The Ring All-Star Report Cards: Mikkel Kessler
Note: This feature originally appeared in the October edition of THE RING magazine. The November issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the cover, is on newsstands now. The cover story is titled: “10 Guys Who Would Have Kicked Mayweather's Butt.”
It was out with the old and in with the new as THE RING composed this year’s All-Star Report Cards. Gone from last year’s survey are such old warhorses as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John and Israel Vazquez. In place of those fighters were newer, fresher names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Timothy Bradley, a sign that new blood is being pumped into the sport. Meanwhile, names like Sergio Martinez and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam show that our All-Star list always has room for veterans, provided they’re still producing in the ring.
Aside from the youth movement, other trends have emerged this year. For instance, there is a noticeable dip in Mexican or Mexican-American fighters among our 20 All-Stars. When THE RING first compiled this roster in 2003, there were five such fighters listed; this year, there is one. Also, the number of fighters born in the United States shrunk from 13 in 2003 to a measly four this year. Lopez and Miguel Cotto are U.S. citizens by way of Puerto Rico, but they didn’t learn their stuff in the American amateur system, so they can’t be counted. Brits are on the rise, though. There was only one Brit All-Star in 2003, but three made the list this year, sans Hatton.
Perhaps you’re wondering why some of your favorite fighters didn’t make the list, but rest assured that many other fighters were given close consideration. It’s just that some fighters seem to lose fights as we’re creating our list, and others just fall a bit short in terms of box office and general excitement value.
The 20 fighters who made it weren't chosen solely on their ability to sell tickets and attract cable customers but the ability to fill seats definitely plays a big part in our selection process. Some fighters, Nonito Donaire for example, might not yet be a legitimate star on the level of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, but we felt he can compete with the best in terms of talent, and is certainly on his way to stardom.
Those who were removed from last year’s list are gone because they simply didn’t do enough to merit inclusion this year. The one exception is the late Edwin Valero. He made it last time, and there was every reason to believe he’d repeat.
With that in mind, here are the 2010 All-Star Report Cards. The fighters are judged on talent, achievement, marketability, support system, and growth potential. They are presented in order of weight class, starting with the heavyweights.
Today: Mikkel Kessler. Tomorrow: Carl Froch.
43-2 (32 KOs)
TALENT: Kessler possesses an excellent command of the basics. He has decent power, especially with the right hand, and can dominate opponents with a good jab and a strong one-two combination. If he has a flaw, it’s that he doesn’t adapt well when things aren’t going his way, as was the case in his losses to Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward. Grade: B+
ACHIEVEMENT: After a 44-3 amateur career, Kessler turned pro as a junior middleweight in 1998 and ran up a string of 39 consecutive wins. Fighting almost exclusively in Denmark, Kessler became a Danish hero, collecting wins over Dingaan Thobela, Anthony Mundine, Eric Lucas and Markus Beyer. Along the way he won the WBA and WBC titles at 168, culminating with a brilliant defense against Librado Andrade in 2007. Since then, Kessler has been uneven, losing by decision to Calzaghe, regaining the WBA title by beating Dimitri Sartison, making two defenses, and then losing to Ward via technical decision in the Super Six World Boxing Classic. Kessler got back in the win column with a hard-fought points win over Carl Froch last April before pulling out of the tournament with what he said was an eye injury. Grade: A-
MARKETABILITY: Kessler had mixed results in the Super Six competition, losing to Ward but coming back to beat Froch. Still, there’s not to like about the guy. Chances are he’ll take advantage of his big following in Denmark by fighting there instead of trying to succeed in America.
SUPPORT SYSTEM: Trainer Jimmy Montoya was added to Kessler’s corner for the Froch bout and his presence was felt. For the first time, Kessler won a bout that wasn’t always going his way, just by staying in there and competing. In his previous losses, Kessler seemed to lose hope and fade out. Montoya’s energy might have been the difference. On the promotional end, Kessler is handled by Team Palle, one of the oldest promotional groups in Europe, going back to 1957. The group, headed by Mogens Palle and his daughter Bettina, has promoted such stars as Ken Buchanan, Johnny and Jimmy Bredhal, and that strange Danish heavyweight of the 1990s, Brian Nielsen. Palle even promoted Sonny Liston during his brief Swedish tour back in the 1960s. Kessler, though, would have to be considered Palle’s most accomplished fighter. Grade: A-
GROWTH POTENTIAL: We believe Kessler might have peaked. While he’s never been knocked out or even in danger of being knocked out, he’s suffered bad cuts in recent bouts and may be a bit older physically than his 31 years. We can’t see him moving up to light heavyweight with any success because he’s not particularly overpowering at 168. Still, a bout with Lucian Bute would be welcomed. Grade: B
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