Lee Groves

10: Greatest super middleweight title fights

10. April 24, 2010 – Mikkel Kessler W 12 Carl Froch, MCH Messecenter Herning, Herning, Denmark

In terms of sustained action and competitive tension, Kessler-Froch was the best fight in the two-year Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament. During the tumultuous first stage of the round-robin competition Kessler lost his WBA belt to Andre Ward via cut-induced 11-round technical decision while Froch barely kept his WBC title via split decision against Andre Dirrell. Though Froch was the defending champion, he was contractually obligated to fight in Denmark – a fact Froch feared would result in defeat should the fight be close. He had reason to be concerned because the first four tournament bouts saw the home fighter emerge victorious.

For Froch, a victory would cement his place in the Final Four but for Kessler the stakes were higher; a second straight loss not only would endanger his place in the tournament’s pecking order it might signal the end of his career at the elite level.

Following a quiet first round Kessler, normally a jab-oriented counterpuncher, marched forward behind ramrod jabs and worked combinations up and down the slow-starting Froch’s anatomy. By the fourth Froch worked out the kinks, stunning Froch with a strong right. A double hook shook Kessler early in the fifth and a crunching right knocked the Dane sideways late in the session. Froch’s whip-like jabs repeatedly hit the target and his command of range had Kessler flailing at air.

Urged by trainer Jimmy Montoya to pick up the pace, Kessler increased the pressure in round eight. A hefty right stunned Froch and opened a cut on the bridge of the nose. Froch responded by increasing his output in the ninth and 10th and the result was a pair of close, tough-to-score rounds.

The 11th, and especially the 12th, were the two best rounds of the entire tournament because each man fully recognized the situation’s urgency. Whenever one man produced a rally the other generated an even more robust response. The action escalated with each passing second and by the final minute it was an all-out war. Both men left the ring with appalling cuts over the left eye but Kessler was the only man to leave with a belt strapped around his waist. Two of the scorecards in Kessler’s favor (Roger Tilleman’s 117-111, Daniel Van de Wiele’s 116-112) were wider than most experts viewed it while Guido Cavalleri’s 115-113 score for Kessler was closer to reality. What was beyond dispute was that Kessler-Froch was a terrific fight.

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