Froch vs Kessler II: Warriors Call Fight Night Preview

forch kesslerESPN ringside reporter Chris Lloyd on tonight€™s rematch, what Froch can learn from Calzaghe and what to expect from fight night at the O2 Arena. 18,000 seats sold out in less than 4 hours, two world championship belts on the line. Tonight, another incredible piece of boxing history. But great fights are won neither on history nor statistics. They are a snapshot in time - a moment where great fighters are made and broken - replayed over and over so much that we convince ourselves they lasted longer than the instance at which they took place. For Carl Froch, the memory of his first loss at the hands of Mikkel Kessler 3 years ago was a brief moment in time that he has had on mental replay ever since. The media dissection of those brutal 12 rounds in Herning back in 2010 - the analysis, the interviews and the questions put to the man they call the Cobra - are all too ready a reminder of a night that try as he might, he cannot forget. For those outside the ring when the bell sounds, it is an important reminder that this fleeting spectacle put on for the greater good of entertainment is - for the two men inside the ropes - a window of opportunity grafted towards with the highest levels of dedication and sacrifice; Although over in less than an hour, it will live long in sporting memory. Far removed from the two boys who grew from unremarkable beginnings in Nottingham and Copenhagen, Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler now stand as men and superstars of their sport; the final hurdle in each other€™s path in this epic boxing saga. Both men know that it is these moments that they will be remembered by; their future legacy. For all his accolades, IBF and 3 time world champion Carl Froch still considers his own legacy un-fulfilled. Currently In the midst of a staggering 10th successive world title fight, one would forgive him for hanging his gloves up right here and now. But with that night in Herning still restlessly etched on the conscience of the Cobra, tonight is not just a chance to put right his wrongs and become a 4 time world champion, but a chance for closure in the sweetest form the sport has to offer: Revenge. But what lessons might Froch have learned in defeat to the Viking Warrior from across the water and how might they shape his performance tonight? Looking back at the first fight, Froch began unusually well given his €˜slow starter€™ reputation, establishing the jab and giving himself space to work. Ever the aggressor, Mikkel Kessler rarely goes into reverse or indeed shows any evidence that he even knows where it is on his boxing gear stick. In even the toughest of contests, his refusal to relinquish the centre of the ring is impressive and although it is no secret that he is half the fighter on the back foot than he is on the front, getting him there is a task unto itself. Of his 46 professional fights, the Dane€™s two career losses have come against undefeated fighters. The first was against two weight world champion Joe Calzaghe in 2007 and for Froch, there are as many tactical lessons to be learned from Calzaghe€™s victory as there are from his own defeat. The first factor in victory for Calzaghe came by virtue of upsetting Kessler€™s rhythm; the key was the dictation of the pace via a high tempo and sheer volume of punches. Over 12 rounds the Welshman threw over 1000 shots - nearly double Froch€™s numbers in their respective encounters. The effect this had was two-fold. Firstly, it acted to offset Kessler€™s thinking and neutralise his instinct to walk forward, placing him out of his comfort zone and forcing him to react to Calzaghe€™s initiative. This is something that Froch failed to do in his first meeting with Kessler and although Froch didn€™t get off to a bad start, it was Kessler who commanded the centre of the ring from the bell. He achieved this by feinting the jab, forcing Froch onto the back foot and letting combinations in threes and fours. This left Froch off balance, throwing wild hooks whilst already leaning back which took the sting and timing out of his counters. The key difference for Kessler in both fights is that against Froch, he was allowed to act rather being forced to react. Secondly, by throwing such a high volume of punches against Kessler, Calzaghe was not only able to catch the judge€™s attention, but by proxy reduce the number of punches coming back his way; he was quite literally beating Kessler to the punch. Looking at the post fight statistics, Kessler threw 180 fewer shots against Calzaghe than against Froch but he had a significantly higher percentage success rate of shots thrown-to-landed against the Welshman (30% to 19%). Ostensibly what these numbers tell us is that Froch was harder to hit, but in fact it is more likely that because Calzaghe committed himself to throwing double the volume (at the calculated risk of being hit himself) he upset Kessler€™s natural tempo and actively reduced the number of punches that came back at him. This exposed a weakness of Kessler, in that when he dictates the pace of a fight he finds it easier to control, when he is taken out of his comfort zone and forced to fight faster than he would like, he has far more difficulty in dictating the proceedings. Froch must therefore be busier and more positive tonight, letting combinations go behind a jab that he established quite well in the first fight, but did not follow up on regularly enough. The manner in which he changed up through the gears against Lucien Bute last year was exemplary of the desire and willingness that he must show against Kessler tonight. Calzaghe Kessler 1 The second most obvious flaw in Froch€™s first display against Kessler was his footwork. The tale of the tape shows that Froch has a 3 inch reach advantage over his Danish counterpart, although anyone watching would be forgiven for thinking it was the other way around. While Kessler moved in and out of range with comparative ease, Froch was often left reaching with his hooks and right hand leads, meaning that when he did land he was off balance. Even worse, when he missed, he left his head within punching range but his feet outside, the result being that his centre of gravity was too far forward and he was susceptible to some sharp right hand counters. To solve this problem, Froch must get his feet within range before throwing. He needs to use the jab to measure the range and set up his combinations, get his feet within punching distance, then once he has thrown, move off to the left or right. All too often in the last fight he was caught admiring his own work, landing a good shot and then holding his feet, only to be caught with a counter as a result. When he did move out of punching range, the movement was too linear, causing his head and chin to lift up. By moving laterally rather than directly backwards, Froch will limit the likelihood of his chin lifting and being exposed to the left hook that Kessler put Allan Green away with in his last fight. Froch is particularly vulnerable to Kessler€™s right hand when throwing the jab, which he tends to throw from the hip. The upside of this is that the jab is harder to read, so if he can consistently beat Kessler to the punch and work his own combinations behind it then he will be winning rounds. However game plans don€™t always pan out exactly as envisaged and Froch needs to circle to his right more than he did in the previous encounter to limit the chances of coming into contact with the counter right hand over the top of his jab tonight. Kessler€™s last three fights have been against below par opposition; an ageing Brian Magee who had always fallen short at the top level (losing to Froch in 2006, Bute in 2011), Allan Green, who whilst notable at light Heavyweight is a league or two below the top crop, and Mehdi Bouadla, the Frenchman who€™s 28-5 record speaks for itself. It isn€™t to say that Kessler hasn€™t dispatched the trio with relative ease, but he was put on the canvas by Green in round 1 of their meeting in May last year and the feeling is that he has not fought anyone at Froch€™s level since the two last met. Back then he encapsulated his Viking Warrior name tag, breaking the seemingly unbreakable will of Britain€™s toughest old school fighter - it was 12 rounds that regardless of tonight€™s outcome, neither man will forget. Yet for all that happened inside the ropes in the first encounter, circumstances in the build up outside the ropes played a big part toward the result. A national sporting hero fighting on home soil in front of a 10,000 strong partisan crowd at the Messecenter was exactly the homecoming that Mikkel Kessler needed following the loss of his WBA title to Andre Ward in California just 6 months earlier. At the press conference this week, Michael Buffer went on record in saying that British fans are the best and most loyal anywhere in the world: €˜I€™ve been privileged to call some great fighters from Frank Bruno, Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and wherever they fight the British fans flocked in their thousands, it€™s magnificent to behold€™. Unfortunately for the Sherriff of Nottingham, his travelling band of merry men were inhibited by the bad timing of a volcanic ash cloud that rained on the parades of every airline in Europe. Such a point was reached where Carl Froch and much of the British public thought the fight had been cancelled, €˜I mentally switched off for an entire day€™, Froch told the O2 arena press conference earlier this week, €˜It was impossible to switch back on again and it cost me on the night.€™ Arriving off a turbulent chartered plane flight with his wife Rachel 9 months pregnant and almost no travelling fans to greet him, it was first blood to Kessler before the fight had even begun. One nil to Denmark in the home leg then, but their talisman has not strayed outside the borders of his hometown to box since that victory and nothing will prepare him for what he will be met with tonight; 18,000 British fans and a wall of sound unlike any he will have felt before, British hospitality at its absolute finest. Robert McCracken MBE, Froch€™s trainer and head of GB Boxing in Sheffield, told the press conference this week: €˜Since their last meeting in 2010, Carl has been fighting in the premier league and Mikkel has been in division two€™. Kessler€™s inactivity and substandard meetings must not be overlooked as him being €˜over the hill€™ so to speak, but they pale in stark polarity to Froch€™s impressive CV since 2010. Having taken the WBC title from Arthur Abraham just months following his loss to Kessler, he then went the full distance with pound for pound king Andre Ward and required a total of 8 rounds to steamroll Yusaf Mack and IBF World champion Lucien Bute in his last two fights; proof for all to see that whether or not Kessler is still the fighter he was in 2010, Carl Froch is most definitely on the up. But for all it is worth, it would be foolish to write off a man of Kessler€™s calibre. He holds a victory over the hometown man and even in defeat shows that he is the most durable of opposition. Whatever the circumstances in his last win over Froch, a great deal has changed since then and for boxing fans this has all the ingredients to be one of the best fights of the modern era. It has been a refreshing change amidst the petty trash talk of the Broner's, Malignaggi€™s, Haye€™s and Chisora€™s that for once we see two men with a quiet and respectful resolve, all born of the last 12 rounds they spent in a ring with each other. Their rivalry is fast becoming a modern throwback to the Graziano/Zale days of €˜stand your ground and trade€™ boxing that so brutally coined this sport as the hurt business. If one thing is assured this Saturday night it is that Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler will leave nothing to chance in upholding the sports reputation as it should be; expect an electric and brutal war from first bell to last. These are two men who know how to do nothing better and when all is said and done, it could simply come down to who wants it more. Tonight, for my money, that will be Carl Froch. Prediction: Froch to win via late stoppage in the Championship rounds. Watch Froch vs Kessler II: Warriors Call tonight 9pm, Sky Box Office HD Follow Chris Lloyd on Twitter @ChrisLloydTV
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Chris Lloyd is a Sports TV Presenter/Journalist. His showreel can be viewed here: