Carl Froch produced yet another night to remember as he served up a thrilling performance to defeat Mikkel Kessler in a 12-round war at The O2 Arena in London.
The Nottingham man unified Kessler’s WBA super-middleweight crowd with his own IBF title, taking the victory by unanimous decision, with the judges scoring the contest 116-112, 115-113 and 118-110.
Victory over Kessler exorcised the ghost of his epic 2010 defeat in the Dane’s homeland and enhanced Froch’s reputation as one of this country’s finest.
Froch is on an astonishing five-year run of elite level fights which began with him claiming the WBC title against Jean Pascal in 2008 and has seen him beat the likes of Jermain Taylor, Arthur Abraham and Lucian Bute.
However, Kessler is one of only two men to have scalped him as a professional, along with the pre-eminent American Andre Ward, and revenge against the Dane had been on his mind ever since they fought three years ago.
Froch came into the bout with a record of 30-2 with 22 early wins and weighed in over a pound heavier than Kessler (46-2, 35 KOs) this week.
The Briton won a tactical first round which ended with him enjoying success with his first sustained combination before Kessler answered back with a nice left hook before the bell.
More of the same in round two meant Froch was surely two rounds up and in the third both men threw big shots that missed.
The Briton landed an instinctive short right as Kessler advanced early in the fourth but Kessler caught him with an uppercut and two hard jabs in response. Froch landed with his first body shot of the fight but took a three-punch combination for his trouble seconds later as Kessler perhaps took the fourth.
Kessler began the fifth with a big left hook and followed it up with another soon after. A big right over the top was the Dane’s best punch but Froch retorted with a right of his own. A left from Kessler to Froch’s body was clearly low and earned him a warning before a big right and huge left rocked the Englishman’s head both ways. ‘The Cobra’ sucked it up and took another left before countering with one of his own.
Kessler was hurt by a right in the eighth and goaded Froch in an attempt to hide the hurt. A single right was brilliantly timed as the home fighter seized control again. Kessler smashed in a counter right but Froch was breaking his man down. Kessler kept firing back and both connected with big power shots at the same time to leave the crowd on their feet at the bell.
Kessler did well in the ninth, landing a stiff three-punch combination early on, and scored with an excellent left hook to the body in the 10th before following it up with the same shot to Froch’s head. The tough IBF champion barely blinked, instead firing back with wild but venomous right hands to take the round.
Kessler smashed Froch around late in the 11th, landing left hooks and massive rights in quick succession to dazzle his man and cut him over the left eye. Yet still Froch remained unbowed, firing back with rights of his own and bullying his man around the canvas as the bell rang.
The final round began to a standing ovation as both men touched gloves and went at it, going toe to toe for the full three minutes until the final bell brought them to a standstill. The two men embraced before the scores were read out, perhaps paving the way for a much-anticipated decider in the near future.
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Unless they’re doing PR stunts to stave off having to flog another winners’ medal, it’s always worth listening to the Gods of ’66.
Put simply, they knew what it took to be the best in the world, and have thus earned the right to pass judgement on the state of our national game.
So when Gordon Banks points out that only four Premier League clubs have Englishmen as their first-choice goalkeepers, making him fear for the future, his concern should be noted.
I just wish Geoff Hurst, Roger Hunt or Jimmy Greaves would demand an answer from the men at the top of our game as to why they’re allowing the great English goalscorer to head for extinction.
On Tuesday, the FA announced that Andy Carroll had pulled out of the up-coming Brazil trip (which must have seen ticket sales plummet in Rio), adding “no replacement will be made at this time”. What they omitted to add was that there isn’t anybody of international standard worth drafting in.
Unless they want to give an end-of-career reward to Ricky Lambert (aged 31), Grant Holt (32), Bobby Zamora (32) or Peter Crouch (32). Or drag Connor Wickham (who can’t get a game at Sunderland) out of the under-21 squad.
Has there ever been a worse set of striking options open to an England manager? Every player who scored more than 15 Premier League goals last season was born outside the country: Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Christian Benteke, Michu and Romelu Lukaku.
Of the top players available to Roy Hodgson, Carroll, Wayne Rooney and Darren Bent are being forced out of the door by their clubs (with hefty losses for two of them deemed acceptable), while Danny Welbeck scored only one Premier League goal last season and Jermaine Defoe only got one this year.
Indeed, the only in-form striker in his squad – as Theo Walcott has been named as a wide midfielder – is Daniel Sturridge.
He’s netted 11 times in 16 games since his January move to Liverpool, but how he was treated before that gives a clue as to why we have a striking crisis. Everyone who saw Sturridge as a teen knew he was a massive talent.
But first Manchester City, then Chelsea, failed to give him an extended run in the first-team to prove himself, putting it down to his “attitude problem”.
But the problem was more to do with the fact that they, like the other big clubs, are happier to spend tens of millions on big-name foreign frontmen than develop what they have.
To splurge their wealth on so-called “marquee signings” – rather than let their own kids make their mark.
Right now, our big guns are ready to break the bank to lure the goalscoring talents of Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao, Higuain, Stevan Jovetic and David Villa.
Regardless of the fact that they may turn out to be another Andriy Shevchenko, Adrian Mutu or Robinho.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the likes of Ian Wright and Robbie Fowler struggled to get a regular game for England because of the talents ahead of them.
And it leaves you feeling slightly embarrassed that the FA travels on its 150th anniversary to the world’s most beautiful football country to remind them that Englishmen invented putting round balls in the back of nets. We just forgot how to do it.
Still, at least we won’t have to worry too much about the lads’ off-pitch behaviour out there.
Because hardly any of them could score in a brothel.