Mikkel Kessler vs. Librado Andrade: Isn't Kessler a Bit Overrated?

23.03.07 - By Miguel Velasco: On Saturday night in Copenhagen, Denmark, boxing fans get the treat of seeing one of the most talented fighters in all of boxing when Mexican-born Super middleweight, Librado Andrade (24-0, 18 KOís), the WBC #1 ranked challenger, and a knockout artist in the mold of Antonio Margarito, takes on WBC/WBA champion Mikkel Kessler (38-0, 29 KOís), a fighter originally from Denmark, one that many people consider to be the second best, if not the best, fighter in the super middleweight division. Iím not among those believers, I'm happy to say.

To be sure, Kessler has had a pretty easy time blasting away his competition thus far in his career. However, on closer scrutiny, Kesslerís record is littered with pretty much soft competition, all the way through. In fact, even his best wins - Markus Beyer, Eric Lucas, and Julio Cesar Green Ė are nothing special, and certainly nothing to crow about, given the advanced age of each of them. To be more exact, the three combined have an average age of 35-years-old, and were long before showing signs of wear and tear, by the time they fought Kessler. Age aside, I never really considered any of them as formidable opposition, even in their prime, due their finesse style of offense.

So, in a sense, Kessler really has four decent wins over badly aged fighters on his record, with the rest being over less than first opposition. Sure, itís good that heís knocked out most of them, but thatís why they call it, ďsoft competition,Ē and thatís what a good fighter is supposed to do with opponents of that caliber, isn't it? However, with so few solid wins on his record, what has Kessler really done to earn his reputation as being one of the top fighters?

Itís disappointing to see fans so easily impressed with things like built up records, because thereís often not much behind it if you look more closely. Case in point, heavyweight Brian Nielsen, another fighter from Denmark, whom at one time in his boxing career, had a 49-0 record, mostly consisting of horrendous competition. Against such soft opposition, Nielsen looked unbeatable, like the reincarnation of Rocky Marciano, as he knocked out most of them. Yet, when Nielsen stepped it up against better opposition, as you probably guess, he was soundly beaten. I donít know, perhaps fighting mostly palooka is the status quo for fighters from Denmark, what do you think? It certainly doesnít hurt your record any, and if the rest of the world buys into it, thatís even better.

In terms of offensive skills, Kessler fights basically in the typical European style. You know, standing straight up, staying on the outside, running at the slightest hint of aggression, and throwing a lot of jabs. Right there, for the most part, that precisely describes how Kessler fights, except he throws an occasional right hand every now and then. To say that he fights in a methodical manner, is an understatement. To be more exact, Kesslerís usual punch pattern is as follows: jab-jab-jab, right hand, jab-jab-jab, right hand. Some fun, huh, kid? And always, it seems, he runs quickly away when the fighter is coming forward at him in a half-hearted aggressive way. Only when his opponent backs up or stops showing aggressive tendencies does he start forward to start his own throwing punches in return.

Kessler reminds me a lot of Felix Sturm, a German-based fighter, known for his jabbing, constant movement, and frustratingly boring fights. If you put them side by side in different rings, Kessler is the same fighter, only that heís fought even softer opposition that Sturm, and has a slightly better right hand. Personally, I think Sturm would eat him up if they were ever to get in the ring together. In any case, Kessler is very predictable in his offensive, is what Iím trying to say.

So far, Kesslerís been luck to have largely fought mostly European fighters, the kind that donít pressure him and allow him to sit back and jab, and pick the time where he will throw his right hand or left hook. However, his luck is going to run out on Saturday night against Andrade, who is the exact opposite of every fighter that Kessler has been in against. For starters, Andrade is a pressure fighter, who typically throws a large volume of punches during every round. Sure, some of the punches are wide of their mark at times, but with Andrade's tremendous punch output, he generally overwhelms his opponents in short order.

For example, in his fight with Otis Grant, arguably Andradeís best win to this date, Andrade gave Grant very little breathing room, attacking him from the opening bell, and obliterating him on the inside with some of the finest punching Iíve seen in years, comparing favorably with the best of Antonio Margarito and Roberto Duran. Andrade is just an awesome punching machine, a type of fighter that is like a wind-up monster, that once his programmed, he destroys everyone in the vicinity.

To makes matters worse for Kessler, Andrade is an inside fighter, and has a knack for finding his way inside without taking a lot of punishment on the way in. He accomplishes this with a lightening fast darting movement, in which he lunges in from the outside using a half-running, half leaping move, to close the distance. Once inside, Andrade stays there, throwing punches at an incredible clip. No matter if his opponent tries to escape to the outside, Andrade is right there with them. You see, thereís nothing that Kessler will be able to that will keep Andrade off of him, and heíll be forced to fight a different type of fight that heís grown accustomed to. With having his main weapon Ė his jab Ė taken from him by Andrade staying close, Kessler will be fighting on Andradeís terms and will be out of his element.

I really see this as an easy fight for Andrade, perhaps because heís more of a complete fighter, and has a better style. Generally speaking, Mexican fighters are often trouble for European type fighters, for the simple reason that the Mexicans can fight effectively from either the outside or inside, whereas the Europeans are usually more comfortable from the outside, where they can avoid contact and keep from overexerting themselves. Put a little pressure on them, however, and they often fold like a deck of playing cards. Wladimir Klitschko is just one of many examples of a European fighter that folds under the strain of a good inside attack, but thereís many others, believe me. The other thing about Andrade, it seems, is the amount of courage he has. The guy knows no fear, and must have balls made of iron. He never wilts under pressure. In fact, he thrives on it, and is only comfortable when heís on attack, exchanging punches.

I canít say the same, unfortunately, for Kessler, who as I mentioned previously, backs away to the outside when challenged. Which is only to say that, in large part, heís more of a one-dimensional fighter, mostly comfortable when fighting from the outside. I expect Andrade to jump all over Kessler early on, and quickly overwhelm him with a volley of punches, probably in the first two rounds, causing the referee to step in a stop the assault. Afterwards, Andrade, armed with his new WBC/WBA title belts, will be in the running for a chance of a huge money bout with Joe Calzaghe, the WBO Super middleweight title holder. Andrade, with his unassuming personality, and his aw-shucks grin, will be the perfect fighter to take over the reins in the Super middleweight division, and know knows? Maybe even carry the torch after Oscar De La Hoya retires in the near future. Believe me, Andrade has the skills, the personality and the charisma to be boxing's next mega-superstar. First, however, he must get by Kessler for this to happen.

Prediction: Andrade by 3rd round knockout.

Article posted on 23.03.2007

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