• Boxing

I've got unfinished business with Froch and Ward - Kessler

Rob Bartlett
October 26, 2014
Mikkel Kessler has been to war twice with Carl Froch - now he wants to do it again © PA Photos

"The most important thing to me is to see if I've still got it," says Mikkel Kessler, who has spent the last 18 months out of the ring licking the wounds from his May 2013 world super-middleweight title rematch defeat to Carl Froch.

That fight left the Dane battered and hurt. Not only did he lose pride at London's O2 Arena, he also lost world champion status for the third time in his career. Only Andre Ward and Joe Calzaghe had beaten him before and it has taken a long break for Kessler to work things out.

At 35-years-old and with persistent speculation over his future, Kessler has made the decision to carry on. The desire is back and he wants nothing more than to settle the score with his nemesis.

'I've not given much thought to fighting Groves'

George Groves is European champion © Getty Images
  • The difficulty in Mikkel Kessler getting a third fight with Carl Froch lies with the champion's desire to fight in Las Vegas.
  • Froch has made his wishes known following successive knockout victories against George Groves, while his promoter, Eddie Hearn, recently confirmed talks are ongoing with Julio Chavez Jr's camp regarding a bout in Sin City.
  • Having fought there before, Kessler would be keen to return. "If Carl wants to fight in Las Vegas, that would be good," Kessler told ESPN. "We've fought in his home and mine, so Vegas would be great.
  • "We have had a lot of dialogue with Kelle [Sauerland, Kessler's promoter], so we are just waiting now. You can be a little bit impatient and I know I can't wait too long because I've been out of it."
  • There were rumblings of a potential fight with Groves, his Sauerland stablemate, but Kessler's eyes remain firmly fixed elsewhere.
  • "I think George is a great fighter and he has a whole career in front of him," Kessler said.
  • "I have unfinished business with Froch and Ward - I'd rather fight those two first. Groves is a big name but I've not put much thought to it."

"The fight I want is with Froch," Kessler tells ESPN. "We've won one each and I think I deserve a third one. A lot of people don't see it that way. I'm not the champ anymore so I'm not the one who decides it, but I hope Carl will consider it and say we're going to have a third and deciding fight.

"It's a big fight for the people. We're not two guys who want to hug each other for 12 rounds. We want to fight and I know Carl wants to show me that he's the best. I want to show him that I'm the best. We have this little challenge.

"I won the first fight so I know I can beat him. It wasn't like that in the second - Carl was better in that - but now I feel how I did in that first fight."

While a third and deciding bout with Froch is Kessler's preferred choice, he also has previous with Ward, having lost the WBA super-middleweight belt to the American in 2009, and is not ruling out other fights while Froch looks elsewhere.

"There are always other options aside from Carl," Kessler says. "I also lost to Ward, so that would be a big fight for me too. I would take that fight again. We have a lot out there, we are trying hard, but obviously my preferred fight would be Froch."

Kessler knows time is not on his side but stepping back was something he had to do.

"I needed some time off. I was building a house and I had a lot of stuff on," Kessler says. "I wanted to just get away from boxing for a while.

"I didn't want to quit but I also didn't want to train for a fight either. I wanted to try and relax a little bit. We'd [the team] worked so hard over the past few years so I just felt we needed a break.

"It was nice but I still watched a lot of boxing - Froch against [George] Groves and the Olympics - so I knew what was going on.

"I missed it but to be honest I never really gave any thought to that, because I just wanted to relax and forget about it for a bit. There was no stress and it was great to just get away for a while. Of course, I missed the fights. I missed the training camps, even though they're hard and hurt so much. In the end I missed it a lot."

That was the point Kessler knew he had to carry on. There is a slight hint of Ricky Hatton about the situation - to see whether 'it' is still there - but Kessler's desire to return is overwhelming.

"I went on a training camp and decided I wanted to fight again - that seems so long ago now," Kessler says. "I did it to get my heart rate going again. I wanted to see if it was still there, if was still in the game and if I still had it.

"I spoke to close friends, I spoke to my personal trainer and my team. They're very honest, which they've got to be, because it's not about the money or anything else. It's about whether I still have it. 'How many fights have I got?' They've got to tell me that.

"You've also got to think of your health. Have I got slower, am I not as good? My team has to tell me these things. They said: 'We don't think you've got twenty fights left in you, but you're still there.'

"That is where I changed my mind. Of course, I also talked to my closest family but that is where I made the decision. I said 'my decision is this' and it was only me who was going to make that choice. Not my team, not my fans, not anybody else."

It was, though, always going to be a tough decision to make. Eighteen months is a long time in boxing and it will have seemed even longer for Kessler, who became a father with the arrival of son Romeo during his time out from the ring.

Fatherhood adds complexity to any situation, let alone sport, but Kessler has not lost his fighting instinct.

"Being a dad is just perfect," Kessler says. "Of course it changes your outlook on things because now you're doing everything you can to keep him [Romeo] safe. It's a little different, but I'm still the same person. I've not lost the killer instinct as a boxer.

"When I'm boxing I give 100% to that and when I'm with my family I give 100% for them. I hope I fight soon,but that means three months of training and three months where you're not with your family as much. Because then boxing is first and family is second."

Kessler believes he has the ability to become a world champion again. He'll turn 36 next March but age is just a number in boxing - just ask Bernard Hopkins.

"I've changed how I've approached training," Kessler says. "More rules, more routine - I'm better at that now than when I was younger. I've learned much and I'm a wiser boxer now.

"The training is good, everything is going well and there are no problems or injuries. There are no typical days because of the house-building, the new baby and the companies??. I have real estate and other things to keep an eye on as well but I make sure I train at least once a day, six times a week and eat well.

"I've also been doing some personal training, too. I'm enjoying it - I love training and I love training people. It's always busy."

Is it the right decision to carry on, though? "I'm feeling better than I did five years ago," he says, and that is enough to answer the question for him.

There is a mutual respect between Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch © Getty Images
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