After months of fights of questionable significance or total mismatches between Floyd Mayweather and [opponent TBA], we finally get a real gem this afternoon (6:00 p.m. EST, 3:00 PST, HBO): the long-awaited rematch between super middleweight kingpin Carl Froch and guy-who-looks-like-he-should-be-dating-every-one-of-Jesse-James's-exes-other-than-Sandara-Bullock, Mikkel Kessler, the man who handed Froch his first loss in a competitive and brutal war in 2010.
The first decision was close and controversial. I scored it for Kessler, but barely. But, since then, Kessler has slowly transformed into the Nick Johnson of professional boxing, while Froch has run roughshod over all competition not named Andre Ward. If Kessler had the edge on form in the first matchup, Froch surely has it now. Put it all together, and while Froch is rightfully the favorite, Kessler is certainly a very live underdog.
The style matchup is also perfect: Kessler is a very conventional fighter, whereas Froch, with his hands dangling disinterestedly at his waist, looks like he learned to fight from the bare knuckler brawlers of the 19th century, or perhaps a chimpanzee. Both men have excellent power but neither has the sort of one punch knockout power that can end a fight prematurely. Both men have heart, good chins, and excellent stamina. This fight promises to not only be action packed but to deliver us that high energy excitement over all of its 36 minutes.
Froch has been one of the more surprising stories in boxing for the last few years. He broke out to the US radar screen by brutally knocking out the brutally-knockoutable Jermain Taylor in 2009, in a fight in which he'd looked amateurish at times and trailed Taylor on most cards. But, as he maneuvered through Showtime's Super Six tournament for the top 168 pounders, something amazing happened: Froch transformed himself from an English pub brawler into a truly fine boxer - a guy who could control the pace of fights with his jab and make his opponents miss. Although, like everyone else on the planet, he was hopelessly outclassed by superhuman Andre Ward, Froch rebounded strongly by knocking out the highly regarded undefeated champion, Lucien Bute in only five rounds. Froch enters this fight truly atop his game.
Oh, and then there's the small matter of Rachael. Oh, Rachael Cordingley. Rachael. Rachael. Rachael. Froch's exquisite life partner is both the most beautiful and audible woman in boxing by a substantial margin.
Surely, HBO will do the right thing and provide us ample footage (and minimal audio) of this truly magnificent and condor-voiced lady throughout the fight, which will make watching worthwhile even if Froch and Kessler decide to settle matters by playing a good game of checkers. On a serious note, in a world full of stories about the bitter divorces, serial infidelities, and professional groupies that follow athletes, it's great to see a couple so genuinely devoted to one another.
Sorry, are you still reading this? Wow. Okay, well, then I should probably say something about Kessler. Kessler is one of those Ivan Drago looking types whose physique makes him look like a much bigger puncher than he actually is. The truth is that while Kessler may not be as fearsome as he looks, he is far more clever and well-schooled than you might expect. Unfortunately for Kessler, he made the same mistake a number of other young, talented fighters made: he fought Joe Calzaghe. "Wait, what?" you're asking yourself, "Calzaghe's punch couldn't break glass." Maybe, but remember that boxing is still 80% mental, and few fighters are as permanently devastating to an opponent's psyche as Calzaghe was. Deceptively hard to hit and able to land punches in bunches from every possible (and a few impossible) angles, Calzaghe ruins his opponents' confidence in a way other men simply cannot. Besides the injuries that have hobbled his career, Kessler has never looked quite as sure of himself in the ring as he did in the lead up to his showdown with Joe. Will tonight be the night the old Mikkel Kessler shows up again? If it is, even the best version of Carl Froch may find himself in big trouble.
Tune in today for action. Tune in today for excitement. Tune in for blood and guts and tears and glory and everything else that makes boxing great. Or, screw all that, and tune in for Rachael.
Prediction: Froch, by Unanimous Decision