Sam Janes – Leicester
Mikkel Kessler is preparing for his Saturday, May 25 pay-per-view showdown against IBF super middleweight world champion Carl Froch by sparring against WBO light heavyweight incumbent Nathan Cleverly and Froch’s promotional stalemate George Groves.
Kessler said: “It´s great to have them in Copenhagen. This is the best preparation I could have asked for. To have three guys (including Sweden’s Eric Skoglund) like that – a world champion, a youth world champion and a top-ranked contender – is probably as good as it gets in terms of sparring. They are young, hungry and unbeaten. They will push me to the limit [and] that’s exactly the kind of warm-up I need to beat Carl Froch again!”
While Groves and Cleverly are excellent choices for Kessler to prepare for Froch, the sparring arrangement says more about Groves and Cleverly’s ambition than it does about the Viking Warrior. We would fully expect Kessler to take this fight seriously by employing the best sparring partners available. In Cleverly and Groves, he has two keen young fighters chomping at the bit to get recognition.
Kessler’s promoter Kalle Sauerland explained that the sparring partners chosen reflect the fighter’s desire to win: “Mikkel is the kind of fighter who always wants to test himself against the very best, no matter whether it’s training or the actual fight.
“Cleverly, Groves and Skoglund – the fact that he wants to get it on with them in training really shows you what the Viking Warrior is all about. When push comes to shove on May 25, the fighter with the better preparation will prevail, and that’s just another reason why Mikkel will leave the ring victorious.”
We expect Kessler to be testing himself in sparring for such a big fight… so we should look more at the British pair and their decision to go to Denmark. Groves and Cleverly are at similar points of their career: both undefeated, young and managed by strong promoters, so they should be starting to reap their rewards in the ring and financially – yet they are not.
Groves has fought a string of lowly ranked fighters since his close decision win over rival James ‘Chunky’ DeGale, as has Cleverly since his win against Liverpool’s Tony Bellew. Despite both of them proving they’re above domestic level they have failed to go on to claim the big fights internationally.
I have no doubt that if George Groves was fighting at light heavyweight and not the stacked super middleweight division he would have won a world title by now, much like Cleverly. The pair sparring against Mikell Kessler is a shrewd move by both men.
We could easily see Groves calling out the winner of the Froch-Kessler rematch, which would be another big fight in Britain. Groves is testing his abilities against a world class fighter in Kessler, so either his abilities will improve and take on Froch should the ‘Cobra’ win, and if Kessler wins, ‘Saint’ Groves should have experience of fighting the Dane.
Cleverly is probably not in a position to start calling out either man, but he can use the practice against world class opposition in a bid to ready himself should a mega-fight with Bernard Hopkins land. It is ironic, however, that it was Hopkins who earlier this week suggested that a Carl Froch showdown would interest him more as opposed to fighting the Welsh champion.
Preparing Kessler could put himself in a better position to get the Hopkins fight, or potentially face Kessler himself, as the Dane has fought at 175lbs before.
It is fair to say that both Groves and Cleverly need a fight that will take them to stardom. Winning alphabet titles and beating journeymen is fine but the real money and recognition their talent warrants means taking tricky fights against superstars like Froch, Kessler and Hopkins. The decision by both of them to join Kessler’s training camp suggests that the two of them are prepared to make that jump.