Whatever one made of Showtime's Super Six, there was one fight in that 168-pound tournament that is beyond dispute about its quality: Mikkel Kessler vs. Carl Froch. When last they met in 2010, Kessler and Froch dueled at a high level...
Whatever one made of Showtime's Super Six, there was one fight in that 168-pound tournament that is beyond dispute about its quality: Mikkel Kessler vs. Carl Froch. When last they met in 2010, Kessler and Froch dueled at a high level in Denmark, delivering a Fight of the Year contender and the best round of that year, a sizzling 12th where Kessler -- one fight removed from an embarrassing, emasculating defeat by Andre Ward -- found his inner man and traded shots with boxing's most fearless warrior, eventually coming out on top by decision.
It wasn't Froch's finest moment; after the loss, he whined endlessly about the decision and made excuses about how an Iceland volcano that threatened to postpone the fight took him out of his mental game. It was, actually, Kessler's finest moment, because he rebounded so impressively from such a low against a fighter who has gone on to become one of the world's 10 best of any weight. Since, Kessler has endured a long injury layoff due to an eye injury and won two ambiguous stoppage wins. Froch has lost to Ward himself, then secured the victory of his career over Lucian Bute.
That's the backdrop of this rematch, one of the more anticipated bouts of 2013, in London on HBO Saturday. The promotion has had its share of volcanic moments. This week, Froch threatened to "kill" Kessler if it was necessary, even though Kessler has become his buddy outside the ring. It earned him a reprimand from British boxing authorities, but it wasn't so long ago that Kessler said there would be "death in my eyes" for Froch. Such rhetoric hardly elevates boxing, but it does, if nothing else, appear to reveal a window into the mindsets of both men: This fight is, figuratively if not literally, do or die for each of them them. Froch is the kind of boxer who harbors grudges against the universe for any wrong he perceives, and it fuels his enormous will. Kessler is perceived as on the other side of the hill, and needs this win to cement his legacy.
Such passion, such history, is the stuff of great rivalries.
It probably doesn't appear on HBO if the network doesn't see the winner as a viable opponent for Ward, an HBO favorite owing to ex-Showtime exec Ken Hershman taking over HBO's boxing programming. It has appeal, and competitive merit, independent of Ward.
Perhaps Froch learned from his loss to Kessler, even if he never considered it a loss: In his very next fight, he displayed a never-before-revealed defensive aplomb and versatility against Arthur Abraham. The Ward loss was a setback, but an understandable one -- Ward is pure special, and Froch is just a notch below that. By the time Froch fought Bute, he was back to his old ways, multiplied by 10. The nuance of the Abraham performance was gone, replaced by the traditional Frochian "I don't care how much you hit me, I'm going to get mine" mentality. Bute caught him with some enormous shots, but Froch, whose chin is as good as they get, strolled through them and broke Bute's heart before shattering his consciousness. If Froch still had any non-believers left before the Bute win, they vaporized afterward. In some quarters, Bute was considered too fast, too powerful, too cute for a man of Froch's limited means. But Froch's whole career is a testament to how much willpower and ablity to absorb punishment overcomes any limited means, and together form a lethal weapon. He is coming off a rare easy-ish bout against Yusaf Mack, following a multi-year grind of a schedule unequaled in boxing and that only continues its grueling pace Saturday.
Froch's momentary lapse of will against Kessler came at a time when Kessler's shaky psyche was at its peak stability. Ward's mauling, physicality and technical/physical superiority had Kessler on the verge of quitting before a wound forced the bout to the scorecards. This wasn't the first time Kessler had betrayed mental weakness. He