Head to head: Froch-Kessler
CARL FROCH vs. MIKKEL KESSLER
When: Saturday, April 24
Where: Herning, Denmark
TV: Showtime, 9 p.m. ET / PT (delayed)
Weight: Super middleweight (168-pound limit)
Title(s) at stake: Froch’s WBC super middleweight title
Height / Reach: 6-1 (185cm) / 74¾ (189cm)
Hometown: Nottingham, England
Nickname: The Cobra
Turned pro: 2002
Record: 26-0 (20 knockouts)
Trainer: Robert McCracken
The Ring rating: No. 3 super middleweight
Titles: WBC super middleweight (2008-present).
Biggest victories: Jean Pascal, Dec. 6, 2008, UD 12 (wins title); Jermain Taylor, April 25, 2009, TKO 12; Andre Dirrell, Oct. 17, 2009, SD 12
Height / Reach: 6-1 (185cm) / 73 (185cm)
Hometown: Copenhagen, Denmark
Nickname: Viking Warrior
Turned pro: 1998
Record: 42-2 (32 knockouts)
Trainer: Jimmy Montoya
The Ring rating: No. 4 super middleweight
Titles: WBA super middleweight (2004-07; lost it to Joe Calzaghe); WBC super middleweight (2006-07; lost it to Calzaghe); WBA super middleweight (2008-09; lost it to Andre Ward).
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).
Losses: Joe Calzaghe, Nov. 3, 2007, UD 12 (lost two titles); Andre Ward, Nov. 21, 2009, TKO 11 (lost title).
Skills: This category isn’t hard to figure out. Froch is a born winner but his undefeated record wasn’t compiled by outboxing his foes. The rugged Englishman overwhelms most of his opponents with relentless pressure, and he doesn’t do it with textbook technique. Kessler, on the other hand, is a classic stand-up boxer who relies on a sharp piston-like jab and an arrow-straight right hand. He uses his legs well to control distance. The Dane employs very basic boxing principles but he does it very effectively.
Power: Kessler and Froch are probably equals in terms of raw physical strength and power, but the Nottingham native commits more to his punches, often winging hooks, crosses and wild haymakers, which creates more leverage and subsequent “pop” on his shots. Kessler generates good power on his punches because of his speed and technique but he doesn’t seek to knock his opponents out and doesn’t really step into his strong right hand until the later rounds of his bouts.
Speed and athletic ability: Kessler, like all of Froch’s recent opponents, is a superior athlete. He’s the faster, more fluid fighter with quicker reflexes. Kessler also has excellent balance and hand-eye coordination. Froch is strong and durable but he has average speed, balance and mobility.
Defense: Froch’s offense is his defense and when he’s in the ring with a faster sharper fighter his chin becomes his last line of defense. Kessler uses his jab, legs and reflexes, to keep his opponents — and their punches — at bay until he’s ready to engage.
Experience: Kessler turned pro four years before Froch did and has engaged in 18 more bouts, but the undefeated beltholder’s recent competition makes this a close category. Froch’s last three opponents — Pascal, Taylor and Dirrell — are high-caliber fighters. However, Kessler has also been in with top-level opposition, including future hall of famer Calzaghe, and top contenders Ward, Andrade, and Mundine.
Chin: Both men can take a solid punch to the chops. Kessler has never been down in 44 professional contests. Froch has taken the best shots from hard-hitting fighters such as Pascal and Taylor, and only went down against the former middleweight champ. Froch has been visibly buzzed on a few occasions in recent bouts but his recuperative ability is astounding.
Conditioning: Both men always enter the ring in top physical condition. Kessler is prepared to box aggressively for 12 rounds. Froch is ready to relentlessly walk his foe down for 12 rounds.
Wear and tear: Both men are still in their athletic primes and neither has been in the sport long enough (or taken enough punishment) to have shortened their careers. Froch, who has stopped most of his opposition, has only been in two physically grueling fights — versus Pascal and Taylor — while Kessler's only two losses were to boxers.
Corner: Froch’s trainer, Robert McCracken, has fine tuned the once-wild slugger into a stalking pressure fighter who remains composed at all times and doesn’t waste punches or energy. McCracken is a former middleweight contender and title challenger with less than 10 years training experience but he’s quickly developing into one of Britain’s better young trainers. Kessler recently appointed his former cutman, Jimmy Montoya, to the head trainer position in his camp. Montoya is a four-decade veteran trainer who has worked with over a dozen former titleholders, including future hall of famer Hector Camacho and Juan “Kid” Meza. Montoya’s experience and familiarity with Kessler (he’s been a part of the Dane’s camp for five years) should serve the former titleholder well during Saturday’s fight.
Outcome: Kessler will control the early rounds with his jab and lateral movement, however, the Dane’s powerful jab will not deter Froch from applying his customary pressure. Froch will close the ground enough by the middle rounds to initiate crowd-pleasing exchanges. Although Froch will absorb the cleaner punches the blows he lands will have more effect, marking Kessler’s face. Froch will attempt to rough Kessler up during their clinches, and he will be successful at these tactics until the referee breaks them up. Spurred on by a home-country crowd, Kessler will rally in the late rounds of the bout by measuring Froch with a series of head-twisting right hands that won’t do enough to stop the ever-stalking Englishman but will score vital points with the judges.
Prediction: Kessler scores a close, but unanimous decision
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this report