The volcanic ash cloud that has covered Europe over the last week or so seems like an apt metaphor for the Super Six Tournament, which has been pursued by furies from the moment Jermain Taylor was brutally knocked out by Arthur Abraham in the opening bout last September. One thing is certain, however: when Taylor withdrew from the World Boxing Classic and was replaced by Allan Green, every possible subsequent matchup turned into a potential pick ‘em fight, and the Carl Froch-Mikkel Kessler Group Stage II bout, set for the MCH Messecenter in Herning, Denmark, is no exception.
Froch, currently in a three-way tie for second place with two points, has a chance to vault into the lead with a win tonight. Kessler is looking to earn his first points in a must-win situation. The tournament structure awards three points for knockouts, two points for decisions, and one point for draws.
This bout, practically even on paper, seems to hinge on a couple of x-factors. First, there is the question of what, if anything, Kessler has left. He is coming off of a whitewashing at the hands of Andre Ward so thorough that it left many speculating that Kessler might be finished. But Ward has the kind of flashy style that would tie almost anybody up in Gordian knots between the ropes. Even so, the guess here is that Kessler is on the downside, and the only question is how far he has slipped. Long before he became a piñata for Ward, Kessler was a mainstay at or near the top of the super middleweight decision for years, with his only loss a points defeat to Joe Calzaghe in 2007. But now he might be slowing down. “Two years ago I would not have hesitated in picking Mikkel Kessler to beat Carl Froch” veteran U.K.>trainer Brian Hughes says. “However, I honestly believe that the Dane has gone back slightly, while Froch is a very awkward
Nothing less than his best effort will allow Kessler, Monaco via Copenhagen, to overcome Froch, whose tenacity, power, chin, and stamina are all first-rate. At this point, in fact, it might be fair to say that Froch, 26-0 (20), seems a bit underrated, and certainly this site has been guilty of selling him short as much as any other. Here is what The Cruelest Sport has written about Froch previously:
–Every now and then Froch looks so artless in the ring that one has to remind himself that this is an undefeated prizefighter ranked near the top of his weight class.
–His unorthodox style is meant, perhaps, to be flashy, but Froch lacks the speed and reflexes to carry it off and often looks like a dropout from the Brendan Ingle School of Tomfoolery.
In spite of these flaws, Froch always finds a way to win, and he has shown a certain amount of caginess in the ring that offsets his some of his faults. Instead of letting Andre Dirrell control the action with his spoiling tactics, for example, Froch made an adjustment and began to bullyrag Dirrell every chance he got. Sometimes Froch skirted the rules; sometimes he was well within them; sometimes he trampled them like a Ray Harryhausen monster run amok. Froch, Nottingham, England, is a smarter fighter than given credit for, and if he decides to maul Kessler it will be strictly for tactical purposes, and Kessler will be in for trouble from bell to bell.
After all, Kessler is to infighting what restraint is to piranha at a feeding frenzy. Against Ward, who switched-up his finesse game to include a little roughneck action, Kessler appeared helpless on the inside. The addition of veteran trainer Jimmy Montoya may help to an extent, but Kessler, 32, and a pro since 1998, might be a little too stuck in his ways at this point to change significantly.
On the other hand, Froch seems to be susceptible to straight rights, and this, along with a busy jab, is the main weapon of choice for Kessler, who often skimps on left hooks and body shots and only occasionally fires an uppercut. Still, Kessler, 44-2 (32), is a solid if no-frills one-two puncher from the perimeter with a respectable wallop. A stand-up boxer with a nice straight right, Kessler seems at his best when he establishes a steady rhythm with his jab. Every time Froch rushes in–fairly open–Kessler should be able to stop his dash with an accurate jab and possibly put Froch in position for a right cross.
So the fight will likely play out with Kessler boxing carefully early, looking to drop the straight right behind the jab, and Froch pressuring, throwing some of his looping punches from the waist, and trying to get in close to disrupt Kessler. Froch may not be busy enough to rattle Kessler as easily as Ward did, and Kessler might rack up points early. After ten rounds or so, Kessler might find himself cut and fading fast. At this point, the intangible factors–the ones Froch counts on as bedrock–conditioning and determination, will come into play. The outcome will hinge on how far ahead Kessler is on the scorecards late and whether he can survive the last-ditch rally.
“Carl Froch is durable and strong and this should be a cracking contest and hopefully both fighters are in tip top physical condition,” Hughes says. “But, my gut feeling is that Froch will be successful. I thought Ward fouled Kessler a few times and he suffered as a result. I will not be surprised if Kessler, on his home ground wins, but I go for Froch.” Even matchups, so rare, are what most boxing fans live for, and this fight is about as balanced as can be imagined. Hughes is right in his assessment, and his caveat about a friendly decision is also one of the x-factors involved. With that said, look for Kessler to squeak past Froch by the narrowest margins in a fight that is difficult to call, and, therefore, worth paying mind.