Dateline: May 25, Saturday, the O2 Arena in London. Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch look to reprise their first classic encounter 3 years back that featured paralyzing exchanges and dramatic shifts in momentum as they battled ferociously to the final bell.
Kessler pulled away in the championship rounds to edge a unanimous decision, winning the battle as it were, yet losing the war when he was forced to withdraw from the Showtime tourney, citing double vision. Froch went on to fight in the finale against Andre Ward in Madison Square Garden, losing a tough decision where he finished as the stronger fighter.
After taking a year off for rest and recovery, Kessler has staged a comeback against lesser competition to win back his WBA title. Meanwhile, Froch continues to fight the best opposition in boxing today, dethroning undefeated P4P phenom Lucian Bute who had scarcely dropped a round in his dominant multiple IBF defenses.
As such, Froch is expected to be the favorite, but there is no counting out Mikkel Kessler yet. With a record of 46-2, 35 KO, he knows a win here will further cement his already stellar career when he retires. Carl Froch is up there in credentials as well, even while sporting the lessor record on paper of 30-2, 22 and the slightly older age, 35 to Kessler’s younger 34 years.
The title fight numbers favor Kessler at 10-2 to Froch’s 7-2 record, but numbers won’t tell the story of this fight. I expect Kessler to box smarter this time as the more “damaged” fighter. It remains to be seen if he can in fact win a fair decision in England, but he took the fight knowing that Carl Froch has never been knocked out nor even buzzed much while on his run at the top levels of boxing, so the money available for such a prestigious fight was just too tempting to pass up.
Froch for his part knows that he could have boxed a bit smarter going down the stretch last time. He’s grown as a fighter, using previously untapped ring smarts since the Kessler battle and knows he’s the stronger fighter on the upswing. Whether he has the skills to tap into that strength to beat Kessler is his unknown in this fight. While doing a textbook job on taking Lucian Bute out of his comfort zone with unbelievable pressure, Froch arguably cracked as well when he and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, engaged in terribly unseemly celebrations in the ring as the beleaguered out of his league referee , Earl Brown, administered a count to Bute after a knockdown. Such transgressions in properly officiated fights almost always result in a disqualification for the fighter who’s training team entered into the ring while the fight was still in process.
Could be a great fight with proper officiating that does justice to the high level these fighters will be operating at, so the BBB of C has a chance to correct their sloppy oversight of the Bute fight. The fighters have relatively clean styles, usually foul and controversy free, so their fights are usually fan friendly throwbacks to textbook boxing and slugging in context to the past history of great fighters.