On January 14 Mikkel Kessler makes the second defense the WBA super middleweight title against former WBC champion Eric Lucas in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is a good match in a division that has delivered a seesaw ride of champions, controversy and entertainment in the last few years.
“Kessler is fast and he strikes well,” says former WBC super middleweight champ Dingaan Thobela. “Kessler moves around a lot and likes for you to chase him,” says Thobela, who lost via eighth-round TKO to Lucas in 2001 and dropped a one-sided, 12-round unanimous decision to Kessler in 2002. “He also throws good punches. While he never had me in trouble, because it’s difficult to land a clean blow on me, I could feel that he punches with authority. And if he lands on target he could put a man down.”
Following their encounter, which was for the vacant IBA super middleweight world title, Thobela predicted that Kessler, 36-0 (27 KOs), would go far in the division when given the opportunity. “My problem with Kessler was that I couldn’t catch him and I wasn’t fit enough to chase him around and cut off the corners,” says Thobela, who took the fight on short notice. “While I’m sure Lucas will be well conditioned going into this fight, he doesn’t like chasing his opponents either. He prefers [opponents] to stand in front of him.”
Lucas, 38-6-3 (14), won the vacant WBC world title on July 10, 2001 by stopping Glen Catley in the seventh round in Montreal. This was a return match. Catley won their first fight on a 12th-round TKO in December 1999. Catley then went on to stop Markus Beyer with a 12-round knockout to win the WBC title, and then lost it to Thobela on a brutal 12th-round knockout. Following the beating he took at the hands of Thobela, Catley was never the fighter he was before and the outcome of his return with Lucas was on the cards from the outset of their fight.
Lucas won his first defense, an eighth-round TKO over Thobela in November 2001, and then followed that up with convincing 12-round unanimous decisions over Vinny Pazienza and Omar Sheika in 2002.
The Montreal native then lost the title via split-decision to Markus Beyer in April 2003 and was stopped in the sixth round by Danny Green for the interim WBC world title that December.
Lucas fought only once in 2004, a second-round TKO over journeyman Tony Menefee in December and then claimed the vacant WBC continental Americas title with a one-sided, 12-round unanimous decision over James Crawford in March.
Since his victory over Thobela in 2002, Kessler won the WBC International title by stopping Craig Cummings in two rounds. He made three successful defenses of that intermediate crown with stoppages of Henry Porras (TKO 9), Julio Cesar Green (KO 1) and Andre Thysse (TKO 11).
On November 11 of last year Kessler won the WBA world title with an eighth-round TKO over Manny Siaca in front of his hometown fans in Copenhagen. In his first defense he scored a unanimous 12-round decision over Australian Anthony Mundine in Sydney on June 8. It was only his second fight outside of Denmark.
“When I fought Lucas I battled to find my stride in the early rounds,” Thobela said. “But in the later part of the bout I started catching him and I could see that I was hurting him.”
Thobela’s prospective bears noting, since he was stopped by Lucas and went the distance with Kessler. “You could see the relief on his face when the referee stopped the fight,” he said. “Lucas doesn’t like to be hurt and Kessler can put a lot of pressure on his opponents. I think Kessler will hurt him and I think he could even stop him.
“Lucas on the other hand doesn’t really have impressive punching power and the fact that he’s slower than Kessler will count against him. It is a very interesting match though and could be a very entertaining fight.”
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In other South African boxing news: former heavyweight contender Johnny DuPlooy, who retired in 1997, has announced his return to the ring – as a trainer. The 41-year-old DuPlooy, who was 27-5-1 (22), is one of the most charismatic heavyweights to come out of South Africa. Today he is attaining success with a number of amateur boxers. On whether we’ll see him taking his fighters into the professional ranks DuPlooy says yes, but he’s clearly in no rush, as he first wants them to attain success in the amateur ranks.