Defending IBF super middleweight champion Carl “The Cobra” Froch (31-2, 20 KOs)
evened the score with Mikkel “The Viking Warrior” Kessler (46-3, 35 KOs) last Saturday night by winning a unanimous 12-round decision over the WBA titleholder at a rollicking 02 Arena in London, England.
All three judges scored the fight for Froch by scores of 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113.
Kessler had won their first fight three years ago in Denmark. The rematch, fouught in front of a partisan Froch crowd was filled with drama from the opening bell.
Froch, fighting in the UK for the third straight time, revealed his strategy in the opening stanza. He’d work behind his up-jab and fire awkward, but effective combinations. Kessler looked a little stiff until he connected with a left hook to the body. Froch moved slightly to keep him guessing.
In rounds two and three, Froch, 35, stuck to his game plan. His up-jab (fired from the hip) wasn’t always connecting, but it was keeping Kessler thinking. A left hook to the body – followed by a right hand to the head hurt Kessler. The Dane backed into the ropes hoping to sucker Froch. The veteran slugger dodged the trap and countered with three consecutive rights.
Kessler, after a pep talk from cornerman Jimmy Montoya, tried to get off first in round four. A jab-hook landed. Froch started an uppercut from nearby Nottingham that missed. Kessler landed a counter right that surprised Froch.
In round five, Kessler, 34, continued to pressure Froch. His workrate had picked up. A left hook clipped Froch. The hometown hero bounced back with a combination to the body and head. Kessler tried to continue his advantage in round six. He was working under the Froch jab. A big right hand connected. Froch surprised him with a short left to the body.
Both fighters showed some damage after 18 minutes of exciting work. Most of the action was occurring in the center of the ring. Froch found Kessler with a left hook in the opening seconds of round seven. The boxers traded punches. Froch landed a combination that wobbled Kessler.
In round eight, each pugilist hurt the other with hooks. Froch had taken away the momentum of the fight. A combination to the head hurt Kessler again. The gutsy pro from Denmark fired back with a right that shook Froch. Two big shots by Froch punctuated the round.
Kessler fought well in in round nine while Froch did better in the following stanza. A thudding combination landed. Froch connected with a sweeping left hook. Kessler countered with his own hook. Froch rallied with a three punch combination in round 10. Kessler dug a left hook to the mid section, but Froch landed a long right.
Froch was winning the fight with boxing, not slugging.
Kessler was behind on this writer’s scorecard entering round 11. He needed a knockout to win. He let loose with some heavy hooks that clipped Froch. The iron chinned Brit ignored the shots until a sneaky right hand bounced off his pointy chin. He staggered and fell into the ropes, but recovered quickly.
The 12th and final round was all Froch. Instead of boxing, he opened up with combinations. Two left hooks knocked Kessler backwards. Froch, smelling blood, pursued Kessler. A combination knocked the WBA champion into the ropes. A counter shot by Kessler missed as Froch bullied him about the ring. The crowd stood as Froch caught Kessler with another booming punch at the bell.
“My rangy jab was the difference,” said Froch in the ring. “I was trying to be fast and counter.
“I took a couple of shots,” he added. “He’s a good counter puncher. I’ll fight Kessler again. Let’s get Andre Ward out here for a fight.”
Final CompuBox stats showed Froch landing sixty-seven more punches.