The time for talk, is almost at an end.
The final week pf preparation of is well underway for IBF Super-Middleweight Champion Carl Froch for his unification fight with WBA Champion Mikkel Kessler at London's O2 Arena on Saturday (25th May). This is a fight Froch has been craving ever since he lost to the Dane during the 'Super Six' tournament in April 2010. Froch felt that Kessler was the benefactor of a Home decision that night and is keen to resolve the matter on home soil in-front of a sellout crowd of 20,000 fans.
Kessler is a man of his word, he promised Froch that he would come to England and return the favour after his victory in Herning, Denmark. The man known as 'The Viking Warrior' has fought in the United Kingdom before, losing to Joe Calzaghe way back in November 2007. Since that time, Kessler has developed into one of the fiercest fighters on the planet. Fearing nothing, he is a proud fighter who never takes a back step in his fights, sometimes this can be to his detriment, but anything else just isn't in his character.
His biggest assets are his heart and his power. He is a ferocious puncher, with 35 of his 46 victories coming inside the distance. Kessler is a muscular, heavy-handed powerhouse who hurt Froch numerous times during their first encounter. Despite Froch's insistence that he won the fight, most were of the opinion that the Dane easily outscored 'The Cobra' and he is confident he can do the same this time around.
One thing that could count against Kessler is his inactivity. Having only fought three times since the victory over Froch, his inactivity could come back to haunt him. Boxers tend to suffer more than most when they are out of their profession for too long and 'Ring-Rust' could definitely be a factor. Kessler is notorious for his intense, gruelling training camps and with so much at stake in this fight he will make sure that every base is covered. This fight will be as intense as the first, there's no doubting that, nothing like the three fights Kessler has had since the first encounter between the two. How the Dane responds to the pressure Froch will no doubt put him under will go a long way to determining the outcome of this fight.
The tactics both men will implement for this fight are hardly a guarded secret. Both men are very proud inside the ring and absolutely refuse to take a step back. They aren't the most skilled technicians, but nobody could deny they possess two of the biggest hearts in the game. Their first fight was a war, no quarter was asked or given, making for a pulsating fight. Both fighters stood toe-to-toe for 12 sensational rounds and the general consensus is to expect more of the same this time around. It is sure to be a fierce battle and Froch has vowed to avenge his defeat in Denmark three years ago, although it could be far closer than the bookmakers think it will be. Froch is a heavy favourite and unquestionably has the momentum, but write Kessler off at your peril. He has stated that if he loses this fight then he will retire from the ring, which is bad news for Froch. When Kessler has contemplated retirement in the past, it has resulted in some of his impressive performances, in particular against Mehdi Bouadla, which was a demolition job from start-to-finish that ended in a TKO. A similar outcome this time around would see Kessler in pole position for a re-match with the division's top operator, Andre Ward, which would be an exceptional payday.
The stakes could be even higher for Froch, who is evidently bitter about the two losses he has on his record. He thinks, rightly or wrongly, that he was harshly treated in the first fight with Kessler and has been looking for a re-match ever since. It has been a rocky road to this moment and on more than one occasion it looked like this fight wouldn't happen. Following a brutal loss to Andre Ward, where he was completely outclassed, the Nottingham native was set for a make-or-break fight against IBF Champion Lucien Bute. This fight was billed as Froch's final opportunity to gain back a World Title and a loss would have meant certain retirement.
Froch was a heavy underdog for this fight in his hometown. However, as soon as the first bell rung 'The Cobra' was like a man possessed. He completely smothered Bute, who seemed totally surprised by Froch's relentless style and punching power. The fight could have ended sooner than it did and Bute was eventually put out of his misery in the fifth round, making Froch a three-time World Champion amid joyous scenes inside the Capital FM Arena.
Now, the stage was set.
It didn't take long for Froch's promoter Eddie Hearn to get this fight made. The fighters are friends outside the ring, Froch even giving Kessler advice on how to dispose of the person standing in the way of this fight, Brian Magee. Kessler ensured that the negotiations for the fight ran smoothly and the long awaited re-match was announced. Both men are set for a bumper purse for this fight, with Sky launching Boxing on Pay-per-View for the first time since the David Haye/Wladimir Klitschko fight in 2011. Unlike that fight, this one promises to be money well spent, a war of attrition set to go into the later rounds.
So, just how does Carl Froch beat Mikkel Kessler?
In order for Froch to win, he must dictate the pace of the fight, as he did in the victory over Lucien Bute. Smothering Kessler and not allowing him to settle will be the key to this fight. If Froch adapts this approach, he will find it stamina-sapping as Kessler is far more imposing physically than Bute. Kessler is also a far bigger puncher than Bute, and if Froch steams in against the Dane it could leave him vulnerable to a big counter punch that could change the course of the fight. He must take his time and pick his moments at the right stages of the contest. Fierce combinations are also a must, Kessler's punch resistence is renowned and it will take a monumental effort to stop the 'Viking Warrior' on his current form.
Froch's defense is also a concern. He has a tendency to drop his hands during fights and leaves himself wide open for counter-punches which have left him in trouble on more than one occasion during his career. Andre Ward drew the blueprint on how to expose Froch's weak defense, picking him off at will on the way to a convincing win. Froch is very one-dimensional, which is a grave cause for concern at times. He has always been an accident waiting to happen in the ring, which makes for compelling and captivating viewing whenever he steps into the ring. Kessler is of a similar ilk, much preferring to stand and fight rather than out-fox or out-manouver an opponent. This will ensure that this will be a 'fight of the year' candidate and is simply too close to call.
Froch will no doubt be inspired by the partisan crowd and will use that as extra motivation without question. To his credit, Froch has travelled the globe fighting the very best the World has to offer but it was clear for all to see against Bute that he is at his best when fighting on home ground. Fighting in-front of his fanatical fans did him the world of good and he will be hoping for the same sort of atmosphere to spur him on when the going gets tough in this fight.
Both men have a huge amount of respect for each other, so there has been no bravado or 'Trash Talking' leading up to this fight. It's just two professionals putting personal feelings to one side for the night as they look to enhance their legacy. What has angered Froch is the willingness of fellow countrymen to aid the Dane during his preparation during sparring. Froch was very critical of Nathan Cleverly and George Groves for sparring with Kessler, labelling them 'Traitors' and stating they're motives are influenced by jealousy. It certainly seems to be a strange decision, especially from Groves, who is a stable-mate of Froch's at Matchroom Sport and is fighting on the Undercard of the bill. Groves and Froch have made no secret of the fact they aren't friends, Froch seeing Groves as beneath him as 'The Saint' pushes for a shot at the title. This will have almost certainly destroyed any small hope Groves had for a fight with Froch, unless he somehow becomes the mandatory challenger, something that isn't likely to happen in the foreseeable future. This could prove to be incidental, sparring aids fitness but it will be an entirely different environment for both fighters on Saturday's big night.
It will no doubt be a tight and tense affair. With possible fights with Andre Ward, Bernard Hopkins and Nathan Cleverly for the winner, the stakes could hardly be higher.
For Froch, the moment of truth has arrived. His desire for retribution could be the making of him.
If he can pull it off, it will no doubt be Froch's greatest achievement to date. Kessler will not make it easy, and is ultra-confident of upsetting the odds. It really is just too close to call. The moment of truth is nearly upon us, the unpredictability of the outcome is clear for all to see.
One thing is certain, it will be gripping viewing.
Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_