On Saturday night on HBO (in the U.S.) at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, London, Froch (30-2, 22 knockouts) will attempt to defend his IBF 168-pound title against Kessler (46-2, 35 KOs) in what amounts to a shot at revenge, being that the fight is a rematch.
In April of 2010, Froch, 34, was dethroned as the WBC beltholder by Kessler, 35, via unanimous decision in their bloody first bout as part of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic. Still, it is Froch who is perceived to have the advantage, in part, due to the fact that he will be fighting in front of his partisan fans.
“I think that, in most people’s judgement, at the end of the day, Kessler got the win in the first fight partially because it took place in Denmark, and he had the crowd support and the comfort of fighting at home,” said HBO’s ringside commentator, Jim Lampley.
“Froch made a big deal about it, sounded off about the distortion of him defending a title belt on the other guy’s home turf, and, so now, it’s entirely fair that the situation reverses… So Froch gets to fight Kessler in London before an English crowd…being as raucous and demonstrative a boxing crowd as you’ll see. I think that you’ll see the same kind of atmosphere on Saturday night.”
Nicknamed “The Viking Warrior,” Kessler has fought only five times outside his home country, including the loss to then-champ Joe Calzaghe by unanimous decision in Calzaghe’s hometown of Cardiff, Wales, in November of 2007, and to current RING and WBA 168-pound titleholder Andre Ward in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif., in November of 2009.
Ward’s victory ended a streak of three straight stoppage wins by Kessler, whose previous setback had been against Calzaghe. In addition, In August of 2010, Kessler had to pull out of the Super Six with an eye injury, canceling a September bout with Allan Green.
Nicknamed “The Cobra,” Froch is 7-2 with three stoppage victories over the course of his past nine difficult fights, a group that has been called “a murderer’s row” by Lampley.
For Froch, that run includes the decision losses to Ward and Kessler, a 12th-round stoppage win over former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor after having been floored in the third round, as well as knockouts of Philadelphia’s Yusaf Mack and previously unbeaten IBF beltholder Lucian Bute in the third and fifth-rounds of his past two fights.
Meanwhile, Kessler earned his fourth straight win and his third consecutive stoppage victory with December’s third-round knockout of Ireland’s Brian Magee in Herning, Denmark. Froch also owns an 11th-round knockout victory over Magee from May of 2006.
In defeating Magee, Kessler returned to Herning for the first time since defeating Froch, whose win over Bute helped him to bounce back from a unanimous decision loss to Ward in December of 2011 for the RING, WBA and WBC belts.
“I think that since Kessler’s had an injury and a layoff and a schedule disruption, that may have robbed him of just a little bit. Froch, on the other hand, in his last two fights, has looked as good as he’s ever looked in dismantling both Bute and Mack. Bute saw Froch at his best,” said Lampley, a four-time Sports Emmy Award winning broadcaster.
“Ninety percent of the time, when it’s a rematch of a relatively close fight won by decision by one of the two fighters, you find most pundits picking the guy who won the first fight to win the second fight. But in this particular instance, most pundits are picking Froch. I think that that’s an acknowledgement that it’s essentially an even matchup, and there’s not a lot of difference between them…As you know, their crowds in England over there are great, and it was a terrific fight the first time.”
RingTV.com sought the opinions of 21 boxing insiders as to their thoughts on what will transpire during Kessler-Froch II.
Carl Froch UD 12 Mikkel Kessler: Since these two 168-pounders waged war in 2010 more than three years ago, they’ve moved on different trajectories. Carl Froch clearly established himself as one of the best fighters in the sport, his signature win coming with a stoppage of Lucian Bute.
Mikkel Kessler, on the other hand, has been mostly inactive, with three bouts coming against fighters outside of the top 10. Froch is much-improved, and I expect him to separate himself from Kessler in another excellent fight with a clear decision victory.
Record: 6-5 [Last week: Matthysse UD 12 Peterson]
Carl Froch KO 11 Mikkel Kessler: Carl Froch probably has more left in the cash register than Mikkel Kessler, but this is going to be one very tough fight for both men. Froch’s comments to myself and five others on Wednesday that he is prepared “to kill” Kessler in the ring is both chilling, and telling, given that it was a peek inside the mind of a man hellbent on revenge after being defeated in 2010.
Froch has proven that he loves to go into the trenches, and there is a sense with Kessler that he wishes to go to those dark places to see if he still has it. Kessler is arguably just getting over the downside of the hump in his career, while Froch, though set in his ways, may have more legacy left to carve out.
It is the biggest fight of the year in the UK thus far no question, in spite of the battle pitching the No 2 and No 3 super middleweights in the world into the same square ring. But styles make fights, and this one melds beautifully. The 02 Arena sold out its 18,000 seats in three hours when tickets went on sale. There is great anticipation, and it has been a busy build-up.
Froch will start faster, and attempt to be busier this time around in the first third of the fight. Froch wants to draw Kessler into exchanges in the middle rounds, and then be emphatic with a finish. But it has to be controlled. If he makes mistakes, Kessler will capitalize. The Dane has said as much and is prepared for war. We await a classic,whichever man leaves triumphant. Verdict: Froch by 11th or 12th-round stoppage.
Record: 1-0: [Last pick: Mayweather W 12 Guerrero]
Carl Froch UD 12 Mikkel Kessler: Carl Froch by close unanimous decision. I expect another closely contested distance bout that is very intense but tactical, at least during the first half. Later in the bout, as both veterans warm up, I expect more toe-to-toe exchanges. The difference in this bout will be Froch’s mentality.
In the first fight, he seemed to carry a sense of entitlement, being the undefeated titleholder. He didn’t fight with the sense of urgency that Mikkel Kessler had, fighting in front of his countrymen and having lost his title to Andre Ward in his previous bout.
Froch made the error of allowing the local hero to come forward in the majority of rounds, and although he landed his share of power punches, he seldom pressed his advantage after connecting. In this rematch, I expect Froch start faster and to go for it whenever he nails Kessler.
It still won’t be easy. Kessler will enter this bout with the confidence of having won their first bout, and he’s scored a few sweet knockouts in his previous bouts, so he believes in his power. I think his left hook can catch and hurt Froch on occasion, but I believe the British fans inside the O2 Arena will motivate the Nottingham star to dig deep and overcome any adversity.
Record: 7-4 [Matthysse late TKO Peterson]
Carl Froch UD 12 Mikkel Kessler: Intangibles are the key. There’s talk that Mikkel Kessler has been slowed by time and inactivity since his victory over Carl Froch three years ago in Denmark. But three fights, all tune-ups, since then have allowed him to shake off rust and re-sharpen some of the skill.
But Kessler, no matter how renewed, will have no counter for what he can’t control. First, he’ll encounter a soccer-like throng of Froch partisans at London’s O2 Arena.
Then, there’s Froch, who has momentum with two successive victories by stoppage, including a TKO of Lucian Bute. Froch also has motivation to avenge the Kessler loss, one of only two on his record. Yeah, it’ll be close. A pick’em fight, Froch says. The judges will pick him.
Record: 8-3 [Matthysse KO 10 Peterson]
Carl Froch W12 Mikkel Kessler: In addition to home field, Carl Froch will enjoy significant advantages in momentum and motivation for his rematch against Mikkel Kessler. While the fighting pride of Nottingham has been busy building a pound for pound reputation on the road, the injury-plagued Kessler has toiled with insignificance at home.
Three years after their first meeting in Denmark, the Cobra has now grown even more venomous by facing a variety of talented top rated super middleweights. Since winning a debatable decision over Froch in 2010, the quality of Kessler’s opposition has been nothing to get excited about.
As a boxer, Kessler also appears to have lost a step during which time the resurgent Froch has stepped it up and improved as an all-around fighter. That’s not good news for the Viking Warrior or his fans, especially in Froch’s backyard.
It’s difficult to imagine that Kessler’s last three fights could’ve possibly readied him for this sequel in the way that competing against Andre Ward and defeating Lucian Bute has prepared Froch. Still, this should be another great fight. I’m picking Froch by unanimous decision but I’d not be surprised if the Cobra put him away late this time.
Record: 5-6 [Peterson TKO 10 Matthysse]
Mikkel Kessler UD 12 Carl Froch: I think Mikkel Kessler is going to out-box Carl Froch again. I’m picking Kessler to win a unanimous decision in a very close fight.
Record: 1-2 [Last pick: Donaire KO 8 Rigondeaux]
Carl Froch UD12 over Mikkel Kessler: You could argue Carl Froch won their first fight, and in the three years since, Froch has been the busier, better fighter as opposed to Mikkel Kessler.
Froch’s supreme confidence, granite chin and awkward style make him difficult to beat. He’ll win their rematch comfortably on points in front of a huge hometown crowd.
Record: 3-2 [Last pick: Mayweather UD 12 Guerrero]
Carl Froch W12 Mikkel Kessler: Mikkel Kessler out-boxed Carl Froch in their first meeting, but it was a brutal encounter. This time, I expect Froch to use his awkward style to success, slyly pot-shotting with one and two at a time over 12 rounds to edge Kessler and set up a trilogy down the line.
Record: 5-5 [Last pick: Guerrero W 12 Mayweather]
Carl Froch UD 12 Mikkel Kessler: I think we’re in for a very good, fan-friendly fight in this one. I’m picking Carl Froch to reverse his fortunes of the first fight because: 1) He is a little bit better now, and 2) Mikkel Kessler is not.
The first fight was close, and this one will be too. Kessler showed in his last fight that he still has gas in the tank and his body punching is tremendous. If he can bring that body punching to the fore, he may succeed in slowing down Froch.
Carl cannot be quite as reckless as he was when he overwhelmed Bute, because he’s liable to run into a few of the body blows. Froch will find the right mix of aggression and boxing to stifle Kessler’s attack. Carl is on a roll right now, I think it continues in this fight
Record: 7-4 [Matthysse TKO 10 Peterson]
Carl Froch W 12 Mikkel Kessler: I don’t feel that Mikkel Kessler is at his best anymore, and has not been since the Andre Ward loss.
On the other hand, Mr. Carl Froch has basically gone about his business, and on top of that, I thought that he won their first match. This time, time and location put Froch in the driver’s seat. Froch by decision
Record: 3-5 [Peterson KO 9 Matthysse]
(Click on NEXT button to read the predictions of the other 11 experts)