TWENTY four years ago today, a fierce boxing rivalry came to an end in London. Britain’s Dennis Andries and Australia’s Jeff Harding fought for the final time in their brutal and fierce trilogy, with the younger man from Down Under winning the rubber-match by the slimmest of margins after 12 exhausting rounds.
Andries and Harding, two of the toughest, most durable light-heavyweights of the 1980s and ’90s first met in the summer of 1989, in Atlantic City, USA. Andries – at this time trained by the great Emanuel Steward, who Andries, famously, had paid a visit to shortly after his thrashing at the hands of Steward’s star pupil, Thomas Hearns; with Emanuel subsequently transforming Andries into a genuine world class fighter – was making the first defence of the WBC crown he had won for a second time with a win over Tony Willis that February. Harding was unbeaten yet he was thought to be a relatively safe first defence for the Londoner known as “The Rock.”
Instead, after a great fight that saw Harding take a fearful hiding in the early and middle rounds, Andries ran out of gas and was stopped with the final bell in sight. Andries had been ahead on all cards yet a bloodied Harding refused to be denied and picked up the upset win. We didn’t know it at the time but a classic trilogy was born.