LONDON: There had been a refreshing absence of vitriolic exchanges between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler until this week, when Froch declared he is prepared to “kill” his super-middleweight rival in the ring on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Unusually in modern-day boxing, there had been no trash talk or insults thrown by Englishman Froch or his Danish opponent ahead of their world title unification fight.
That did not stop 18,000 tickets being sold in just three hours for the rematch at the O2 Arena in London.
There is also pay-per-view television to sell, but Froch’s outburst at Wednesday’s pre-bout press conference was nonetheless shocking in its intensity.
“On Saturday night, if I have to, I will kill this [expletive],” Froch said.
“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.
“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 later put the outburst down to his emotions “running high”, and his words were certainly at odds with the friendship that has developed between the boxers since they met on a promotional tour for the Super Six tournament in 2009.
As part of that competition, Kessler out-pointed Froch in Denmark in April 2010, but afterwards they resumed contact.
Froch even sent Kessler advice by text message on how to win his last fight, a three-round stoppage of Northern Ireland’s Brian Magee, but he says there is a difference between friendship and respect.
“There’s respect before and after the fight, but not during the fight,” Froch said.
“I like Mikkel and there’s no animosity or needle there, so there’s no need for trash talk, rolling around on the floor, or a slap in the face. This is a real fight, no hype needed.
“When I’m hitting him in the face, I won’t stop until the ref jumps in, his corner throws in the towel or he is left unconscious on the floor. You don’t do that to your friends. Mikkel Kessler is not my friend. I’m going to smash him, simple as that.”
For Froch, this is bigger than any of his previous 32 fights in a professional career that has seen him contest nine world title bouts.
The 35-year-old has suffered two defeats; the first to Kessler and then, in December 2011, on points to American Andre Ward, who is considered the division’s number one.
Avenging one of those losses is the International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion’s main motivation against Kessler, the World Boxing Association (WBA) title-holder.
“This is all about revenge,” Froch told a news conference. “Since the first fight with Mikkel Kessler, I’ve been thinking about the fight and dwelling on the fact that I lost.”
Kessler, whose mother is English, believes Froch has more pressure on him due to the home crowd and his own bold promises.
The 34-year-old Dane will not have many supporters in London, but says fighting at home is a two-edged sword for Froch.
“I shook his hand and gave him my word I would fight him in the UK and that’s why I’m here,” Kessler said.
“I think he will get a lift from the crowd, but he can make some mistakes also. It can work both ways. They will be expecting him to go forward and show his skills, and that is a big pressure on Carl.”