Carl Froch waited three years to avenge his first career loss. He had to walk through hell to get there, but his willingness to do so was the key factor in topping Mikkel Kessler in Saturday's rematch at O2 Arena in London, England.
Scores of 115-113, 116-112 and a bit-too-wide 118-110 helped even the score in their rivalry, making Froch a unified super middleweight titlist in the process.
Both fighters have now made their way to the ring. Froch entered to a raucous applause, to the backdrop of Guns N' Roses' all-time classic 'Welcome to the Jungle.' The visiting Kessler was met with a deafening chorus of boos, but bore the look of an assassin as he strolled to the ring.
The crowd roared anytime Froch landed a punch or came close to it. A right hand towards the end of the round had Kessler briefly wobbled and the crowd on its feet. However, the sequence came after missing at least five previous punches and too deep into a round controlled by Kessler's more effective punching.
Body shots turned the tide in round two, as Froch managed to legitimately hurt Kessler for the first time in the fight with a hook downstairs followed by a right hand to the chin. Kessler responded with rabbit punches shortly after initiating a clinch, drawing a warning from the referee. The sequence gave the already supremely confident Froch even more swagger, pumping his jab in hopes of scoring another big right hand.
Kessler enjoyed body shot success of his own in round for, but didn't seem to phase Froch in the slightest. The house favorite appeared to walk through everything his opponent had to offer, shaking off the body shots and coming back with right hands upstairs.
The bloodthirsty crowd voiced its displeasure in the early moments of round four, fought at a casual pace as both fighters attempted to regroup. The jeers turned to cheers when Froch picked up the pace, taking advantage of Kessler's modest workrate by getting off first, if not always landing. A left uppercut upstairs had Kessler off balance, but the Dane came back to score with a left and right to the body.
Kessler enjoyed his best round to this point of the fight in round five. The highlight of the round came early, when a right hand froze Froch in his tracks, momentarily silencing the partisan crowd. Froch braved the shot and valiantly fought back towards the second half of the frame, throwing more punches but not landing anything of consequence.
Froch continued to show off his world class chin, taking a vicious left hook clean early in the sixth and acted as if it never happened. The evidence was on his face, however, as swelling developed under his left eye. The brash Brit stormed back, scoring with a left and later on with a pair of right hands.
A Round of the Year contender emerged in a savagely paced seventh, which saw both fighters land a combined 43 punches. The more damaging blows were landed by Froch, who had Kessler hurt with right hands, causing his prior conqueror to pitch forward and headbutt his way out of trouble. Kessler came roaring back, with both fighters testing each other's manhood throughout the round.
The action spilled over into a back-and-forth eighth round. Each fighter hurt the other early on, but the back half of the round saw Froch will himself into the lead. Kessler continued with a steady diet of right hands, but was almost always met with or topped by vicious incoming from Froch.
Froch may have put Kessler into the point of no return in round nine, continuing to walk through fire to deliver debilitating bombs. The round was the first clear frame for either fighter since the midway point, which wasn't good news for the visitor.
Despite the numbers going against him, Kessler never stopped battling. Right hand shots scored for the multi-time super middleweight titlist, still not phasing Froch but for the first time in the fight also not immediately countered.
The championship rounds saw a version of Kessler perhaps sensing a knockout was necessary in order to prevail. Consecutive right hands visibily shook Froch - a rare sight - but not enough to stop the determined Brit from charging forward. The 11th round was by far Kessler's best of the fight, but not enough to atone for the earlier deficit.
Little commentary was necessary for a 12th and final round that truly saw both fighters let it all hang out. Froch plowed forward, hands by his waist winging power shots from all angles. Kessler threw and landed right hands when openings presented itself, but not enough to take the round or the fight.
Froch improves to 31-2 (22KO) with the win, his third straight since taking 2nd place in the Super Six tournament.
Kessler - who hinted before the fight that he would ponder retirement with a loss - ends a four-fight win streak as he falls to 46-3 (35KO).
The bout aired live on HBO, with replays to come Saturday evening at 10:00PM ET/PT and again Sunday morning at 9:30AM ET/PT.
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: