Carl Froch ramps up rivalry ahead of Mikkel Kessler rematch

Carl Froch stares at the goose bumps that have risen on his muscular left arm and a shiver runs through him.

There have never been any doubts that his fight with Mikkel Kessler at the O2 Arena in south‑east London on Saturday night in defence of his IBF super-middleweight title was going to be anything but an uncompromising reprise of their encounter in Denmark three years ago, but the Nottingham boxer has reached a frightening pitch of intensity.

And what shocks as much as the language that follows is his disregard for the perceived friendship between himself and a fellow warrior, a fine champion who took Froch's WBC version of the belt from him on merit over 12 brutal rounds in rural Herning in April 2010.

"On Saturday night, if I have to, I will kill this fucker," Froch says to the astonishment of the small gathering of fight writers who have known him all his career. "Sorry about the language, but I will kill him. It sounds brutal, it sounds horrible, but that is what this means to me. I am going to leave it in the ring. And when I am smashing his face in, I am going to go for the kill. I am going to go for the finish."

This is David Haye-style rhetoric. In all the years I have watched Froch box – from the night he won the ABA middleweight title 14 years ago, through a score of wars as a professional, I have never heard him talk like this. What is surprising is he and Kessler grew reasonably close to each other after their first fight, despite Froch's irritation with the Dane's promoter, Kalle Sauerland, and his dispute of the scoring over 12 close rounds.

"As much as we are friends and we are OK, who does he think he is coming over here to my country after what I have done in the last three years and what he has done?"

Froch's trainer and long-time friend Rob McCracken might have inadvertently contributed to that argument when, at the final press conference in London, he said his champion had been operating since 2010 in the Premier League of boxing, while Kessler was "Division One".

There is, none the less, some truth in it: Froch has outclassed the German hard-man Arthur Abraham, been in with the acknowledged best in the division, Andre Ward, and burst the bubble of the then unbeaten Lucien Bute; Kessler, meanwhile, has been decked by the erratic American Allan Green and beaten moderate challengers Mehdi Bouadla and Brian Magee.

The danger is that Froch will let emotion cloud his judgment. He says that will not happen. However, adding piquancy to his threats is the fact that Kessler considered quitting the sport because of an eye injury. He has also been cut up around the eyes in fights, and Froch says: "I want to do him some damage. That's how I feel inside. If I have to nut him, I will. I have never really felt like this before. I have wanted to win before, but … I don't know what it is … but there is something about this guy that winds me up. It is anger and I have got to channel it. I am in there not just to win this fight but to put him out of the game.

"I am sick of him, I am sick of the fact that he has beaten me and I want to put the record straight and if that means I have to do him some serious damage, then I will do. So when I get in that ring on Saturday and look across at him and his promoter, I can tell you I am already in the mood." And he's not talking Glenn Miller.

Powered by article was written by Kevin Mitchell, for The Guardian on Wednesday 22nd May 2013 23.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © KWDesigns