By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY — Andre Ward would rather meet Mikkel Kessler again than fight Lucian Bute. Or so Ward said when the negotiating unofficially began late Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall.
“I’m going to be real about it,” Ward said following his masterful performance against Carl Froch. “It wasn’t time to talk about it before this tournament was over, but we’ve been in the boxing game a long time. And no disrespect to Bute and his team, but what they’ve done is they sat back and they’ve fought B-level and C-level guys, and he’s done what he’s supposed to do — he got them out of there. But he’s just sitting back, waiting, while we’ve been fighting for the past 2½ years against top-level competition.
“So I don’t have to go to Lucian Bute right now. We’re going to sit back as a team. I’m going to rest and we’re going to see what’s next. I’m open for a Kessler clash. I would love to get that rematch, to settle that score, since he feels it wasn’t a legitimate victory. He’s an option.”
Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) soundly defeated Denmark’s Kessler (44-2, 33 KOs), who was one of the favorites to win Showtime’s “Super Six World Boxing Classic,” in the first fight of the tournament for both boxers. Kessler complained after that 11-round technical decision loss that Ward intentionally head-butted him throughout that bout. Clashes of their heads, all ruled accidental by referee Jack Reiss, are believed to have caused the four cuts around Kessler’s eyes that eventually caused that November 2009 bout to be stopped during the 11th round in Oakland, Calif.
Before he can consider a rematch with Ward, Kessler must first defeat Russian Robert Stieglitz (40-2, 23 KOs) in a 12-round fight for Stieglitz’s WBO super middleweight title April 14 in Copenhagen. Based on Kessler’s schedule, Ward wouldn’t be able to return to the ring until sometime in the summer if he fights Kessler next.
Froch (28-2, 20 KOs), who also wants an opportunity to avenge his unanimous decision defeat to Kessler, thinks a Ward-Kessler rematch would unfold different than their first fight.
“[Kessler] flew out to Oakland a couple of weeks before the fight, maybe took him lightly,” Froch said. “I don’t think he performed to the best of his ability in that fight. So I think Kessler can come again and maybe cause an upset in that fight.”
When asked which of the two men who’ve beaten him is better, Froch offered a diplomatic answer.
“I think they’re both great fighters,” Froch said. “They’re both different fighters. Styles make fights. Kessler’s very, very tough and raw and strong and experienced. Andre’s very slick, he moves well, he’s very good defensively. He’s got more technical proficiency than what I gave him credit for looking at it before the fight. I thought I was going to be able to nail him a little bit easier than what I could. I couldn’t quite catch him.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.