Some fights are, by no way of an exaggeration, tiring even to watch. Case in point, the third and final light heavyweight war between the superbly evenly matched Jeff Harding and Dennis Andries. Two men, both as hard as nails, both with inner reserves of stamina to die for, with each man also possessing a great heart, a rock for a chin and, let’s be honest, less finesse than a number of world champions.
It all added up to one of the most action-packed, and exhausting trilogies to take place at 175; heck, at ANY weight (God knows how the two warriors felt in there, in either of the three battles, with both men pushing themselves almost beyond human limitations!)
Age aside – Andries was said to have been born in 1953, yet plenty of people felt he was older, with Harding being born in 1965 – these two were just about as perfectly and evenly matched as any two fighters you could point at. It told. It was almost impossible for either man to gain an edge. The toll on both men was incredibly high, the combined 31 rounds of savage, two-way action seeing to it that neither guy had too much left at the end.
The final fight took place on this day back in 1991, and Harding and Andries saved the best, or the worst, in terms of what they did to each other, for last. Warring this time in Andries’ home country, the fight going down in London (fight-one had taken place in Atlantic City, the return in Melbourne, Australia), fans were treated to an epic slugfest. One that somehow went all 12 rounds and featured zero knockdowns.
Andries, now officially 37, was making the third defence of his third reign as WBC light heavyweight champ. Harding, who had only one loss on his record, this the second fight with Andries, was trying to become a two-time WBC champion. Andries was a somewhat grizzled 39-8-2, Harding, aged 26, was 20-1.
The two men went at it right from the opening bell and nothing had changed from the first two fights – not tactics, not the pacing of the fight, not the sheer ton of leather chucked out by both men. As with fight-one, Andries got off to a great start, cracking Harding with big shots, his roundhouse rights bouncing off Harding’s head and chin. But also like the first fight, a bleeding Harding came on strong in the later rounds. It was a gruelling ordeal, with only the inner grit, the sheer desire and the refusal to quit keeping both men in the fight.
Andries was feeling it bad in the final three rounds. His face swollen, Andries was on the verge of collapse. How he made it through to the final bell, his ageing body aching, soaked in sweat and screaming fatigue, nobody knows.
It was painfully close at the end, and in truth neither man deserved to lose. A draw would perhaps have been the fair result, but would we sadists have then called for a fourth fight? That’s another article. As it is, Harding won via majority decision – 115-113, 115-114, 114-114.
The damaging series had come to its end. Harding won the series 2-1, but these two vastly underrated and seemingly often underappreciated fighters never really did settle things as far as proving who the superior fighter was.
Harding and Andries gave us a thrilling, punishing trilogy that showed us in quite graphic detail how tough fighters really do have to be.