1. THIRTEEN months before their July 28 1990 rematch, Jeff Harding rebounded from a torrid start to stop Dennis Andries in the 12th and final round, in an utterly thrilling WBC light-heavyweight title showdown (above). There had to be a sequel and it was set for the National Tennis Theatre in Melbourne and gave home advantage to the 25-year-old Harding. Although the Aussie had been the underdog first time round, he was expected to repeat his victory in the rematch.
2. ANDRIES, 36 years old according to most reports but rumours remained he was closer to 40, blamed losing the first fight on making weight. His trainer Emanuel Steward had gone away with Thomas Hearns for the Sugar Ray Leonard return and Andries, concerned he would not make the light-heavyweight limit, barely ate in the lead-up to his fight with Harding.
3. STEWARD blamed himself for Andries’ loss and wasn’t happy that part two was taking place in Australia. The veteran coach felt the only way they win would be via knockout. Andries promised to do just that: “I am not going into this fight blind. There is no way Harding can win this time. I just want to beat this guy up bad. I owe him one.”
4. BUT Harding was making ominous noises himself. “The thought of defeat scares me that much that I fight, not to win, but to not get beat,” said the champion. “I live boxing. I eat and sleep it. I live by myself so I know myself better than anyone.”
5. IT was another bruising encounter, and Andries started well again. Harding was getting tagged by the British fighter, his pawing jab being overrun by Andries’ clubbing right, and the Australian’s corner did not like what they saw. “Now look, son, you’d better make him stop that right hand,” said trainer, Jemal Hinton. “You’ve got to keep that left up high. You can do it. It’s hard. It’s not going to be easy but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, didn’t we?”
6. IT looked like it was going to be the same scenario as their first encounter as Harding worked his way back. In the fifth, Harding rocked Andries to the ropes with an uppercut and by the sixth, the British fighter looked exhausted. At the halfway stage, two judges had Harding ahead while the other had them level at three rounds each.
7. BUT Andries was not finished yet. He staggered Harding with a bowling right hand. The Australian tried to fire back and the pair exchanged punishment but it was the younger man who wilted. Andries gambled, and emptied his energy tank, hurling vicious blows at Harding. The favourite’s eye ripped under the strain of the blasts, and after one final scything right hand rained down on Harding, he collapsed on his back.
8. ARTHUR MERCANTE, the storied referee, counted over Harding before completing the count as the beaten man tried to rise. It was all over. Andries had done what few believed he could. In the process, he made history, becoming the first British man to twice regain a world title. “I had to give this guy real pain,” said Andries. “He has never felt that before.”
9. “WE’RE very proud of him,” said British Boxing Board of Control General Secretary, John Morris. “He made history – and he was doing it for Britain.” He then suggested that this time, it was Harding who struggled to make the weight after it emerged he had to lose six pounds in the three days leading to the bout. “Harding wasn’t letting anyone into his training sessions in the last few days. Not the media or anyone.”
10. THERE would be a third fight the following year in Britain. It was another torrid struggle for both but, after 12 bruising rounds, Harding claimed back the WBC title by the slimmest of margins.