A volcanic eruption threatened to set the Carl Froch-Mikkel Kessler fight back a couple of weeks; with that obstacle removed, fans now hope the European rivals will cause a similar eruption inside the ring. Given the duo’s respective temperaments and styles, that is a real possibility. Hometown favorite Kessler is in desperate need of a win to ensure his participation in the knockout stage of the “Super Six” tourney. Champion Froch is not the type to shrink in the face of a stern test. In fact, beating the odds seems to bring out the best in the Englishman, who dubs himself “The Cobra”. Of the five fights from the “Super Six” tourney, to date, this one offers the most enticing clash of skills. Froch is a fiery brawler in search of a fight. Kessler is a forward-moving, tactically aggressive puncher. Odds are they will meet in the center of ring, and the fighter who takes the most backward steps loses.
A crackling atmosphere is sure to envelop the boxers at the MCH MesseCenter tonight. The anticipation of these two willful fighters asserting their game plan upon the other has been high, and a capacity crowd is assured. Calling it the biggest fight in the history of Denmark might not even be the usual excessive promotional bombast. Only Carlos Monzon’s defeat of Tom Bogs is worthy of comparison, while Mike Tyson’s visit to beat-up Brian Nielsen served as more circus than sport. Neither man is shrinking from his duties to hype the fight. When Carl Froch stepped off a private jet that carried him to Denmark (covered live by Danish media), he nonchalantly boasted, “I am here to knock Kessler out”. Kessler’s welcome was no less emphatic, and had nothing to do with being a good host. “I am glad Carl made it here in good time so that I can knock him out.”
While the pair has similar plans, there is little doubt which fighter enters on better form. The last time Kessler was in a ring, his face was a bloody mess, ineffectively stalking a faster Andre Ward in search of a big punch that would end a forgettable night of frustration. A month earlier, Froch endured similar frustration chasing an unwilling opponent, but won by forcing Andre Dirrell to engage him by any means necessary. This time, they have willing dance partners in the opposite corner, whose feet are made to lead instead of retreat. Because of their similarities and impressive ring resumes, opinions are evenly split on who will emerge with the victory (of the “Super Six” combatants, only Allan Green is picking Froch to win, while Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell, and Arthur Abraham have tabbed Kessler to triumph). In a fight of equals like this, it is the fighter who can force his style upon the other that wins.
Those who believe respective, or recent, records are of no consequence have not interviewed Carl Froch. “My undefeated record means everything to me. Some people look at knockout ratios, but I fight to win. An unblemished record is very important to me.” The ultra-confident Nottingham native indulged the press with his verbose plans. “I am here to prove I am the best. I will beat the hell out of him. I’m stronger, quicker, a champion, undefeated, and more elusive. He has never been in the ring with someone like me.” Trainer and former middleweight title challenger, Robert McCracken is more respectful, but similarly confident. “Mikkel is a very good fighter and I have been watching him fight for years, but Carl is a different type of fighter and has beaten three very good fighters on the spin. He hardly took any punches in the Dirrell fight. He is sharp, fresh and been training hard.” Froch ventured a guess as to the key for success. "He’s going to be in survival mode after the fifth and sixth rounds."
Conversely, a recent setback has not been forgotten by Mikkel Kessler, and he echoes the familiar refrain of boxers returning from a disappointing performance. "I’m like a young warrior again, and I’m super hungry again. I made my mistake and I just want to get back up and show all my boxing fans from around the world that I am the best super middleweight in the world.” By all accounts, Kessler has had a good training camp, and is basking in the positive environment of his homeland. “I am faster, better and stronger than ever. I have had great preparation and I am ready. It was not the real Mikkel Kessler in the ring against Andre Ward. I have learned my lesson. In life, you have to bounce back from defeats; you have to get back up. That is what I am about to do. This fight means everything to me.” American trainer Jimmy Montoya is encouraged by the fighter he observed. “Mikkel is just too skilled and too powerful for Froch. We have not seen the best of Mikkel yet. I expect a clear win.”
Even Kalle Sauerland, Kessler’s promoter, took an opportunity to step out of character to deliver a tongue-in-cheek verbal attack at the verbose Froch. "The volcano cannot serve as an excuse for Froch not to show up. Should need be, we will fly Froch in by helicopter for Mikkel to knock him out. He can then take the boat back home. Once Mikkel is done with him, I doubt he will be allowed on a normal plane anyway.” While not a constant figure at the training camp, Sauerland noted his fighter’s form and confidence. “Mikkel has become a mean fighting machine. He has learned from Oakland, he is like a wild animal. Hungry for success, hungry for a victory over Froch. With 10,000 enthusiastic Danish fans behind him, he will knock Froch out.” Boisterous crowds have been known to influence refereeing and judging, as well as spurn the hometown hero. Some claim Froch is aware of this, since he had been a recent recipient of this oft-derided trend in the Andre Dirrell fight. Kessler believes it is a real advantage. "My home fans always give me the extra five percent. The bottom line is, I have never been beaten in Denmark and I never will."
A unique component of this fight is that it is part of a tourney scored by an innovative points system, which has been taken from soccer’s international tourney format. A knockout win is worth three points; a decision victory earns two points; a draw equals one point. Of course, no points are awarded for a loss. So not only are boxers rewarded for stoppages, they could also catapult into the knockout stage, based on the result of another fighter’s win or loss. Entering this fight, it is pre-tourney favorite Kessler who is most in need of points and he knows it. "It is a fact that I need to win to keep alive my hopes of winning the ‘Super Six.’” Something a quick glance at the standings confirms.
1. Arthur Abraham: 3 points, 2 fights
2. Carl Froch: 2 points, 1 fight
3. Andre Ward: 2 points, 1 fight
4. Andre Dirrell: 2 points, 2 fights
5. Mikkel Kessler: 0 points, 1 fight
6. Allan Green: 0 points, 0 fights
If Kessler emerges from the Froch fight without a victory and, conversely, no points, his chances of advancing in the tourney are drastically reduced. Kessler would need to knock out Allan Green in his next fight, and hope Andre Dirrell loses to Andre Ward for him to advance. A win for Froch guarantees advancement in the tourney, and even with a loss, Froch stands a reasonable chance to advancing, depending on his result against the formidable Arthur Abraham. This tourney and points system is something worth examining and emulating by the other networks. It lets boxers and their management who take part in such a tourney know that one loss does not eliminate them from advancing to more lucrative fights.
One of the innovators of this tourney is Ken Hershman, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Showtime sports. Hershman enjoys looking at this fight as part of a bigger picture, which plays out over time as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place from fight to fight. “The question, at this point, is not, ‘Will the fight happen?’ But rather, ‘What will happen in the fight?’ Can Kessler get on the scoreboard and recapture the world title? Can Froch pull ahead in points and all but secure himself a coveted semifinal berth? Or simply, ‘Who will win this battle?’ No one knows. We have seen so many surprising turns thus far in the “Super Six World Boxing Classic,” and we are barely halfway through the Group Stage. I can’t wait for the first bell.” A sentiment shared by the fans on both sides of the Atlantic.