by Cliff Rold

Sometimes, rematches disappoint.  Saturday wasn’t one of those times.  While the wild abandon of the first fight seemed to take a little longer to break out, Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler closed what had been a grueling show with a final two rounds for the memory banks. 

They’re all tied up with the final championship of each other begging to be resolved.  Will we see a Froch-Kessler rubbermatch? 

And where does the World Champion at Super Middleweight, Andre Ward, factor in?

Let’s go to the report card.


Pre-Fight: Speed – Froch B; Kessler B/Post: Same

Pre-Fight: Power – Froch B+; Kessler B+/Post: Same

Pre-Fight: Defense – Froch B; Kessler B/Post: Same

Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Froch A; Kessler A/Post: Same

It’s rare a fight doesn’t see at least one grade change, but this was the sort of fight where we knew who the fighters were before they entered the ring.  That’s a good thing and a case where living up to expectations also allowed room to exceed them.  In this fight, Froch did a great job of going downhill and keeping the heat on Kessler in the first half.  Kessler didn’t begin to adjust until around the fourth and was always trying to come from behind.  It was a close fight again, but the winner was clearly Froch without Kessler looking like a beaten man. 

Defeated, yes, but neither man has yet really beaten the other.  

Each man had a tremendous gut check moment to make the evening complete.  In the eleventh, Froch was clearly buzzed and looked in trouble.  He dug deep and found a salvo before the bell to fight back from the edge.  In the final round, with the referee appearing ready to jump in as Kessler reeled into the corner, the Dane found whatever he had left to keep his feet and salvage a career without a stoppage loss.

Before getting to the victor, a tip of the cap is in order for Kessler.  So much is said about the grit of Froch.  It’s fair.  What has been unfair is to not fully recognize how tough Kessler has proved over the years.  He’s battled through a ton of injuries to stay viable near the top of the class for a decade.  When he’s been in tough, he’s shown great heart whether it be against Calzaghe, continuing to battle when getting thrashed by Ward, getting off the floor to stop Alan Green, and in now two wars with Froch.

A pro since 1998, Kessler has won multiple titles, almost never been off his feet, and has never quit.  Only three men have been his better.  One, Calzaghe, will likely enter the Hall of Fame on his first eligible ballot next year.  Ward and Froch may be on their way to Canastota as well.  That it takes that level of fighter to beat him speaks volumes. 

That Froch was able to avenge his first defeat does as well.  When you fight the toughest schedule in boxing, and Froch’s last ten fights are easily the toughest schedule of any active fighter over the same period, it’s commendable on face.  When you go 8-2, and avenge one of the losses, it says something special.

Froch isn’t the fastest guy or the prettiest.  What he is, at core, is a fighter.  His chin is ridiculous, proven again as he took shots from Kessler that would have felled many a Super Middleweight.  Froch has grown over the years, sharpened his game, and become one hell of a total package. 

The biggest money in class is a rematch with Ward, but Froch seems to vacillate on how much he wants it.  That’s understandable.  As good as Froch is, Ward appears to just be better.  Ward appears to be better than anyone in a class that has been one of the game’s best divisions in the last few years.  From a sport as competition basis, Ward-Froch II should happen.  From a business or entertainment standpoint, opinions will vary. 

If it can’t happen, Froch-Kessler III makes a ton of sense.  Their first two fights were excellent.  A third would be as well and, from an action standpoint, sounds like the most fun.  If it doesn’t happen right away, Kessler could always be matched with Robert Stieglitz for another belt in class in a fight that has much more intrigue today than when first proposed a while back. 

Being Froch, a Ward rematch would be no surprise and he’d do his best to win.  It’s not like he was shut out the first time.  He won three or four rounds and kept it close on the cards through sheer effort.  Stranger things than a reversal of fortune there have happened. Hopeful George Groves, on the undercard, may be a serious threat within a year if he isn’t already. 

In other words, there are options.  Froch has earned the right to have them and while no longer a younger man, shows no signs that he’s anywhere near done yet.  

Report Card Picks 2013: 20-14

Ratings Update

Light Heavyweight: Tony Bellew and Isaac Chilemba swap spots after Bellew’s rematch victory.

Super Middleweight: No changes as the gap between Ward and Froch/Kessler is as pronounced as the gap between the latter two and the rest of the class.  

Jr. Bantamweight: Felipe Orucuta enters the top ten after a heartbreaker of a decision loss to Omar Narvaez over the weekend.

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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at