By Keith Idec
Mikkel Kessler’s experience in extremely hostile territory has left him completely calm as his rematch against Carl Froch approaches.
The super middleweight champion from Denmark has fought Wales’ Joe Calzaghe before 55,000 fans in Cardiff and boxed Australia’s Anthony Mundine in front of a crowd that exceeded 33,000 in Sydney. Thus the 18,000 mostly pro-Froch fans he’ll encounter Saturday night at O2 Arena in London won’t intimidate him at all.
“I have tried it before and I know what I’m going into,” Kessler said. “I know I’m going into a huge crowd and a great O2 Arena. And you know what? I’ve got to just be cool and do as I’m used to doing.”
Kessler (46-2, 35 KOs) expects the crowd to be loud early in their 12-round rematch, but he knows he’ll have some supporters who’ll make the trip from Denmark.
“I don’t feel the pressure and I know I have a lot of fans … enough of my fans coming to England,” Kessler said. “So, you know, it doesn’t matter that much, of course. In the first couple rounds you’ve got to shake it off, and then I’ll be more ready.”
After losing their first fight on Kessler’s turf, Froch (30-2, 22 KOs) is looking forward to boxing before the biggest crowd of his career. His dominant victory over Canada’s Lucian Bute nearly a year ago in his hometown taught the Nottingham, England, native the value of a partisan crowd’s support, but Froch has been careful not to let the site of this fight affect him mentally as he has prepared for it.
“I think the mindset needs to be the same,” said Froch, who lost a unanimous decision to Kessler three years ago in Herning, Denmark. “I think being at home or being away from home affects you. If you’re away from home it can affect you a little bit negatively. And being at home affects you in a positive way, because you’re rewarded for the work you do [in the ring].
“So I think the home-crowd advantage in boxing is an advantage. And I’m going to relish in that and take that, you know, [as] a positive on the night, because when I’m letting my shots go and landing, and backing him up, the crowd will be erupting and going crazy, as opposed to hearing a pin drop.”
HBO will televise the Froch-Kessler rematch live at 6 p.m. ET. A replay will air at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.