Today at the O2 Arena in London, England, boxing fans around the world are in for what is sure to be a Fight of the Year type battle when England's Carl "The Cobra" Froch squares off against Denmark's own "Viking Warrior" Mikkel Kessler in a rematch of their epic 2010 battle. Check out what you need to know heading into the fight as Greg Rowe and Michael Samuels break down the advantages of both fighters.
DEFENSE: Kessler has a traditional defense in that he holds his gloves up high in front of his face to block punches, and most of the time, is very effective in doing so, whereas Froch is a little more loosy-goosey with his defense and will drop his left hand and do a version of the shoulder roll, looking to counter off of it. Froch bounces on his legs and uses them better than Kessler does and will use them to get out of harm's way. Both fighters have shown brilliance and both have shown the ability to be hit. Don't expect this fight to be any different.
EXPERIENCE: Both fighters, having fought in the same division for years, have seen the same guys and each has done well against top level competition. Froch made it to the Showtime Super Six tournament finals where he was beaten by one of the best fighters in the world, Andre Ward (which there is no shame in at all). Kessler won the first meeting between these two in a very close, back-and-forth fight. Each fighter gained big time experience in that fight because each was hurt and had to deal with adversity. Froch has been more active as of recently with Kessler sidelined by injuries, and in that time, Froch destroyed the fighter some thought was the best in the world at 168, Lucian Bute, as well as a beatdown of Yusaf Mack in 3. Kessler has a pretty good resume, but you would be hard pressed to find a handful of fighters in the world that have fought better competition over the last 5 or 6 years than Froch, whose resume in that time includes Kessler, Mack, Bute, Ward, Johnson, Abraham, Dirrell, Taylor, Pascal and Reid, with no rest or "tune-ups" mixed in.
CHIN: Both fighters have taken good shots and been down very few times in their careers. Each man landed huge shots in the first fight and both took tremendous punishment and saw it out until the final bell. Kessler has shown the ability to be hurt more often than Froch has, especially late down the stretch. Froch was down in his war with Jermain Taylor, who is a pretty decent puncher, but showed that he could pull it together and went on to stop Taylor late. I think that will be a key in this fight as well. Kessler is a decent puncher, but I do not see him hitting Froch enough or catching him clean enough to put him down or out.
POWER: Neither Froch nor Kessler is a devastating puncher. Each is more of an accumulation of punishment type puncher. That is not to say that if they catch you with a hard shot, you aren't going down or out, but neither is known as a knockout artist. Froch has shown recent power in wins over Bute and Mack, as has Kessler in his destruction of Allan Green. Look for the bad blood to spill over from the press conferences into the ring, expect fireworks, expect each man to throw shots to hurt the other and go for a satisfying knockout.
SPEED: Speed could be the single most important fact in this fight. The person who gets off first and out of harm's way will have an early advantage that could lead to a late advantage and eventually a stoppage. Each fighter has looked better in the recent years since their first encounter, with Froch getting the slight edge making adjustments, as was evidenced in his one-sided shellacking of Lucian Bute. Kessler has always had decent hand speed, which is one of his biggest advantages come fight night. I look for him to use it early and often to try and offset the superior timing and rhythm of Froch.
FINAL VERDICT: This fight could very well be the Fight of the Year. This fight, unlike Klitschko-Haye, will lead from bad blood to action in the ring. These two guys have a genuine dislike for each other, with each feeling they won the first encounter. Look for an action fight, look for two warriors to bring it, look for two of Europe's best fighters to show why that is so. This is a matchup that many a fight fan has been looking forward to for a long time and with good reason. It is not very often you get a matchup this even that has the type of bad blood this one does. Each man is supremely confident in his abilities and has no doubt in his mind he will come out the victor. I expect Froch to use his boxing and angles and try and time Kessler moving in and out; try and get him into a fire fight where his accuracy and punching power can become a game changer. I expect him to throw punches in bunches in close and turn Kessler before he has the time to reset. Kessler will look to come forward with a high guard and look to land his shots while walking Froch down. Froch must use his superior counting punching when this happens. If Froch is able to hurt Kessler and back him up, it could be an earlier night than most expect. Froch has shown the ability in his past few fights to make the necessary adjustments and corrections in his game to become a more complete fighter and I expect that trend to continue in this fight. Expect a war and expect this fight to end before the final bell sounds.
Froch by 11th Round KO
DEFENSE: Kessler is built more for defense in the way he fights, trying his best to effectively use a solid jab and high guard. He does a good job of making you miss, but that doesn't always equate into making you pay. Carl Froch has gotten slightly better in his defense since the Super Six tournament Okay, actually he's the same one-trick pony when it comes to defensive structure, but hey, it hasn't exactly cost him much as a professional. Froch is still unpredictable in his offensive attack. Kessler is more calculated and patient with his repertoire. Kessler is a better defensive fighter hands down.
EXPERIENCE: Both of these warriors competed in the Super Six, and for all of the tournament's confusion and quirky circumstances, both guys have fought a lot of heavy and stiff competition since '08-'09. Both fighters were dominated by Andre Ward, but he's, hands-down, the best fighter in the super middleweight division, so that's hardly a knock on each one's performance. Kessler has dealt with some injuries whereas Froch has used the momentum gained from his success in the Super Six tournament to his advantage. He has fought slightly better competition in my mind.
CHIN: Carl Froch has one of the more battle tested chins in the business and he knows it. If he questioned his chin, he might try a little harder to move a different direction in the ring aside from forward, which puts him directly in range for the return fire of any opposing opponent. Regardless of how much he gets hit and if the first fight with Kessler is any indication of what we should expect, I'd say it could be plenty there's no chance of Froch getting knocked out or stopped before the fight is over. He has too much pride and an iron clad chin. Both of those intangibles aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Kessler's chin is solid, but it doesn't hold up when compared to the Cobra. I don't expect the "chin" department to play a major role in the rematch, but for arguments sake, Froch wins this one.
POWER: Both combatants have ridiculously high knockout percentages (72% for Kessler, 68% for Froch), but ironically enough, neither guy strikes the occasional fan as much of a devastating puncher as their records may indicate. The Cobra's knockout of Bute was spectacular in one sense, and a bit misguided in the next considering what the general public was saying about him prior to the fight; some of the criticism blatantly unwarranted regardless of questionable opposition. With what we've seen with our eyes, I have to lean towards Kessler in the power department. He doesn't seem to use his power as effective as Froch, fighting as more of a conventional boxer throughout his career and especially in big fights.
SPEED: Mikkel Kessler has the faster hands technically speaking but he doesn't always put himself in position to use his advantage because often times, he doesn't let his hands go enough to prove to be the faster hands. Froch throws punches from various angles, but mostly all at the same plodding speed. Kessler holds the advantage; the question on whether or not he will put himself in position to use it remains.
FINAL VERDICT: Excuses from Froch aside, Mikke Kessler made the Cobra look like a club fighter when they squared off in the Super Six. It wasn't Kessler's finest performance of his career and he still came up with a wide margin of victory that left no doubt in anyone, watching or ringside, as to who won the bout. Froch has become the favorite despite the lackluster performance the first time around, due in large part to his impressive string of victories since the bout took place. He has shown a willingness to fight anyone, anywhere, with little rest in between. If both guys retired tomorrow, Froch will go down as the better fighter overall. There's no questioning it. However, Mikkel Kessler is the better fighter every time when we're talking about placing both guys in the ring and letting their skills speak for themselves. Kessler will have no problem finding his range and slapping a determined Froch around the ring like he stole something. The only excuse Froch will have after being clearly out-boxed a second time around is one that will see him apologize for making the original excuses the first time around. Kessler will win this bout with relative ease.
Kessler by Unanimous Decision