Feature Story

Kessler/Froch: Respectful, Ready

By Bob Hough

Mikkel Kessler (42-2, 32 KOs) has lived, lost and, he said, learned. The super-middleweight, who lost his WBA title to Andre Ward (21-0, 13 KOs) in his last fight faces Carl Froch (26-0, 20 KOs) on April 24 in the second round of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic. Kessler said the late-2009 defeat led to serious changes in his training, frame of mind and fighting style. I learned from my mistakes after the Ward fight,” said Kessler, who has replaced longtime trainer Ricard Olsen with Jimmy Montoya. “I learned I made mistakes outside the ring. I had to pick my sparring partners better.”

The results of what Kessler called going back to boxing school will be clear in the ring, he promised.

“I have to change a lot of tactics, of course, but I can’t reveal that right now,” the 31-year-old Danish fighter said in a conference call.

Whatever Kessler, who’s fighting in his home country, might have in mind, Froch believes it won’t be enough.

“I’m stronger, quicker, a champion, undefeated, taller, more elusive,” said Froch, who was also on the call.

The native and resident of Nottingham, England, takes pride in never having been beaten and believes it gives him an edge.

“My undefeated record means everything to me,” he said. “Some people look at knockout ratios, but I fight to win. An unblemished record is very important to me.”

The fact that Kessler’s coming off a loss makes the Englishman’s position that much better.

“From what I saw, he was quite conclusively out-boxed,” the 32-year-old said. “When you lose a fight, it does something physically and it does something more damaging mentally. I don’t want to pass judgment on (Kessler’s) mental condition, but I know which position I’d rather be in.”

Froch, who was quick to disparage Andre Dirrell before getting a split-decision victory over the American, took a low-key approach in discussing Kessler, a friend he respects.

“We’re both two proud athletes at the top of our game and we know what’s on the line here,” he said. “One thing is for sure, you’re not going to get any cheap talk from either of us.”

We should get action in the ring, though it may not be of the stand-and-slug-it-out variety, Froch said.

“Mikkel Kessler is going to have to box and move and keep out of the way,” he said. “If he does that I might even try to jab and move.”

Whatever Kessler tries to do, it will be the result of a long, intense training camp.

“Of course there were a lot of mistakes in my last fight,” he said. “I feel like a new fighter. I hope Carl is ready because I’ve trained very hard the last three months. I’m in my best shape ever and I’m ready to fight.”

It might be a more tactical match than people expect, Froch said.

“We might be in for a 12-round bore-fest,” he said with a chortle. “I can jab and move, he can jab and move. People expect us to punch the hell out of each other, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

What people shouldn’t expect, Froch said, is for him to fight like he needs a knockout to win in Kessler’s home country; he reacted with some anger to a suggestion that Kessler could get a questionable home-country decision.

“I’m the WBC champion; it’s an honorable title and an honorable governing body,” he said. “I don’t go into any fight expecting to have to knock someone out. “

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