Dennis Andries, The Only Brit To Face “The Hitman”

25.02.06 - By James Slater: The U.K’s Dennis Andries won the WBC light heavyweight title with a points win over J.B Williamson in April 1986, and in March of the following year he made his second defence. He was not given an easy second defence, nor was he given the advantage of fighting at home. The Cobo Arena in Detroit was the venue and, with the exception of Dennis’ corner-men, everyone in attendance expected him to lose his belt to the challenger - the legendary Thomas Hearns.. Tommy had never faced a British fighter before, but this fact, an interesting bit of trivia and no more, wouldn’t help Dennis in the slightest. “The Hitman” may also have been making his debut as a light heavyweight, but no-one would have guessed it from the action that unfolded. Hearns carried the poundage of his new weight-class with no trouble whatsoever. As a result, Dennis Andries’ only possible advantage was removed.

The fight was one sided from the outset and Andries was to take a lot of punishment. He showed incredible bravery but, despite being the naturally bigger man, never won a round. Out-boxed in the early going, Dennis was in dire straits in round six. He was knocked down on five occasions (only three were official knockdowns) as the fight very quickly turned into a slaughter. How Dennis managed to regain his feet over and over again is a mystery. As is why the referee, Isaac Herrera, and Andries’ own corner, permitted him to do so. The action should definitely have been stopped in this round and if it had been no-one would have uttered any complaint. Yet incredibly, somehow the bout was to last another four rounds. The bout was finally stopped in the tenth, ironically a round in which a brief glimpse of hope for the defending champion had surfaced. In this final session, Dennis was wrestled to the canvas and after an unnecessary count the fight was stopped as he stumbled in near exhaustion to a neutral corner. However, just prior to this Andries had seemed to catch Hearns with a left hook to the forehead, forcing Tommy to tumble to the canvas. There was no count but some believed Dennis had scored a legitimate knockdown. Watching on video replay it is hard to tell. In any case, Hearns and his many fans were soon celebrating the
capturing of yet another world title.

The future for Dennis Andries looked bleak in the moments afterwards, but his career was still to reach its peak! Shortly after the fight with Hearns, Dennis paid a desperate visit to The Kronk gym and asked Emmanuel Steward to train him how to fight and mould him into a world class boxer. This was one courageous move! After some initial derision from the regulars at Kronk, Dennis earned everyone’s respect with his sheer determination and toughness. He was later given the nickname of “Rock” and under Steward’s tutelage became a much more polished fighter. He went on to win the light heavyweight title another two times. Hearns later said how he was glad he’d fought Dennis before he’d learnt how to fight properly! His achievements under Emmanuel really were remarkable and his return to the top of his sport was a comeback that would have garnered about a two percent chance of success from those who had been in the Cobo Arena when “The Hitman” had turned him into a yoyo.

Andries rates as one of Britain’s greatest fighters and his three time reign as light heavyweight champion earned some much over due respect and recognition for the man who, after winning a world title for the second time, against Tony Willis, rode home alone on the subway in London with his belt in a carrier bag, such was his complete lack of stardom. Conversely Frank Bruno, who had been smashed by Mike Tyson around the same time, received a hero’s welcome upon his return from the U.S for lasting into the fifth round! Dennis would have been forgiven for feeling a touch bitter. Thankfully though, his efforts finally did get recognised. He is probably best remembered for his three fight series with Australia’s Jeff Harding.

These fights rank as some of the most gruelling ever in the 175 pound division. After the third fight of this series, which Dennis lost on a desperately close decision, thus losing the series two to one, Andries’ time as a world champion came to an end.

Britain’s toughest light heavyweight, (at least of the modern era) retired in 1996 after a TKO loss to Johnny Nelson, when age and wear and tear gave “The General” a good deal of assistance. Dennis’ final record reads - 49 wins 14 defeats 2 draws with 30 wins by KO.

Article posted on 25.02.2006

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