Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler last fought over 3 years ago. It was a thrilling 12 round affair that could have gone either way. Kessler might not have got it in the UK, and I don't suspect he'll get it there now, but I agreed with the result the first time around.
This time I doubt Kessler is going for a decision.
Based on his words leading up to this fight and his recent performances, Kessler is more of a puncher these days. And if Froch has the same defensive deficiencies he had in the 1st fight, he's going to get knocked out. Kessler might visit the canvas himself along the way, ala the Alan Green fight, but I think he gets up to return the favor even more emphatically. Froch's awkard style is a difficult puzzle to solve the first time you've ever experienced it. His glaring weaknesses just aren't so easy to capitalize upon. But this is going to be the first time a Froch opponent has had the benefit of being in the ring with him before. Experience helps. How else do you explain a diminished Marco Antonio Barrera doing better against an improved Manny Pacquiao in their 2007 rematch?
But forget all that. I can rationalize any prediction using history as my aid. Just about every kind of scenario has happened before. This is just a gut feeling I have. If the fight goes into the late rounds I think each boxer will be too fatigued to stop the other. They're both in their mid-30s and they've had tough careers. As stated before I will favor Froch to win a decision (even if I don' think he deserves it). But my first pick is for Kessler to win by mid rounds KO/TKO. I suspect the overhand right will be Froch's undoing. Kessler by KO7.
The one red flag that I see for Carl Froch in this fight is Mikkel Kessler's injury issues, which seem to me to have made him into a much more aggressive fighter than he used to be. Kessler has aged some, but he still packs a hell of a punch, as Bouadla, Green, and Magee can all attest. Froch has an iron chin, but even the toughest guys can be stopped if they get hit hard enough, and Kessler hits hard enough.
That said, unless Froch gets caught in the first half, maybe eight rounds of the fight, I don't see Kessler being quite enough to overcome (1) Froch's improvements, (2) Froch's hometown advantage, and (3) his own inactivity over the last three years. Kessler, if he wins, will stop Froch. Froch can win a number of ways, and I think he has the likely edge on the scorecards even now. Smart money is on Froch to win over 12 in another very good fight, sealing it down the stretch against a tired Kessler. Froch by decision.
I scored the first fight wider for Kessler than most - while obviously not an easy win, for me it was the very definition of the old 'close, but clear'-type decision. Without going as far as to question the judges, needless to say he'll find it harder to put rounds in the bank here, on the road and in front of a five-figure, red-hot partisan UK crowd.
Much has been said of Froch's hot streak - that lopsided loss to Andre Ward not withstanding - but it's worth remembering that an inevitable early blowout win against an overmatched and fragile Yusaf Mack holds, for me, considerably less merit than a stoppage over a fringe world contender like Brian Magee, and was roughly equivalent to a similarly early stoppage over Allan Green. The way in which Green got to Kessler early has many rightly questioning whether we'll see Bute Part II here.
As closely matched as the two are in physical terms - and, to a large extent, on paper - it seems both difficult and blindingly obvious to see how Kessler wins this return leg: in short, he needs a knockout. Unfortunately for him, Froch has one of the best chins in the game and is as tough as anyone currently fighting. Simply, he doesn't look like a guy who's about to be stopped by anyone soon.
The Dane's best option would appear to be to utilise the body attack that served him so well against Magee, but blazing through the solid, but limited, Irishman, and whatever was left (or indeed, ever there) of Green is a different sort of ask to this altogether. Froch is as fired up for this bout as I can remember a fighter being in recent months, and providing he approaches it with enough discipline as to not throw the gameplan out of the window early, it's hard to see him not grinding this out in a fight that might just rival the first for excitement. Froch by UD.
I can see this being a chess match, a very technical contest with neither man throwing many punches, which will make it quite boring for the fans. Only kidding, they're going to thump lumps out of each other for twelve rounds or until one of them drops. The fans definitely won't be going home disappointed.
The fight should be very similar to the first, both might try to box a bit more early on but eventually they will stand toe-to-toe and start whacking each other senseless. The biggest difference between the first fight and this one is that I believe Froch has improved slightly and Kessler has deteriorated a little. Don't get me wrong, Kessler is still a top class fighter and still possesses the power to hurt Froch, it's just that he's had injury problems and hasn't been the most active fighter in the past three years. Nor has he been in with a top class fighter since his first meeting with Froch.
Froch looks to be in the best form of his career. He's turned in a number of impressive performances recently, dominating fights against Abraham, Johnson, Bute and Mack. He lost to Andre Ward but there's no disgrace in that, Ward's movement and speed will always give fighters like Froch problems.
In fact, Kessler's own fight with Ward says a lot about the similarities between himself and Froch. Both struggle with speedy opponents but both have solid chins, big punch power, plenty of heart and are willing to have a war. When two boxers of similar ability meet, it can often come down to who's the fresher and who wants it the most. Whilst both men want to win desperately, it's Froch who is the fresher of the two, and that makes me lean towards him in what is a 50-50 fight. Froch on points in a thriller.
Final Tally: Carl Froch 3, Mikkel Kessler 1.