Carl Froch (left) withstood several big shots to the chin from Mikkel Kessler to win a unanimous decision. (Sang Tan/AP)
Three thoughts on Carl Froch's unanimous decision win over Mikkel Kessler:
Froch continues to impress
In 2011, Froch lost a lopsided decision to Andre Ward in the finals of Showtime's Super Six tournament, and at 34, it was fair to question if Froch had blown his best opportunity to prove he was among the top fighters in the world. But Froch followed up the loss with a dramatic knockout win over Lucian Bute—an undefeated, legitimate titleholder considered the best 168-pounder not in the Super Six—and on Saturday, Froch became a unified super middleweight champion with a decisive decision win over Mikkel Kessler, avenging a 2010 defeat. Froch, fighting for the third straight time in his home country of England, was as relentless against Kessler as he was against Bute, piling up points in the early rounds behind a stiff jab and an overwhelming work rate. Kessler rallied in the later rounds, even stunning Froch in the 11th, but Froch closed the show with a strong 12th, pummeling Kessler into a corner. The three judges scored the fight 118-110, 116-112 and 115-113, while SI.com had it 116-112. Everyone got it right.
What has gotten into Froch?
The ease in which Ward beat Froch is more a testament to Ward's talent than any weakness in Froch. Ward has been taking on the best fighters in his weight class—and in the case of last year's win over Chad Dawson, one out of it—and no one has come close to beating him. With wins over Bute and Kessler, though, Froch has clearly reestablished himself as the No. 2 fighter in the weight class, with two belts to prove it. As he has most of his career, Froch showed a great chin, taking bomb after bomb from Kessler and continuing to press the action. Froch says his both his jab and footwork have improved since the loss to Ward, and his awkward style is difficult to figure out.
Kessler, Ward or Hopkins?
Froch suddenly finds himself a man in demand. A quick look at his options:
A third fight with Kessler: Froch's win over Kessler evened the series between the two, and if we learned anything, it's that whenever these two tangle, it's going to be a war. Froch-Kessler II sold out the 18,000-seat O2 Arena in a few hours, and a third fight, whether in England, Denmark or on neutral European turf, would undoubtedly generate huge interest. But Froch likely knows that fight can be made down the road. With two titles and a lot of momentum, he may want to go in a different direction.
A rematch with Ward: Last year, following his win over Bute, Froch didn't sound the least bit interested in a Ward fight. But now at 35, Froch is looking for big paydays, and Ward, with HBO's backing, could represent the biggest. Froch was outclassed by Ward in '11, but that doesn't mean a rematch shouldn't happen. If it does, it should happen in the U.K—Froch is a much better fighter on his home soil, and he did travel to the U.S. to face Ward the first time. Ward, commentating for HBO on Saturday, sounded open to facing Froch again, as long as the price was right.
A showdown with Hopkins: Hopkins wants big fights, and he is willing to pack his passport to do it. Hopkins is a known quantity in the U.K., in part because he is Bernard Hopkins, in part because of his split decision loss to Joe Calzaghe in 2008. Hopkins tweeted that "Froch makes too many mistakes" immediately after the decision was announced Saturday, and Froch is the kind of aggressive fighter the slick, defensive-minded Hopkins can hang with. Hopkins says he would agree to a catchweight—something Froch says he would insist on—and for Froch, it could be the perfect option: He would get the big matchup and the big payday without risking his 168-pound titles in the process.
– Chris Mannix