By Jake Donovan
Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler could have easily waited in line for separate shots at revenge against current lineal super middleweight king Andre Ward. Instead, they pursue a different kind of rematch – against one another.
Terms were reached Tuesday morning for the two super middleweight titlists to clash in a long awaited sequel to their April 2010 thriller. Full details will be released at a forthcoming press conference, other than it will take place this spring in Britain.
“First and foremost, I'm really pleased the fight has finally been arranged,” said Froch (30-2, 22KO). “I feared that Kessler had second thoughts about his promise - but the man has come good on his word. Our first fight was pure warfare. We went at each other for every minute of every round and the rematch promises to be even more fiercely contested.”
Their first fight – arguably the most thrilling of the entire Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic – took place in Denmark. Kessler won a well-deserved decision, but was forced to take a lengthy leave of absence due to injuries sustained prior to and further aggravated during the contest.
Both fighters have expressed varying interest in doing it again. Froch has been more adamant about the return go, which is natural considering that he lost. Kessler was more interested in avenging a past loss to Ward, who defeated the Dane in the opening round of the Super Six and went on to beat Froch in the Dec. ’11 finals.
Ward has only fought once since then, a one-sided drubbing of Chad Dawson. While Kessler and Froch are both anxious to get another swing at the divisional king, they are content with once again facing each other in the meantime.
“I promised Carl we would meet again and here we are, getting ready to leave it all in the ring for a second time,” said Kessler (46-2, 35KO). “I have the utmost of respect for Carl, I feel we are very much alike. He is a great champion, a true warrior that has fought the best opponents all over the world in some of the most hostile places, just like me.
“Our first fight, especially the last round, showed what we are all about. Let’s do it again.”
Alphabet glory has been achieved by both fighters in the wake of the Super Six tournament. Froch scored a monstrous 5th round stoppage over previously unbeaten Lucian Bute last May - a fight that will have been exactly 52 weeks by the time the rematch with Kessler rolls around, should plans for the proposed May 25 date remain uninterrupted.
Kessler’s journey towards becoming a four-time alphabet titlist has been far less glamorous. Only three fights – and wins – have come since his first dance with Froch three years ago. The Dane is coming off of a 3rd round knockout win over Brian Magee last December to claim a belt, his fifth overall spanning four separate title reigns.
Both losses on Kessler's ledger have come against fighters who went on to claim lineal world championship status. His first reign lasted three years before losing a decision and two belts to Joe Calzaghe in Nov. '07.
Kessler went on to pick up a vacant belt in his next fight, but lost it three fights later in a decisive points loss to Ward in the opening round of the Super Six tournament. He then topped Froch to hand the Brit his first loss as well as take his title, though was forced to vacate in the wake of dropping out of the Super Six tournament.
Froch was given the belt back one fight later, scoring a dominant decision win over Arthur Abraham before conceding the title to Ward in their Super Six finals one year later. Last year's win over Bute made Froch a three-time titlist.
Whether or not the fight will serve as a unification bout will depend on the cooperation of the sanctioning bodies. Froch was mandated to face Adonis Stevenson, a bout for which a purse bid was supposed to be held today at the IBF’s headquarters in New Jersey.
The announcement of the fight with Kessler now comes with a bit of waiting, as the IBF will decide whether to grant Froch an exemption or force the Brit to vacate.
Unification bouts are considered a viable exception to mandatory obligations. However, Froch already took an optional defense – a 3rd round knockout of fringe contender Yusaf Mack last November – to further muddy the alphabet waters.
Froch’s team filed for an exemption, but is prepared for the fact that they will be beltless by the time the rematch rolls around. Should the IBF deny the request, Stevenson will be in line to fight for the vacant title against the next highest rated contender.
Such a move was anticipated all along. Froch, 35, has repeatedly stated his desire for a future filled with rematches – Kessler, Bute and Ward, though not necessarily in that order. It was known that at least one of those fights – if not all – would come without a belt around his waist, win or lose.
Some fights are simply bigger than the hardware at stake.
“This is one for the ages,” said Froch's promoter Eddie Hearn. ”My hat goes off to both men for putting everything on the line here in what can only be an epic battle. Too many super fights fall by the wayside so to make (the rematch) is a dream come true.
“(The first fight) was a barnburner but I really feel Carl is a different fighter now, especially in the UK. These are the kinds of fights and nights that can cement the legacy of Carl Froch and no one deserves it more. We know what to expect from both men and either way it's going to be brutal.”
Kessler’s handlers are in full agreement of the magnitude of the forthcoming event.
“Kessler vs. Froch I was an instant classic, the best fight ever on Danish soil – Kessler vs. Froch II will be even better,” said Kessler's promoter Kalle Sauerland. ”Mikkel and Carl are two all-time greats, two future hall-of-famers and they will leave it all in the ring once again.
“We have worked non-stop since Mikkel´s victory over Brian Magee to make this fight happen and give the boxing fans in Denmark, Britain and all over the world what they want to see – a mega-fight that will go down in boxing history.”
While the two sides naturally disagree on the projected outcome, both warn the other to expect a better version of the fight each faced in their first contest.
"If Mikkel thinks he saw the best of me in Denmark then he is in for a rude awakening,” insists Froch, who has won four of five bouts following the road trip to Denmark. “I give him the utmost respect that he has the guts to board that plane and come collect a serious whooping at the hands of the Cobra - let's bring it on!”
Kessler’s declaration for victory isn’t as boisterous, though drives home the same point.
“Since that first fight, I have become even stronger,” says Kessler. “I am fresh, I am healthy and I am ready to defeat him once again. I don’t care where we fight, I said anytime, anywhere! I plan to make my loyal Viking fans, as well as everybody else in Denmark, very proud once again. I am ready for war!”
Perhaps the truest statement made by either fighter is what the fight itself means to the sport.
“I seriously wish I was ringside myself for this fight,” Froch suggests. “[B]ecause I'm gunning for revenge at all costs and the fight fans are in for a real treat.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox