Thursday, June 6, 2013

Carl Froch vs Mikkel Kessler Rematch Promises Fireworks

By Peter Silkov

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This Saturday will see the much-anticipated rematch between Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch (30-2, 22 KOs) and Mikkel ‘The Viking Warrior’ Kessler (46-2, 35 KOs) in a unification match, which is sure to light up the 02 Arena in London. The two men previously met in the ring back in 2010, with Kessler handing Froch his first career defeat, on a close point’s decision, after one of the best fights of that year. Froch has always contested the verdict of his loss to Kessler, which took place on ‘the Viking Warriors’ home soil and cost him his WBC World Super-Middleweight title, in addition to his unbeaten record. On Saturday, ‘the Cobra’ will have his long awaited chance of revenge over Kessler, this time putting his IBF World Title on the line, while Kessler is defending his WBA title.

Since their first match over three years ago, both boxer careers have gone down different routes. Following his victory over ‘the Cobra,’ Kessler was forced to withdraw from the Super Six Tournament with an eye injury that caused him double vision. Kessler did not fight again until fourteen months after beating Froch, when he returned to win the lightly regarded WBO European Title. Since then, ‘The Viking Warrior’ has fought just twice in nearly two years and though he has won both fights over respectable opposition, Allan Green and Brian Magee, the fact that he has only done 13 rounds in the last three years may well be a crucial handicap against Froch.

On the other hand, ‘The Cobra’ has gone 44 rounds in five fights since his loss to Kessler, and in his most recent fights, has looked in the best form of his career. Froch rebounded from the first Kessler fight with impressive victories over Arthur Abraham, and Glenn Johnson, before losing in the Super Six Final to Andre Ward, who is now considered one of the best boxers pound-for-pound in the world. Since the loss to Ward, ‘The Cobra’ has bounced back to win the IBF title with a stunning destruction of Lucian Bute, and made an impressive first defence against Yusaf Mack.

One of the interesting aspects of this match is the question of how close to his peak Kessler still is after his relative inactivity. Kessler’s mindset could also be questioned as he has talked about retiring in the run up to this fight, saying that if he loses to Froch he would probably hang up his gloves. There is a line of thinking in boxing that, when a boxer is talking seriously about retirement, he has already partially retired and is no longer 100% focused. Given Kessler’s recent inactivity due to his eye injury, this talk of retirement is even more pertinent, and raises the question of how ’The Viking’ may react when he comes under heavy fire from ’The Cobra’ this Saturday.
Out of the two men, Froch certainly seems to be the fighter with that extra edge going into their rematch. Since his loss to Ward, where he was comprehensively out-boxed, Froch has become a more intense and aggressive fighter than he was previously. When facing Lucian Bute, a fighter many were picking to outbox him, ’The Cobra’ produced a stunning performance of controlled aggression to walk through everything Bute threw at him and destroy the Canadian in five extraordinary rounds. Since then, Froch has dispatched Yusaf Mack in equally emphatic fashion and at this point in his career, he seems to be not only at his physical peak, but also to have learned from his two career defeats.
Having said that, the fact remains that Kessler has the style to beat ’The Cobra’ as he proved in their first meeting, albeit controversially. ’The Viking’ is a better all-round boxer than Froch, with superior footwork, speed and defence, which he put to good use in their first encounter. Froch will try to make this a toe-to-toe encounter in order to nullify the Dane’s superior technique and make his extra physical strength tell, as the fight goes into the later rounds.

Although both Kessler and Froch are good friends outside the ring, there promises to be no love lost between them during the fight, with added spice caused by Kessler using two British fighters George Groves and Nathan Cleverly, as sparring partners, much to ’The Cobras’ annoyance.

Over the past five or six years, ‘The Cobra’ has quietly built up one of the best resumes in boxing, having faced all the top fighters at 168 pounds and only losing to Kessler and Ward. Despite this, Froch remains curiously overlooked and underappreciated in some quarters, while other fighters who have achieved less seem to gain more plaudits and attention. Perhaps the best example of this is Amir Khan, whose record at world level is patchy to say the least, but whom still seems to garner more attention than Froch. This lack of appreciation for ‘the Cobra’ is all the more puzzling, as with his aggressive boxing style, Froch is never in a bad fight and has been in some classics, including his first bout with ’The Viking’.

Both fighters have a lot riding on Saturday’s fight, with Kessler basically placing the future of his career upon it, and Froch hoping to use it as a springboard to either a be ’The Cobra’ is very conscious of his legacy, and wants to be remembered as one of Britain’s outstanding fighters, and with this in mind, knows that he cannot afford another defeat to Kessler.

Froch recently became a father for the second time, (a daughter Natalia) but, seems far too focused to let the new arrival deflect him from the task at hand on the 25th, despite some mischievous talk by Kessler suggesting otherwise. Probably the biggest question concerning Kessler is whether he still has the hunger to drive himself to the kind of limits of endurance he faced in his first bout with ’The Cobra’. Whether or not ’the Viking’ still ’wants it enough’ could play a crucial role in the eventual result of the contest.

This match has all the hallmarks of being something a little bit special. Often when fighters who know each other very well outside the ring meet, the results are either a benign expression of fistic rivalry or else, an explosive mix of rivals eager to determine whom is the superior. Certainly the first fight between Kessler and Froch was of the latter variety, with both ‘friends’ fighting viciously throughout, and there is every chance that Saturday’s fight will be of the same ilk, with the winner decided by the strength of his will, as much as anything else.

Everything for me points towards a Froch victory, either by points or a late stoppage. ‘The Cobra’ at this point seems to be the stronger and hungrier of the two men, and this will serve to overcome the superior technique and speed of ‘the Viking’.

Boxing has had a rather good run of exciting fights in recent months and this may not end up being the fight of the year, but it could well be savage and vicious while it lasts.

 Originally published at The Boxing Tribune 5-21-2013
Copyright © 2013 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved.
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