By Ivan G. Goldman
Super middleweight champ Carl Froch is more of a mad dog than an Englishman. And I mean that in a good way.
At one point during his well-earned rematch victory over Mikkel Kessler, his Danish opponent landed a huge right — the kind of shot that can end a fight — either from the punch itself or a finishing volley to follow. But it was Froch, not Kessler, who went on an instant rampage. And Kessler, rather than stand his London ground, allowed himself to be chased into a corner. If you hadn’t actually seen the punch, you’d have thought it was Froch, not Kessler, who landed it. Yet Kessler’s retreat was understandable. When your opponent can mount serious offense at a moment like that, it’s a natural human tendency to step back and consider just what manner of beast you’ve got in front of you.
Kessler, though coming back from an injury-plagued layoff, was still hitting harder, faster, and smarter than his opponent. And he’s tough as nails. But Froch is even tougher, and at age 35, he was just too hungry to be denied. He did very little standing and looking. When in doubt, he threw punches. Over and over he called on a touch of insanity that in this sport can sometimes overcome talent. Froch’s ring moniker isn’t quite right. He’s more like a mad dog than a “Cobra” too.
Still, it wasn’t a pure match-up of talent versus hunger. Kessler, 46-3 (35 KOs), certainly has a deep hunger of his own, while Froch, 31-2 (22 KOs), is not without talent either. He strikes from unexpected angles and is deeply wedded to the concept of combination-punching. Plus, it requires a heap of skill to summon his level of conditioning, intensity, and belief in himself.
When a fighter is as quick and deadly as Kessler he can actually suffer for it. Why? Because judges aren’t always capable of following what he’s doing. He might land two or three clean shots while they blink. I have no doubt that something like that happened to Adelaide Byrd, whose 118-110 scorecard meant she could find only two rounds for Kessler. It told me she was also incorrectly gauging the force of his shots, as was HBO’s Harold Lederman. There’s a reason the “Viking Warrior” stopped 35 of his opponents.
Yet there was no doubt Froch pulled out more rounds than Kessler, who sometimes seemed to be pacing himself for 20 rounds instead of 12. From time to time trainer Jimmy Montoya managed to help light the spark, but he couldn’t find a way to prod his fighter into keeping the fire going.
It’s not clear where this division goes from here. The superbly talented Andre Ward has already cleaned it out. His unbroken string of victories during the Showtime tournament left HBO, which now has a corner on super middleweight talent, with a problem. Unless some new face fights his way into recognition, Ward might find himself looking for rematches with fighters he’s already defeated by a wide margin. He could also move into another division — probably light heavyweight.
Yet talent gravitates toward money. If Ward could attract a mob of fans, it’s likely that middleweights would move up to challenge him. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. always struggles to make 160 pounds. Knockout artists Gennady Golovkin and Kid Chocolate Quillin are other possibilities, particularly if Ward were to consent to a catch weight.
But the way they match up, Kessler and Froch are great together. And the truth is, a third match between them promises to be more of a crowd-pleaser than a remake of Ward’s dominant performance over Froch.
Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag is due out in June. It can be pre-purchased here.