By Jake Donovan
The respect between Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch has been evident ever since the two sides agreed to terms for their May 25 rematch at the O2 Arena in London. Plenty of back-and-forth trash talk existed prior to that point, though it all went away once the fight was finalized.
That very level of respect was evident on stage Monday in London, when both fighters and their respective promoters did their part to hype up the fight during a pre-fight press conference.
A lot of the conversation focused on the first fight, which Kessler won by decision in his native Denmark. Many regard the fight as the best of the two-year long Super Six tournament.
Froch views the night as a rare dark spot in an otherwise largely satisfying career.
“It’s difficult to put to words and rationalize what this fight means to me,” said Froch (30-2, 22KO). “Mikkel Kessler is a proud man, a Viking Warrior. This man inflicted my first loss, my first professional defeat. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
“My head still hits the pillow at night and I think about that loss. He took away my world title. He took away what meant everything to me in my career at that time.”
Froch sought the rematch in hopes of closure, looking to reverse one of two career losses. The other, of course, came against Andre Ward in the Super Six finals in Dec. 2011.
Kessler (46-2, 35KO) can empathize with his super middleweight rival.
His first career loss came against Joe Calzaghe on the road in Nov. 2007. From the moment the fight ended, Kessler campaigned for a rematch. Calzaghe showed no interest, instead taking his act on the road to the United States, ending his eventual Hall of Fame career a year later with wins over Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.
Kessler has since won seven of his last eight. Two fights during that stretch have taken place outside of his native Denmark – an Oct. 2008 win knockout win over Danilio Hauser in Germany, and a points loss to Andre Ward in Nov. 2009 in Oakland.
The great Dane is now prepared to once again hit the road, though wanted to make it perfectly clear that the first fight was a clean win and not the product of home cooking.
“I’m ready for this fight, too. I had a hard fight in Denmark. I want him to admit that I won the fight,” Kessler humbly demanded while on stage with his opponent. “I never got the rematch against Calzaghe, so I’m going to give you the rematch. I said to Carl, ‘I’m ready to go to your home country.’ I’m an honorable man.”
Froch agreed with every spoken word, while qualifying his own stance on the first fight.
“He beat me fair and square. We fought in Denmark, and any close round is rightfully going to go his way. I’ve had fights in Nottingham where in close rounds I expected to get them and the decision. It’s the same in any sport.
“Mikkel Kessler is an honorable man. He’s coming back to the UK and that means a lot to me.”
So far, Kessler is enjoying his time in country. The vacation won’t last very long, as the press tour hits Denmark on Tuesday.
All he asks when he eventually returns to the U.K. is that he’s judged on what takes place in the ring and not the reaction from the other side of the ropes.
“Sometimes the judges of the fight – when you get hit, (the hometown fans) cheer with you, so it gives you a little bit more of a hometown advantage,” Kessler acknowledges. “But I’m here to win. I’m not afraid of being here. They’re treating me good. I think we’ll have good judges and a good referee and I’m looking forward to the fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Boxingscene.com Managing Editor, Records Keeper for Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox