• Steve Bunce

Froch-Kessler? Cagey - and expect a rematch

Steve Bunce May 21, 2013

There are many ways to describe a good fight. It can be savage, it can breathtaking and it can also be hard to watch. Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler's 2010 fight was certainly brutal, but both men would do well to choose brains over brawn when they step back into the ring at The O2.

That first fight took place in a massive hall in the middle of Legoland in Herning. People forget just how hard the bout was: how Kessler raised his game after Froch had dominated the early rounds, how he hurt Froch - and how Froch had hurt him. They forget how basic that fight was. And it's because those facts get overlooked - though not by the fighters or their trainers - that I'm ignoring the bold predictions of knockouts from both men.

I'm expecting a more technical fight on Saturday night. More than that, I'm hoping for it - as we mentioned in this column a couple of months ago, Froch using his brain wins this fight far easier than Froch using his brawn. Ditto Kessler, by the way: Barry Jones backs the WBA champion to win the fight on this week's podcast, making him one of the few people around that see Froch losing his IBF belt on Saturday night.

Going toe-to-toe would no doubt make for a brilliant spectacle for those 20,000 fans at The O2, but it's a risky game and a bad move for both men. Anyone who witnessed the savage scenes in Moscow on Friday night as Panama's Guillermo Jones left interim champion Denis Lebedev disfigured and dazed to reclaim his WBA cruiserweight title will know exactly what I mean.

As a spectacle, Jones' 11th-round knockout to silence the Russian crowd is one of those fight-of-the-year contenders. All that was good and bad about boxing was laid bare, leaving behind something almost indescribable; less a fight than an amalgamation of the Rocky films, complete with all of its worst excesses. There they were, two fighters on the verge of exhaustion throwing slow-motion punches at one another and struggling to stay on their feet, bouncing off the ropes for one more swing that duly connects and swivels the other's head as blood shoots out of his mouth.

Only this was the real deal. By the end Lebedev's face was so ridiculously swollen and distorted that it looked like he was auditioning for a role in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Barry, who commentated on the fight, was convinced that it should have been stopped a couple of rounds earlier. To his mind the actions of the corners and referee were disgraceful.

Don't expect anything to rival that from Froch and Kessler - this one will be won by the guy who has the busier work-rate without steaming in. You've got to be clever to beat Kessler. Joe Calzaghe proved that it's possible to hit him with lots of shots and avoid getting caught in 2007. But that takes mobility, and I'm not sure Froch is quick enough for that.

Denis Lebedev was left looking deformed after his defeat by Guillermo Jones in Moscow © AP

What Froch can do is pick his shots. I'd be surprised if we see the Nottingham native throwing two- and three-shot combinations - as soon as he throws that, the third shot is going to be in Kessler's range, or Kessler's will be able to pick him off. He made that mistake three years ago, and surely won't make it again.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Froch trying to pot-shot his way past Kessler, looking to land a big looping left or that screwed upper cut. It's a risky game, because Kessler could pick him off. It'll be tight, I think it'll be hard, but I know one thing: there will definitely be a third fight.

You can forget about Kessler vowing to retire should he lose as far as I'm concerned. I don't like boxers saying that, especially those that aren't that old, that battered, or on that bad a run of defeats. I find it slightly disturbing. If Kessler was using the line in a promotional sense - "If I can't beat him, I'm finished" - I could understand it, but he's not. Kessler's a world champion, relatively young - at 34, a year younger than Froch - and he's not been bashed up, smashed to bits or knocked out.

I'd be surprised if he's using the threat of retirement to fire himself up. He's proud of his Viking warrior reputation, and having lost just twice - to Calzaghe and Andre Ward - he won't want to end his career losing to a guy that he's already beaten. All he has done is handed Froch a massive incentive and a massive mental advantage - but if it's another close fight, with another disputed decision, they'll go for a third showdown.

George Groves and Nathan Cleverly have provided some added spice in the build-up, sparking outrage in the Froch camp by sparring with Kessler. As far as I'm concerned they're entitled to go and do whatever they want, but they've been branded traitors by Carl, Brits conspiring with the enemy. Cleverly doesn't know Froch so well, but Groves has worked with him in the past. I'm not sure how close they were before, but they're not friends now.

Then again, as Adam Booth pointed out on Sky at the weekend, how often does a world title contender get to spar with a world champion? Perhaps it was too good an opportunity for Groves to turn down. I understand both sides, so it's probably best to leave the last word to Tony Bellew from this week's podcast:

"Let's put it this way - if they asked me to go and spar with Kessler, I'd tell them in no uncertain terms to go stuff it."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.