Boxing: Mikkel Kessler's hunger fades away
Denmark's Beckham who loves an English fry-up may call it a day if his friend Froch wins rematch
Sunday 12 May 2013
Standing outside Mikkel Kessler's gym on the outskirts of Copenhagen are two seven-foot metal gargoyles modelled on the creatures in Alien and Predator. They are strikingly lifelike and seem to symbolise the upcoming battle between two gloved gladiators that is set to enthral boxing and finally unify two versions of the world super-middleweight title.
The Dane and Britain's Carl Froch may be the best of enemies in the ring at London's O2 Arena on 25 May but outside it they are old chums – which is unusual in the fight game these days – commanding total respect for each other and speaking regularly on the phone.
Which is why Kessler smiles as we glance at a poster on the wall which quotes Froch as declaring: "I want to decapitate Mikkel Kessler." "I don't think he means it literally," he says. "But knowing Carl he'll have a damn good try."
Coming in the slipstream of Floyd Mayweather Jnr's masterclass against Robert Guerrero and Wladimir Klitschko's classical demolition of the Italian Francesco Pianeta last weekend, theirs is a contest that has much to live up to. But the portents are good for an overdue second leg after their meeting in Denmark in 2010, when Kessler, the WBA champion, won the narrowest of points decisions.
Boxing throws up many colourful characters and the 34-year-old Kessler registers high on that list, a Beckham-sized idol in Denmark on his supercharged Suzuki with his heavily tattooed torso, gracious manners and fondness for all things English, especially eggs, bacon and HP sauce. The latter is hardly surprising, as he is half-English – his mother comes from Salisbury. And as he spars, his English bulldog John (aptly crossed with a boxer) pads quietly around the gym.
Kessler's affinity with the UK has also extended to him importing two undefeated world-class sparring partners, the WBO light-heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion George Groves.
When he fought Joe Calzaghe at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium four years ago (one of his only two defeats) he was supported by a Viking invasion of around 5,000 fans. But this fight sold out so rapidly – all 20,000 seats were gone within two hours of it being announced – that there was no time for the Danish hordes to acquire tickets.
So just a few family members will be at ringside, among them his even more famous big sister Linse, a reality TV and soft-porn star who runs a sex club in Copenhagen's red-light district and describes herself as "a fetish model".
While Kessler's vital statistics are 46-2-0 (wins, losses, draws), hers are 45-26-38. She boasts of having "the biggest breasts in Scandinavia". Kessler grins: "You might say I am in her shadow."
The Viking Warrior v The Cobra seems the perfect match, with the 34-year-old Froch's freshly acquired IBF title also at stake, though Kessler sees nothing new in his opponent's armoury. "He never changes stuff he is doing, it is exactly the same thing he has been doing for years."
He admits that if he loses, it may all be over. "The hunger is not what it used to be. If I can't win this fight, then I'm finished. But whatever happens, Carl and I will still be friends." Bosom pals, as his sister might say.
Froch v Kessler on 25 May is live on Sky Sports HD Box Office. Visit: www.skysports.com/froch or call 08442 410888
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