Carl Froch retained his IBF super middleweight title and earned revenge in his competitive 12-round rematch with Mikkel Kessler, who he beat by unanimous decision at The O2 Arena in London on Saturday.
Froch (31-2, 22 knockouts), who lost their first bout by unanimous decision in 2010, won the rematch by scores of 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113. The 34-year-old native of Nottingham, England, was the far busier fighter throughout the intense by generally tactical bout.
Kessler (46-3, 35 KOs), who had some success in the middle rounds, was the more accurate of the two, landing 55 percent of his total punches, according to CompuBox stats, but the 35-year-old Danish star allowed the local hero to dictate the pace of the fight until the final two rounds when he let his hands go and the two super middleweight veterans thrilled the standing room only crowd.
“I think my workrate and my rangy jab (was the difference in the fight),” Froch told HBO’s Max Kellerman after the fight. “I think my workrate and my footwork were better in this fight. I took a couple of shots but I think I was blocking a lot of them. In the first fight I was backing up and I was letting him back me up. I didn’t do that in this fight and I think I discouraged him.”
Froch said he’d be happy to grant Kessler a rubbermatch. He said he’d also like to avenge the other loss on his record, which was to Andre Ward, who was part of HBO’s broadcast team, although he added that he wants the American to travel to the UK for that rematch.
A full ringside post-fight feature by Tom Gray will be posted later, along with an undercard report.
Below is the live round-by-round coverage of the fight:
ROUND 1: Both fighters come out jabbing and seem composed. Kessler lands a hook off of his jab. Froch lands more jabs. Froch lands a right hand before the bell. Kessler lands a body shot at the bell. (Froch’s round)
ROUND 2: Froch continues to land his jab, while Kessler looks to land bigger punches. But Froch lands a big right. Froch looks to strike with more authority as Kessler seems to wait on the Englishmen. (Froch’s round)
ROUND 3: Froch appears to gain confidence with each round. Kessler gets his jab working again as Froch tries to walk him down with power shots. Froch lands a body-head combination in the final seconds of the close round. (Froch’s round)
ROUND 4: Froch is back to working his jab as he moves around Kessler, who loads up with single jabs and hooks. Froch lands hook-cross combination, which sparks Kessler to attack with a quick flurry. Kessler digs a few hooks to the body as Froch jabs his face. Froch is the busier fighter so far. (Kessler’s round)
ROUND 5: Kessler lands a hook at the start of the round. Froch, unfazed, continues to jab. Kessler lands a huge overhand right hand that momentarily stunned Froch halfway through the round. Froch lands a body shot as he jabs an steps away from Kessler. Froch lands short rights and uppercuts while on the attack in the final 30 seconds of the round. (Kessler’s round)
ROUND 6: Kessler lands a low blow early in the round. Froch takes a few secons to recover, but Kessler lands a big right hand followed by a hook as soon as the action resumes. Froch answers back with a few rights and the two exchange power shots in the final minute of the round. (Kessler’s round)
ROUND 7: Froch is aggressive from the start of the round, but eats a big hook midway through. They trade body shots in the final minute before Froch lands two big hooks and a right. Kessler lands a few power shots, too, before the bell. (Froch’s round)
ROUND 8: Froch starts the round with a big hook but Kessler answers with a hook. Froch lets his hands go and back Kessler up but the Dane is still dangerous with single power shots – especially his hook. Froch lands a few rights that forces Kessler to momentarily hold as the crowd goes crazy. Kessler lands a big right but Froch ignores it and continues to swing and roughhouse in close (including rabbit punches). Froch seems to be in control in the final minute, though both land monster punches to the head. (Froch’s round)
ROUND 9: Both fighters show a bit of fatigue in the first minute, but Froch lets his hands go more in teh second minute. Kessler lands a good right in the final minute. Froch answers with two shots of his own. Frouch outworks Kessler and still appears in control in the final 45 seconds of the round. (Froch’s round)
ROUND 10: Both resume the battle of the jab. Froch paws with his (prompting HBO’s Harold Lederman to wonder if he hurt his left hand). Kessler only lets his power shots come in spots. Froch is able to block those punches easier than he did in earlier rounds. (Froch’s round)
ROUND 11: Froch backs Kessler to the ropes briefly. They trade jabs in center ring. Kessler slapping more with his hook, but he’s still landing it. Kessler lands a one-two to the body, letting Froch know that he’s still in this fight. Kessler is able to land clean jabs and rights to Froch’s chest, which set up huge right hands to the head that wobble crowd favorite. Kessler has his best round so far. But Froch battles back in the final seconds. (Kessler’s round)
ROUND 12: Froch takes the action to Kessler, who lands overhand rights and one-two combinations. Froch is busy when in close. Kessler seems to be firing the harder punches, but both men swing for the fences. Froch keeps pressing, even though he doesn’t land many clean shots, and manages to pin Kessler in a corner a few seconds before the final bell. (Kessler’s round)
RingTV.com scorcard: seven rounds to five, or 115-113, for Froch.
The official judges scored it 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113 for Froch, who earns a revenge rematch victory.
Photo: Scott Heavey-Getty Images