on to be a promoter – was a boxer who sparred with Freddie Mills. Greg had 49 amateur bouts himself for Battersea ABC.
Greg, who considered Jack ‘Kid’ Berg as a “grandfather” figure, said he knew he wasn’t good enough to be a professional.
He instead managed and promoted fighters, including John L Gardner, who won British and European heavyweight titles, and Andries.
Former manager Ernie Fossey had previously told Andries: “If you win the British title, the game’s gone,” but Steene had rather more faith in him.
He ran a ticket agency and told me once: “I was lucky that I had my own business and was earning a lot of money, otherwise I couldn’t have afforded to bring Dennis along.
“I invested a huge amount of money promoting Dennis who was never a ticket seller
“I can remember losing £6,000 on one show and £10,000 on another. I had faith he would come through.”
Under Steene, Andries won the Lonsdale belt outright in nine months – it was only two defences in those days – and Steene was quick to defend his fighter when he felt Boxing News didn’t give him the respect he deserves.
Steene took exception to the report of Andries’ points win over Tom Collins – Dennis won their series 4-1 – on his show in February, 1984 and concluded in his letter that Andries had “the skills, strength and power to win both the Commonwealth and European titles and possibly even a world title.”
Steene was possibly alone in thinking this, but kept investing in Andries.
He paid Dutchman Alex Blanchard £67,000 to come to London to defend his European title in December, 1985.
That fight ended in a draw after both were floored, a result that put Andries in the WBC rankings.
Steene fancied Andries had the beating of champion JB Williamson, but said the BBC were unwilling to put up the money to bring the American to London.
Frank Warren got in touch and said he could get ITV to back the fight and for a career-high purse of £75,000, Williamson agreed to put his belt on the line against Andries at Picketts Lock Leisure Centre in April, 1986.
Andries dragged him onto the cobbles and beat him via a split points vote.
That was followed by a successful defence against Leicester left-hooker Tony Sibson, only a middleweight, before the world title was lost to Thomas Hearns.
Steene had predicted that beating Hearns would make Andries “a global star” and lead to a shot at Mike Tyson or Gerry Cooney.
For five rounds in Detroit, Andries was in the fight before Hearns started to time his right hand.
Andries was down several times before the 10th round stoppage and never fought for Steene again.
Steene resurfaced a few years ago working alongside Mo Prior and Mickey Helliet looking to bring fighters through from the small halls.
Greg also had several journeymen on his books and the last time I saw him he told me an amusing story about one of his fighters weeping in the changing room after scoring a win. It’s a familiar tale when a journeyman wins – they fear they’re never going to get another job.
The thoughts of Boxing News are with Greg’s family and friends.
TRIBUTES TO STEENE
All at Queensberry are very sad to hear news of the passing of legendary boxing manager and matchmaker Greg Steene. Our thoughts are with Greg’s family at this time.
Very sad to hear of the passing of Greg Steene. Greg was in the sport for decades and will be sadly missed.
Gutted to hear that Greg Steene has passed away. I only exchanged texts with him on Thursday when he told me he was feeling unwell.
Very sorry to hear that my good friend has passed away. My thoughts are with his family. I’ll miss him a lot.
Everyone at Priority Boxing is sad to hear of the passing of friend and partner of the company, Greg Steene. Condolences to his wife Jackie and to his sons at this time. Greg was a boxing man through and through and will be sorely missed.
Sorry to hear about the passing of Greg Steene. He promoted some wonderful shows. Always helpful in any professional dealings, also. Old school.
Joseph A Pyle
Upsetting news regarding my lifelong friend Greg Steene. He had great knowledge of the game and was involved in boxing from a child. Rest in peace, mate, you’re with your dear father now.
Sad to hear about the passing of Greg Steene, he had been in boxing game a long time. My thoughts are with his family and friends. Rest up, Greg.