Harding’s battle to honour dad's deathbed wish
BOXING: With sweat flying off his gloves Troy Harding launches into another attack on the bags at Ashmore PCYC on the Gold Coast. It is hard to believe only last year the boxer tipped the scales at more than 120kg.
The former dual silver medallist at the Australian Amateur Boxing titles let his glovework and weight fall by the wayside. But that was before he made the biggest promise of his life.
Before his father, former Yamba Amateur Boxing Club president Les Harding, lost his battle with cancer in September last year, he asked his son to make him one last promise.
"He said he wanted me to get back into the ring," Troy said. "I promised my old man that I would do it. If I can't do it for him then I would never do it.
"That was when I decided to get into the gym and do the hard yards. I started on this journey in mid-January and since then I have lost more than 40kg."
Harding is now back to his optimal fighting weight at 80kg as he prepares to make his professional debut at Yamba's Big Bash Boxing night on Saturday.
The name Harding has become synonymous with Australian boxing thanks to the gallant deeds of former world light-heavyweight champion, Grafton's own Jeff 'Hitman' Harding.
And while he has no direct relation to the Hall of Fame boxer, Troy is looking to emulate Hitman's incredible resilience in the ring.
The 30-year-old pugilist has been working the bags under the watchful gaze of Brett Pescud at Power Boxing Gym in Ashmore for the past 12 months.
"The quality sparring I have been getting in the ring has really set me up nicely," Harding said. "Brett and his team have organised an awesome training program and regime for me heading into my first pro fight.
"I am 100per cent ready to go. I haven't been at this weight since my first lot of amateur bouts, and I haven't felt this good in a long time."
Harding will square off against little-known West Australian boxer Aiden Bennett, who is also making his professional debut on the stacked card at Raymond Laurie Sports Centre.
But regardless of his stature, Harding will not take his opponent lightly.
"He is not coming all this way for a holiday, that is for sure," he said. "I don't know a lot about him, just that he comes from a well-respected gym in Perth.
"I just figure I will focus on my own game, train harder, and come into this fight prepared for anything. I have fought some pretty hard blokes in my time in the amateurs. I will be ready."
In a show of good faith to his former coach, Norm Harvey, Harding will donate his entire fight purse from the night to the Yamba Amateur Boxing Club.
"The amount of time that Norm dedicates to young fighters in and around Yamba is incredible," he said.
"I am just glad I am able to give a little bit back to him.
"A lot of the club's equipment was damaged in the flash flooding we had last year, so hopefully this money can go a bit of the way to repairing or replacing that."