30 Years Ago Today: The Savage Harding-Andries Rivalry Comes To An End

Today is a day for remembering. It was, of course, as surely nobody will ever forget, on this day 20 years ago when 9/11 happened. The atrocities that took place, with America suffering the worst terrorist attack in history, shook the planet. Here, two decades on, people all over the world are paying their respects to the victims who lost their lives both on that day and afterward.

In the boxing world, today marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most action-packed, entertaining, and evenly fought light-heavyweight rivalries in the history of the division. Australian warrior Jeff Harding and British hard man Dennis Andries quite literally knocked lumps out of each other over the course of three brutal fights, each of them a world title fight.

The rivalry began in June 1989, when huge underdog, the almost unknown Harding of Sydney, came in as a late replacement to challenge Andries for his WBC belt. Andries of Hackney, now working at The Kronk Gym with Emanuel Steward, had regrouped after his crushing loss to Thomas Hearns, and now, having regained the WBC 175 pound title with Steward guiding him, Andries was making the first defense of his second reign.

The fight was pure slugging all the way, with both guys surely setting a punch-stat record (had there been punch-stats back then). In the end, a bloodied Harding outlasted 36-year-old Andries, who finally caved in and was stopped in the very last round in Atlantic City. 24-year-old Harding was on top of the world, breaking out in tears of joy when the fight was stopped in his favor.

The rematch took place a little over a year later, and this time the furnace-like action took place in Melbourne, Australia. Andries, to everyone’s shock, ripped back the belt and gained his revenge with a seventh round KO. The previous six rounds had been just as fierce as the 11-and-a-bit completed rounds of the first fight. Together, these two fighting men who may have lacked skill and finesses but were full of heart, guts, and desire, with both having jarring power and a rock for a head served up something special.

The rubber match came in London on this day 30 years ago. The final fight of the series might have been the most punishing and demanding of the three wars masquerading as boxing matches. Certainly, fight-three was the closest, most evenly fought battle of the trio.

Once again following their pattern of, ‘I’ll hit you, you hit me, and let’s see who goes first,’ Harding and Andries slugged it out, with both men knowing they would take each other to the brink. The fight was fought at a terrific pace, with neither man giving the other a second of rest. There were no knockdowns, each round was almost a carbon copy of the previous round, and both fantastically well-conditioned fighters emptied themselves as they punched with fury for all 36-minutes.

The only fight of the three to go the distance – Andries, at this stage of the rivalry perhaps as old as 40, looking like he might collapse from sheer exhaustion at times in the later rounds – the finale was agonizingly close on the cards. Andries was granted no special treatment as the hometown fighter. Instead, Harding got the nod via the majority decision. It would have been quite something if the fight had been scored a draw!

Over the course of those almost 31 rounds of X-rated combat, Harding and Andries failed to settle the argument of who was the greater fighter. On paper, Harding gets the vote, as he won the series 2 to 1. But any fight fan who has seen these three fights knows how neck-and-neck, how so beautifully matched, these two iron men really were.