By Jake Donovan
Carl Froch entered the O2 Arena main floor to the backdrop of Guns N’ Roses all-time classic ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ blaring over the PA system, a suggestion of intimidation towards Kessler fighting on the road. A more fitting setting would have been both fighters walking barefoot over hot coals into the ring, as both went through hell in Saturday’s rematch.
The contest was ultimately won by Froch via unanimous decision, winning by scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110. The feat avenged his first career defeat which took place in Kessler’s native Denmark more than three years ago.
To the casual viewer, the biggest difference in the fight was Froch’s ability to walk through Kessler’s best punches while his own power shots altered the Dane’s fight plan throughout the night.
In Froch’s view, the biggest difference was his three-year realization of the role he was born to play.
“The main difference was in the first fight, I was backing off and letting him dictate the pace,” Froch admitted of his demeanor in their first meet. “I let him push me off and was meeting him.”
Froch has come a long way since then; his resume since 2008 is the strongest among anyone in the sport over that same period. The high level of competition has taught the three-time super middleweight titlist to truly rise to the occasion, though also realizing that everyone else is swinging for his own crown.
That knowledge prompted changes in training camp, some of which was admittedly inspired by his other conqueror.
“I think my workrate and my range,” Froch said of the most significant changes between their first fight and Saturday’s HBO-televised rematch. “I was using my jab a lot. I actually watched ... dare I say, Andre Ward against Mikkel Kessler yesterday and today to see how he worked the jab (Ward defeated Kessler in Nov. ’09 and Froch in Dec. ’11). I watched how busy he was with it, how he was sneaking it and stepping in and closing the range. It was smothering the counterpunching chances for Mikkel Kessler.
“I worked on that a little bit. I give Andre Ward all of the credit. I worked on that and the right hand, landing it and stepping over a little bit. Mikkel is very good at the counter punch. So, I was trying to be fast and light rather than single punch and heavy. I think the workrate and my footwork was better tonight.”
There were several rounds that can contend for year-end honors come awards season. Both fighters took each other’s best punches all night, with neither fighter hitting the deck. Kessler was forced to clinch on the occasions in which he was shook, while Froch acted as if he was never touched all night.
Perhaps that’s because he wasn’t tagged as often as the action suggested to the naked eye.
“Was I actually taking the punches on the jaw or was I catching them,” Froch sincerely asked HBO’s Max Kellerman during their post-fight interview. “It didn’t feel like I was taking them in there. I took a couple but I felt like I was blocking a lot of the shots and countered them back.”
Froch was tagged plenty in the first fight, which came during Stage Two of the Super Six World Boxing Classic. The Brit still managed to go all the way to the tournament finals before coming up short against Ward. While a potential sequel to that fight is on the table, Froch accurately summed up how this particular rematch went down.
“I was discouraging him and putting him on his back foot. I got hit with too many punches (then) and Kessler got hit with too many punches (tonight). That was the big difference.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox