2010 Boxing Round Of The Year: Mikkel Kessler – Carl Froch, Round 12

Everything about the Super Six tournament on Showtime has been dramatic and compelling, but more like “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” than “Star Wars.” There have been subtler pleasures to be had, such as the ability of someone to rise unexpectedly, but there have been few bombs-away moments. For one April night in 2010, though — and more than anything else about that night, one round — everything changed.

Mikkel Kessler – Carl Froch had some of the usual Super Six drama going for it, too. Kessler had been bludgeoned and bullied so badly in the first round of the tournament by Andre Ward that his manhood came under question. His showing in the first 11 rounds of his super middleweight battle with Froch proved that it remained intact, as the two traded heavy shots in a borderline Fight of the Year candidate. It was a dramatic performance for reasons intellectual and for the the more visceral “good lord these fellows are punching the piss out of each other” reasons.

But Froch has a way of threatening anyone’s manhood. Froch showed one round later in the tournament that he was a talented boxer, too, but one thing that had never been in question about Froch is whether he was likely to quit in a fight or be out-toughed, especially with everything on the line. He’s always had that extra something that pushes him over the edge when things get dire. Froch was making use of his extra somethingness to come on strong late against Kessler. He rocked him a little, even.

Going into the 12th, reasonable people might have thought the fight was up for grabs. Kessler and Froch sure seemed to think it was. Kessler, bleeding horribly from a cut above his left eye, came out appropriately: faster than any previous round. Since Froch was already stuck in fifth gear, they went at it in what might have looked to the naked eye like a crazed fashion, but it was high-level aggression. Kessler, mentally, needed it more, and so he took it: His career would have been in rough shape had he lost twice in a row and his guts might have again come under question. And while his career would later be thrown for a loop when he pulled out of the tournament citing an injury that had him seeing double, the 12th round at the time was a capstone on his career reclamation and manhood restoration.

There were many good boxing rounds in 2010, and the parity meant picking a winner was hard; there wasn’t an obvious Round of the Year. As we learned when the scorecards were read, Kessler didn’t need the 12th round. He would have beaten Froch even if he had lost the final stanza. But those dramatic high stakes in the moment — and the back-and-forth trading that logically followed — made Kessler-Froch’s 12th round the TQBR Round of the Year.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.