A deal has been reached for IBF super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch to take a rematch against Mikkel Kessler in Britain over a bout with hard-hitting, mandatory challenger Adonis Stevenson, Froch’s promoter, Matchroom Sport, and Kessler’s, Team Sauerland, announced on Tuesday.
“This is one for the ages,” said Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport. “My hat goes off to both men for putting everything on the line here in what can only be an epic battle. Too many super fights fall by the wayside, so to make Froch versus Kessler II is a dream come true. Froch versus Kessler I was a barn-burner.”
“But I really feel Carl is a different fighter now, especially in the United Kingdom. These are the kinds of fights and nights that can cement the legacy of Carl Froch, and no one deserves it more. We know what to expect from both men and either way it’s going to be brutal.”
Although neither IBF President Daryl Peoples, IBF Championships Chairman Lindsay Tucker, nor IBF public relations Public Relations Director Jeanette Salazar could be reached for an immediate comment, Kessler-Froch II will, in all likelihood, be approved.
But during interviews with RingTV.com, all three officials indicated that Froch (30-2, 22 knockouts) would be permitted to participate in the return bout opposite Kessler (46-2, 35 KOs) in advance of facing Stevenson (19-1, 16 KOs) if the proper paperwork were submitted and the right conditions met.
Peoples said Froch had requested and received permission for a window in which to complete a deal with Kessler — that deadline date being Jan. 14 — before a purse bid would be ordered and a defense against Stevenson truly took precedence. Tucker said that Froch could avoid a Jan. 15 purse bid by following procedures.
“Because [Froch-Kessler] is a unification bout, it takes precedence over a mandatory, so it would be allowed,” said Salazar, during an interview with RingTV.com.
“Information concerning the site and the actual date were still needed. Once all of the information is put forward, certain conditions would be set regarding the mandatory, but it would be allowed because it is a unification.”
Later, in an e-mail to RingTV.com, Salazar wrote “Froch-Kessler is tentatively approved. They are working on the conditions now,”adding, “If all parties agree, the fight should take place on April 27 in the United Kingdom, according to Matchroom Sports, Froch’s promoter.”
A 35-year-old Englishman, Froch had been considering each scenario, according to Peoples and Stevenson’s promoter, Yvon Michel. Kessler-Froch II has been considered in regard to a deal that was to offer $2 million for each fighter and was being targeted for April, May or June.
“A champion may seek to unify the title without requesting an exception,” said Peoples. “Such as, suppose Froch and Kessler did come to an agreement all of a sudden, say, in the next 24 hours. That would be permitted. Froch has already requested to fight Kessler.”
Kessler, 33, of Denmark, is coming off his fifth straight win and his third consecutive stoppage victory, that, being his third-round in December over Ireland’s Brian Magee, against whom Kessler won the WBA’s 168-pound interim belt in Herning, Denmark.
Kessler returned to Herning for the first time since dethroning Froch as WBC beltholder by unanimous decision in a bloody battle that was part of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic in April of 2010.
“First and foremost, I’m really pleased the fight has finally been arranged. I feared that Kessler had second thoughts about his promise, but the man has come good on his word. Our first fight was pure warfare,” said Froch.
“We went at each other for every minute of every round and the rematch promises to be even more fiercely contested. I seriously wish I was ringside myself for this fight, because I’m gunning for revenge at all costs and the fight fans are in for a real treat.”
Froch is coming off November’s third-round stoppage of Philadelphia’s Yusaf Mack before his hometown fans at Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England.
In facing Mack, Froch returned to the venue where he dethroned previously unbeaten Lucian Bute by fifth-round knockout in May.
The win over Bute helped Froch to bounce back from a unanimous decision loss to Andre Ward in December of 2011 for the RING, WBA and WBC belts.
“[Kessler] is a class act both inside and outside the ropes. We are cut from the same cloth, and we will be friends yet again after the fight. But the moment I heard the fight was done on the telephone, I was completely switched on, and he was the focus of my mind,” said Froch.
“I can’t wait to get back into camp for this one. I’ve never felt so motivated. If Mikkel thinks he saw the best of me in Denmark, then he is in for a rude awakening. I give him the utmost respect that he has the guts to board that plane and come collect a serious whooping at the hands of the Cobra. Let’s bring it on.”
Kessler’s triumph over Froch helped him to rebound from losing his WBA belt by a one-sided, 11-round technical-decision loss to Ward in the first round of the Super Six in November of 2009.
Ward’s victory ended a streak of three straight stoppage wins by Kessler, whose previous setback had been at the hands of southpaw Joe Calzaghe by unanimous decision in November of 2007.
In August of 2010, Kessler had to pull out of the Super Six with an eye injury, canceling a September bout with Alan Green.
“I promised Carl we would meet again and here we are, getting ready to leave it all in the ring for a second time. I have the utmost of respect for Carl. I feel we are very much alike. He is a great champion,” said Kessler, who is 43-0 while fighting in Denmark, and has fought only five times outside his home country, including the losses to Calzaghe and Ward.
“He’s a true warrior that has fought the best opponents all over the world in some of the most hostile places, just like me. Our first fight, especially the last round, showed what we are all about. Let┬┤s do it again. Since that first fight, I have become even stronger. I am fresh, I am healthy and I am ready to defeat him once again. I don┬┤t care where we fight, I said anytime, anywhere! I plan to make my loyal Viking fans, as well as everybody else in Denmark, very proud once again. I am ready for war.”
Froch won the WBC’s vacant belt by decisioning Pascal in December of 2008, lost it to Kessler, and regained it by dominating ex-middleweight beltholder Arthur Abraham in November of the same year.
Froch faced Bute in Nottingham for the first time since October of 2009, when he split-decisioned Andre Dirrell in the first round of the Super Six tournament, during which he also routed ex-beltholder Glen Johnson by unanimous decision in June of last year before losing in to Ward.
Froch’s 12th-round stoppage of former undisputed middleweight titleholder Jermain Taylor in April of 2009, one bout before facing Dirrell, was the first defense of the crown he won from Pascal. Froch also owns an 11th-round knockout victory over Magee from May of 2006.
“Kessler versus Froch I was an instant classic, the best fight ever on Danish soil. Kessler versus Froch II will be even better. Mikkel and Carl are two all-time greats, two future Hall-of-Famers, and they will leave it all in the ring once again. We have worked non-stop since Mikkel’s victory over Brian Magee to make this fight happen, and give the boxing fans in Denmark, Britain and all over the world what they want to see — a mega-fight that will go down in boxing history,” said Kessler’s promoter Kalle Sauerland.
“Kessler versus Froch, the Viking Warrior versus the Cobra, the WBA Champ versus the IBF champ, Copenhagen versus Nottingham, Denmark versus England. This is all about honor, pride and sportsmanship. It’s history in the making. This is what boxing is all about and what boxing needs, two true warriors toe-to-toe. This fight will be remembered for years to come. The Viking Warrior is coming to England for war.”
Stevenson, meanwhile, was last in the ring for October’s 12th-round knockout of Donovan George, whom he dropped five times.
Photos by Scott Heavey, Gettyimages
Photo by Alexis Cuarezma, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]