In the sport of boxing, fighters will always come across what they believe to be their “biggest fight”; something that causes them to put every ounce of dedication into one training camp, something they can tell their kids about, a bragging right, maybe even a shiny belt to help you get a date, or accompany you as you attend high-stakes boxing matches holding your fist up at a camera.
In any case, I’d like to think that all of these factors (with the biggest exception to Mister Froch for the date capturing) apply in this bout.
On April 24th, 2010, the Showtime “Super Six World Boxing Classic” produced its first, and arguably best war of the entire tournament. Kessler came into the bout hot off of a loss against Andre Ward, a bout that ran to an eleventh round technical decision. Froch, on the other hand, came into the bout with an impressive string of wins against fighters like Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, and Andre Dirrell.
Time and time again throughout the bout, we witnessed two styles that seemed to mesh in a completely aesthetic way. In watching the bout recently, I’ve noticed a few points of interest that may or may not apply to the strategy book of both fighters going into the second bout.
Points of Interest
Before and above all, let’s get one thing out of the way; Froch is an effective awkward fighter, a puzzle. Analysts, strategists, and bloggers could sit at a computer screen all day, identifying what they would refer to as “technical flaws” from Carl Froch, but a completely different story presents itself in the ring when you attempt to implement your master game plan (unless you’re Andre Ward).
Below is an example of what I would refer to as “Froching”: unorthodox movements/techniques demonstrated by Carl Froch in a prizefight.
1) In this still we see Kessler with a high guard raised in anticipation of the “Froch Lunge” that is about to present itself.
2) Carl starts to step into the lunch with his right hand in its ever-low state.
3) Carl Misses-
4) –and finds himself completely off balance, and turned 180 degrees, an opportunity most fighters would jump in and take advantage of.
5) A southpaw stance is grounded, as Carl extends his right hand to discourage a forward movement-
6) –and he spins back into place
One noteworthy element of this still is that it all happens in a span of two seconds.
“Super-committed right hand”
A common occurrence with Carl Froch is the tendency to completely square up when throwing his massive 2-1 combination which I refer to as a “Froch Lunge”. Due to the fact that Froch completely squares up, the shot provides a lot of power, and is troubling for fighters that will walk back in straight lines, but for a fighter that can manage to circle to the left like Kessler (pictured), countering opportunities are available, as Froch is left hesitant in the opposite stance (last frame)
In the early as well as later segments of the first bout, the jab was a continuous dispute. Kessler provided more frequency, but Froch often countered, and landed effectively.
1) Kessler demonstrating his usual high-guard, and Froch; the exact opposite, as they both prepare to jab.
2) Both fighters land, but Froch got the better of the exchange because of his longer reach, and Kessler’s straight-backward movement.
As previously stated, the “Froch-Lunge” describes Carl Froch’s ever-frequent 2-1 combination that is executed in a jumping, or lunging fashion. According to his last couple of outings (particularly against Lucian Bute) this is Carl’s weapon of choice, and a dangerous one at that.
1) Kessler demonstrates a mid-guard in preparation for a mixed assault.
2) Froch feints and Kessler raises his high-guard
3) Kessler retreats back to an identical mid-guard
4) He then catches Froch’s left jab, and-
5) – shoots a quick jab to Froch’s body.
6) Froch telegraphs the beginning of his lunge, as Kessler prepares his high-left.
7) Kessler slips the punch, but continues to be backed straight up, and -
8) –gets caught with the biggest right hand of the fight. [Hey look guys, MMA]
Holding and Activity
1) Kessler presents a hard right hand to Froch’s chest area, as Froch backs up.
2) He then strafes right and fires a jab in an attempt to locate Froch on the ropes
3) Froch circles to his left (while presenting himself in a beautiful Greek God-esque pose in this still)
4) Froch is no longer with his back facing the ropes and –
5) –attempts to fire a flurry –
6) But it is nullified by the holding of Kessler
This technique was sparingly used by Kessler in the first bout, but as Andre Ward has proved to us, it can be a key to victory, as it keeps Froch’s best attack at bay, albeit Ward also has supreme inside fighting skills, working excellently in the clinch, and in close quarters.
Danger in Both Hands
It was also evident in the first bout that “nothing was sacred” for Froch. He was dangerous and sneaky with both hands, continuing to land at several angles.
1) Froch throws a jab and –
2) A right hand behind it which Kessler slips.
3) The punch brings Froch into a southpaw stance and Kessler stands his ground for the available counter.
4) Froch explodes a left hand bomb that hits Kessler flush in the face.
If either man were to win,
Froch would need to…
Keep the trend rolling
In the first bout, I distinctly remember a point in the fourth round where Al Bernstein states that “Carl Froch is a notoriously slow starter”, which I thought was justified on his resume at the time. In the past year, Froch has gone against the stereotype, and blasted his opposition out early.
With the “home advantage” that Froch has, I think he is capable of keeping this momentum going, attacking early, and in devastating fashion.
Keep the right hand up (or at least try)
One of Mikkel Kessler’s best punches in the first fight was his right hand to the body. In December of 2012, Kessler faced Brian Magee. Before I go on about effectiveness, it is known that Brian Magee is susceptible to body punching. I could start listing fighters that have “gotten to” Magee with body punches, but I don’t enjoy experiencing pain.
In either case; Kessler dropped Magee multiple times in the bout, and eventually knocked him out with a body shot. Every punch that scored a knockdown was a right hand to the body. If Froch commits even slightly more to raising his right to his mid section, I’ll be satisfied.
Feinting is a technique that Carl Froch has developed over his recent fights, and is a great contribution to his game. Kessler was more effective in the first fight when he was able to walk Froch down and establish his forward movement. If Froch finds himself backing up, or near the ropes, his improved feinting will help to execute his flurries and find the openings that he needs.
Kessler would need to…
Avoid going straight back
As I’ve demonstrated in one of the image sets, Kessler tended to back straight up in the first fight, leaving himself open for a variety of Froch’s punches, including his long jab, left hook, and flurries.
If Mr. Kessler wants to see more success the second time around, he’s going to have to get back to some textbook stuff, and circle away from the power hand.
Set the pace early, and heavy
Kessler’s last couple of fights with Allan Green, and Brian Magee have shown us a new(ish) version of Kessler that seems to favor an earlier end to his fights, as opposed to a prolonged “smart-fight”.
Mikkel Kessler is capable of walking forward, and gaining his ground effectively, which his class-A jab really assists. He is also capable of sitting down on his punches and getting a knockout to the body or head. Against Carl Froch, one would expect Kessler to commit to the body, if not to lower his guard and take away his legs, it’s that Carl Froch’s chin cannot be damaged. I think that Kessler is capable of having the success that Jermain Taylor had, but in order to achieve it, he needs to set a heavy pace from the first bell.
Some will speculate that the urgency is due to the library of injuries that Kessler has accumulated over the course of his career, but that isn’t the direction of this article.
Whenever two fighters enter the ring for the second time against one another, they come back with a better academic understanding of the strategic make-up of the man in the opposite corner. Though Carl Froch is a hard puzzle to solve, one would have hope that an important topic of the training camp was to take advantage of the periods in the fight where Froch throws himself off balance.
If a southpaw stance is achieved by an over-commitment, a left hook to the body or head could prove to be effective, especially considering the power that Kessler has shown with this punch recently.
To be completely predictable, I’ll say that the fight should definitely be must-see event, just as the first one was.
Unless some devastatingly unexpected factor is involved, I expect Carl Froch to come out early with hard shots as he did in the Bute and Mack bouts. Kessler will also continue his recent trend, similar to that of Froch. I can see Mikkel Kessler landing a couple of more clean shots than he did in the first bout, but ultimately the fight will be close.
I think the fight goes to a close points victory, something like 116-112 for Carl Froch. This is also an occasion where a points victory for Kessler would not surprise me, but I see the close rounds going to Froch, as they may have been scored for Kessler in Denmark.
Additionally; my scorecard from the first bout is listed below.