Monday, August 08, 2022  |


Kessler-Ward head to head analysis



When: Saturday, Nov. 21

Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.

TV: Showtime, 10 pm. ET/ PT (delayed on West Coast)

Weight: Super middleweight (168 pounds)

Title(s) at stake: Kessler’s super middleweight belt


The essentials

Nickname: Viking Warrior

Age: 30

Height / Reach: 6-1 (185cm) / 73 (185cm)

Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark

Turned pro: 1998

Record: 42-1 (32 knockouts)

Trainer: Ricard Olsen


The Ring rating: No. 1 super middleweight

Titles: super middleweight (2004-07; lost it to Joe Calzaghe); super middleweight (2006-07; lost it to Calzaghe); super middleweight (2008-present).

Biggest victories: Manny Siaca, Nov. 12, 2004, TKO 7 (won first title); Anthony Mundine, June 8, 2005, UD 12; Markus Beyer, Oct. 14, 2006, KO 3 (unified two titles); Librado Andrade, March 24, 2007, UD 12; Dimitri Sartison, June 21, 2008, KO 12 (reclaimed title).

Loss: Joe Calzaghe, Nov. 3, 2007, UD 12 (lost two titles).


The essentials

Nickname: S.O.G.

Age: 25

Height / reach: 6-1 (185cm) / 73 (185cm)

Hometown: Oakland, Calif.

Turned pro: 2004

Record: 20-0 (13 knockouts)

Trainer: Virgil Hunter


The Ring rating: No. 9 super middleweight

Titles: None

Biggest victories: Edison Miranda, May 16, 2009, UD 12.

Losses: None


Skills: Both super middleweights are boxers who rely on their timing and hand-eye coordination. Kessler has the more textbook technique and the better foundation/balance. The Danish star doesn’t do a lot but he’s very good at what he specializes in, which is the one-two (jab-right hand) combination. Kessler is a stand-up stalker who is usually strong enough to walk down his opponents. Ward’s technique is not as tight as Kessler’s but the American, who has a more varied offense (including body punches) and can employ decent lateral movement, is more versatile. Ward can also box from the southpaw stance and has more head and upper-body movement than Kessler.
Edge: Even

Power: Neither man is known for one-punch KO power, but Kessler has more pop in his punches once he shifts gears and lets his hands go. Kessler blew out the normally sturdy Markus Beyer in three rounds and was able to grind down iron-chinned Eric Lucas to a 10th-round stoppage. Ward has never stopped a world-class opponent.
Edge: Kessler

Speed and athletic ability: This is a close category because both boxers are exceptional athletes with excellent reflexes, but Ward appears to possess the quicker hands and more nimble feet. The East Bay native also seems to have slightly better hand-eye coordination as evidenced by his ability to land power shots without setting them up with the jab. Ward’s physical strength is underrated, but the guess here is that the Dane is the slightly stronger of the two.
Edge: Ward

Defense: Both boxers use their legs and reflexes to avoid the majority of incoming punches, but Kessler is better at keeping his right hand up and his left hand in position to block shots. Kessler is also the more careful of the two fighters. Whereas Ward will occasionally explode out of position in a risky attempt to land a power punch, Kessler seldom over-commits to his offense, which spares him undue punishment.
Edge: Kessler

Experience: Although Ward’s extensive amateur career (in which he defeated the world’s best light heavyweight boxers, including two-time world amateur champ Evgeny Makarenko en route to his Olympic gold medal) must factor into this category, the quality of Kessler’s pro opposition in recent years cannot be denied. When Ward was still fighting in six- and eight-round bouts, Kessler was taking on the best 168-pound fighters in the world. That includes Mundine, Lucas, Beyer, Andrade and Calzaghe.
Edge: Kessler

Chin: Kessler has never been dropped (or even visibly rocked) in 43 pro bouts. Ward was wobbled by club fighter Kenny Kost and dropped by journeyman Darnell Boone early in his career.
Edge: Kessler

Conditioning: Both men are always in superb condition for their fights. Neither fighter has ever appeared out of shape or looked as though he were running out of gas in the late rounds of any fight. Kessler and Ward have to be in great shape to box in the manner they do for 10 or 12 rounds.
Edge: Even

Wear and tear: Neither fighter has taken an extended beating in the ring nor are they known for engaging in gym wars between fights. The guess is that Kessler, a pro for 11 years, has more mileage on his legs having gone eight rounds or more eight times. Ward has gone eight rounds or more only three times (counting his eighth-round TKO of Jerson Ravelo).
Edge: Ward

Corner: Both boxers are trained by father figures who have guided them since their first days in the gym. Ward is trained by his godfather Virgil Hunter, who has masterminded his godson’s development since the amateurs. They began working together when Ward was 9 years and share a very special bond. Kessler met head trainer Ricard Olsen when he was 13. Kessler’s stellar record is proof of their successful relationship. However, Kessler brought in a co-trainer, veteran Jimmy Montoya, a few years ago to add some experience to his corner. Kessler met Montoya when he began traveling to Southern California in the early part of the decade in search of quality gym work. Montoya, who has worked with 15 title holders over the past three decades, gives Kessler a slight edge in this category.
Edge: Kessler

Outcome: Inspired by a hometown crowd of at least 10,000, Ward will stick and move to an early lead, with a quick jab, straight rights to the body and lead left hooks to the head being his key weapons. However, Kessler will keep his composure and begin to time Ward with his own jab and hard right hands that momentarily stun or knock Ward back on his heels during the middle rounds. Kessler will stalk a constantly moving Ward in the late rounds of the bout. Using his hook to coral his elusive opponent inline for his right hands, Kessler will pound on Ward with both hands whenever the younger challenger’s back touches the ropes. Ward’s heart, will and ability to switch to southpaw, will enable him to survive the rough spots (which could include a knockdown) as he spins off the ropes and even has moments when he out-hustles the titleholder with quick combinations in close. However, despite Ward’s courage and ring generalship, the more consistent boxer will be the veteran.

Prediction: Kessler wins a competitive but unanimous decision.

Michael Rosenthal contributed to this report