"Mikkel Kessler believes he is is the best super middleweight fighter in the world. If Joe Calzaghe isn't interested in helping him make that clear then he'll try to do it without him Saturday night when he dances with Andrade in front of HBO's cameras. As for what he's worth, Mikkel Kessler is sure it's far more than some people might think."
That night was a gloriously unexpected one for Kessler, who was 25 at the time and the WBC's No. 1 contender. He was himself in training to face Dannny Green in a WBC eliminator that would have led to a title shot if he won when his phone rang with the news that his then stablemate, Mads Larsen, who was headlining the event against Sciaca, had been injured in training. Would he accept the risk of facing the WBA champion on short notice after Sciaca and promoter Don King agreed to face Kessler? He did without hesitation. After seven rounds, Sciaca regretted the whole idea.
Pounded and hounded into submission all night, Sciaca retired on his stool at his father and brother's urgings at the end of Round 7. When the bell tolled for the eighth round it did not toll for Manny Sciaca. It tolled instead for the young Dane. Thus did Mikkel Kessler's super middleweight title reign begin. His coronation came without fanfare outside of Copenhagen, just as his rise to the top of the 168-pound division has been. But the latter is now about to change on March 24. Or so Kessler and the Palles hope.
"Kessler is a very good looking boy, a charming boy,'' Mogens Palle said from his home in Denmark. Palle has been promoting fights in Denmark for over 50 years, his most talented prodige being Ayub Kalule, who once gave Sugar Ray Leonard all he wanted bfore losing a title fight to him. Palle is not yet ready to put Kessler in the same category because even though Kalule "was not a real Dane he soldout every time for 10 years,'' Palle explained, looking at things from the perspective of a man who sells seats for a living.
Yet he shares at least one thing in common with Kalule, according to Palle.
"Kessler, he don't care where he fights or who he fights,'' Palle said. "He won the title and then went to Australia to defend it (winning a 12-round decision and bloodying the nose of local hero Anthony Mundine). He had a problem with a disc in his back and postponed it for a month. When he said he'd go fight Mundine he was in no shape at all. He was not able to spar one round for that fight or do one meter of road work and Kessler beat the crap out of Mundine.
"We've worked for two years to get him on HBO and all we kept hearing was 'Nobody knows Kessler.' They preferred Calzaghe over Kessler. I couldn't understand that, but if he beats Andrade in a good way we will have gotten the exposure we're looking for.''
Kessler is a smooth blend of the commodities that still sell best in boxing. He can fight, he can talk and he has the kind of good looks and warm personality that make female fight fans swoon. Only the former will help him against Andrade of course, but if that is enough to win that night the rest of his package could finally propel him into the crosshairs of the big money fights he and the Palles have for so long sought for him.
On March 24, "The Viking Warrior'' will finally get an opportunity to capture the attention of the American sporting public in the fourth, and most important, title defense of his career. For the rest of what he has to sell to ever be on display in the United States, he first must do what he's promised at every press conference in Copenhagen since the Andrade fight was announced. He has to convince the American boxing public that they've been missing somebody worth watching.
Mikkel Kessler believes he is is the best super middleweight fighter in the world. If Joe Calzaghe isn't interested in helping him make that clear then he'll try to do it without him Saturday night when he dances with Andrade in front of HBO's cameras. As for what he's worth, Mikkel Kessler is sure it's far more than some people might think.
"I was standing with Kessler outside his locker room after the Beyer fight in Copenhagen,'' recalled attorney and fight figure Michael Marley, who works with the Palles among others in boxing. "Beyer came over like a sportsman to shake hands. When he left a Danish fan came up to Kessler and gave him a piece of paper to sign. It was 100 kroner (Danish paper money). Kessler looks at him with this big grin and says, 'Is that all I'm worth?'''
Maybe not after March 24.