Mikkel Kessler salvaged his Super Six ambitions last night by scoring a 12-round unanimous decision over Carl Froch at the MCH Messecenter in Herning, Denmark. Official scores were 117-111, 116-112, and 115-113.
With the win, Kessler, who improved his record to 45-2 (32), earned his first points and created a logjam for second place in the World Boxing Classic, where four participants currently sit with two points apiece. Arthur Abraham remains the leader in the standings with three points.
Kessler bounced back from a thrashing by Andre Ward last November, but did not look particularly sharp, and the margins of the scorecards seemed slightly exaggerated. Surprisingly, Froch came out counterpunching and allowed the judges at ringside to be overly impressed by Kessler, who came forward throwing rights to body and doubling his jab, but was mostly inaccurate during the early rounds. From time to time Froch would score with a right hand and his jab was often pinpoint, but retreat mode on the road is always an iffy proposition if the Fancy Dan is not completely dominating. A crowd of over 10,000 in Herning cheered every time Kessler so much as bit down on his mouthpiece.
For the first four rounds, the bout was fairly tactical, with Froch, now 26-1 (20), counterpunching and boxing well. Kessler, Monaco via Copenhagen, was in good shape and seemed determined to win, but he has not, as you will read elsewhere ad infinitum, “turned back the clock” or “returned to form.” Despite the fact that Kessler, 167, was easy pickings whenever the two fighters got close, Froch did little work on the inside, and it was inexplicable to see an obvious Kessler weakness go unexploited.
In the fifth round, Froch staggered Kessler, already bleeding from the nose, with a hard left hook and shook the Dane moments later with a one-two. But Froch, 167 ¼, could not continue his momentum. In fact, his technique began to unravel a round later. He seemed empretzeled by his own limbs when throwing combinations and looked amateurish whipping uppercuts like a softball pitcher and from just as far away as the pitching mound is from the plate. Kessler, who earned many of the middle rounds simply by being busier, jolted an onrushing Froch, Nottingham, England, with a perfect counter right in the eighth, a blow that cut Froch on the bride of the nose and had him reeling for an instant. Froch showed his heart by going to work over the next three rounds, straightening Kessler up with a damaging left and coming back at the end of the 11th–a round filled with close two-way action–with stiff combinations. By this time, Kessler was bleeding from a
gash over his left eye as wide and deep as a fjord.
Exhorted by trainer Jimmy Montoya, Kessler stormed out for the last round and exchanged wild punches with Froch, getting the best of it until the last minute or so, when Froch, 32, took over and punched Kessler around the ring. Just before the bell, a buzzed Kessler forced a clinch to gather his wits.
After twelve close rounds, the fight could have been a draw, a split decision, a majority decision, or a razor thin unanimous decision. It was no surprise when Kessler was announced the winner, but the scorecards seemed to lack one important ingredient: veracity. Like the Adamek-Arreola fight, folks seem overly impressed by one fighter plodding after another, flailing, and repeatedly missing. Kessler did land some big shots throughout the fight, but could not sustain an offensive assault and rarely landed more than one punch at a time. He did, however, press the fight and was busier at key moments, when Froch looked to ease up, for example. Froch did himself no favors fighting in retreat early, and when he sputtered during the middle rounds, he gave the fight away. Unlike his bout against Andre Dirrell in Nottingham, Froch was not about to receive the benefit of the doubt in Herning. But the actual lack of beneficence seems puzzling, to say the
least, and having been the recipient of a debatable decision against Dirrell, perhaps Froch was due for reprisal. Sometimes, it seems, these things come back to haunt.
Even so, the Super Six has certainly become more interesting now that none of its participants have been mathematically eliminated. (Allan Green, whose first tournament go will be against Andre Ward in June, must win to become a points factor in the standings.) In addition, both fighters showed heart in battling from bell to bell in what was easily the best bout of the tournament thus far.