Max Kellerman believes the Saturday scrap in London between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler will be a good one, maybe a really good one, but he will reserve judgment on who he thinks will have his hand raised until he assesses the two men at fighter meetings today.
The HBO analyst chatted with TSS on Thursday and gave us his take on the rematch between the two top-tier super middleweights, as well as the state of the division, and the man who casts a cold shadow on everyone beneath him at 168, Andre Ward.
"Andre Ward reduces the stakes of everything that happens in the super middleweight division," said Max (seen in above photo, center, between Joel Diaz, Tim Bradley, Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach during Pacquiao-Bradley "Faceoff"). "This is a case of be careful what you wish for, you want clarity, you got that now."
Reminder: HBO is showing the O2 Arena fight live, which means in the US, you need to be on the couch or have the DVR set for 6 PM ET, because London time is 5 hours ahead of us.
I did wonder aloud if because Ward is such a beast at 168, and the perception exists that neither Froch nor Kessler, even if they win and look stellar doing so in London, could provide a stern test, let alone beat the undefeated Ward, that this faceoff loses some luster. My ultimate takeaway, though, is that it's best to view this fight as an entity unto itself, live in the moment, don't let possible chess-board moves in the future take away from the appreciation of a probable A-grade tussle.
Kessler scored a win when he fought Froch in Denmark in April 2010, a fight that I thought could have been awarded to Froch.
Kellerman said it has struck him that Kessler (46-2 with 35 KOs; turned 34 on March 1; battled left eye problems and right hand problems in recent years) has been involved in the solidifying of two eras, the Calzaghe era, and the Ward era. When they clashed in November 2007, many, many folks thought the 39-0 Kessler would show the world that Calzaghe was a protected product, that he'd feasted on a diet of Bikas and Manfredos to get to a place of prominence. Calzaghe feasted on the Dane and naysayers, by and large, thawed on their icy take on the Welshman. Two years later, Kessler was the favorite going into his Super Six fight with Ward. Yep, many folks saw it as an "upset victory" when Ward got the W as the fight was stopped midway through round 11, because of a cut from a butt on Kessler. "So, Kessler and Froch are fighting for the silver," Kellerman stated. "Yes, the stakes aren't what they'd be if Ward didn't exist."
I theorized, and Kellerman agreed, that if Froch (30-2 with 22 KOs) wins convincingly, a case could be made that a rematch could be booked between Froch, who turns 36 on July 2, and Ward.
They met in Atlantic City in December 2012 and you'll recall the Ward UD12 featured some wide scores. I liked the 118-110 from John Keane more than the 115-113s turned in by John Stewart and Craig Metcalfe, for the record.
I think Ward's command of the ring has only grown since then, and even with his being prone to injury, at 29 he's fresher than Froch, so I wouldn't get super buzzed over a rematch. But if Ward-Froch II were booked in England, and Froch could convince us that the same energy he derived from Nottinghammers against Lucian Bute could propel him against Ward in a sequel, then I think that's a makeable fight. Not winnable for Froch, but makeable. Kellerman concurs. "Why not have Ward come to Nottingham and fight Froch if Froch beats Kessler? Would that fly? Ward sort of dominated their fight, but you never felt Ward was safe," Kellerman said. "Froch always had a certain element of danger till the end. Maybe danger isn't the right word, but Ward never broke Froch."
Kellerman will have eyes and ears trained on Kessler, especially, during the fighter meeting. He's heard talk of Kessler contemplating retirement if things don't pan out on London Saturday and knows that once an athlete even entertains the notion, the obsessive focus needed to achieve at a high level can be compromised.
The analyst told me that his fighter meeting with Guillermo Rigondeaux informed him to the enth degree. "I turned to Jim Lampley and Roy Jones after talking to Rigondeaux and said, 'Donaire is in trouble.' What Rigo was saying, how he was looking confident....And then Donaire missed the fighter meeting because he was working on making weight, of course. A couple other times, I've left a meeting feeling different. After meeting Nate Campbell and Juan Diaz (they fought in March 2008, Campbell won SD12), and seeing how confident Campbell was and how distracted Diaz was."
As of today, you have to note the fire Froch has shown in the pre-fight. On Wednesday, he told reporters: "On Saturday night, if I have to, I will kill [him]. It sounds brutal, it sounds horrible, but this is what it means to me. I'm going to leave it in the ring. And when I'm smashing his face in, I am going to go for the kill. I am going to go for the finish."
Just meant to hype himself up? Or inject fear into Kessler? Over-kill, not the proper language for followers of Queensberry? Me, I say you let the man have his say, and while you can cluck about the violent nature of the wording, you have to consider that the stakes in a prizefight ARE life and death, so why are you inclined to take a man for task for acknowledging that?
I asked Kellerman if I missed anything, and to sum it up for us. "It will be a good fight, there will be action," he said. "I'm curious to see how Kessler responds, given the injuries he's had, and if he does respond."
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