While you may point to Battling Nelson when it comes to the greatest boxer ever to have come from Denmark, others may say the distinction should go to Mikkel Kessler. Kessler, who enjoyed multiple reigns as both WBA and WBC super middleweight champion, was one of the most popular and exciting 168 pounders of his time. From the years 2004 to 2013, “The Viking Warrior” was mixing it with the best of the best and often times, Kessler was winning.
Born on this day back in 1979, Kessler is perhaps best known for his three fights with British duo Joe Calzaghe and Carl Froch. Kessler dropped a unanimous decision to Calzaghe in their big unification showdown in 2007, while Kessler went 1-1 with Froch, fight-one taking place in 2010, the eagerly anticipated return in 2013. There was talk of a trilogy, yet for whatever reason or reasons it never happened.
Kessler, a fine amateur, went pro in March of 1998, his first fights taking place at 154 and 160 pounds, before Mikkel made the move to 168. After 22 fights, all wins, Kessler’s tall frame settled in at super middleweight. Boxing primarily at home, Kessler would have his US debut in March of 2000, when he defeated Israel Ponce in Las Vegas. It would not be until November of 2009 when Kessler returned to America for a fight.
Kessler, having picked up solid wins over Dingaan Thobela, Craig Cummings and Julio Cesar Green, won the WBA super middleweight title in November of 2014, this with a stoppage win over Manny Siaca. Of the additional 14 fights Kessler would have, all but two of them would be world title fights. After two defences of his WBA title, Kessler, then aged 26 and approaching his prime, stopped Markus Beyer in three rounds to add the WBC title to his growing collection (Kessler having also previously ruled as WBC international champion).
Kessler, now a star at home as well as abroad, scored a UD over Librado Andrade, before he met “The Pride of Wales” in a three-belt unification clash. Calzaghe fought quite brilliantly in the fight held at The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, as did Kessler; the two bringing out the best in each other. In the end, Calzaghe, 43-0, was a little bit better than Kessler, who was 39-0 at the time, with Joe getting the unanimous decision. Calzaghe would later state that this was his finest hour.
Kessler was far from done after tasting defeat for the first time.
Kessler picked up the vacant “regular” WBA title with a quick win over Dimitri Sartisan in his very next fight, with him making two retentions. Then Kessler entered The Super Six. Returning to the US after all those years, Kessler was well beaten by Andre Ward, who won via 11th round TD, this after the fight in Oakland, California was stopped due to cuts suffered by Kessler. Ward went on to lift The Super Six trophy. Kessler, now aged 30, went on to top Froch in a great fight that saw the Dane win yet another title fight; Kessler regaining the WBC belt.
Eye trouble saw Kessler announce his retirement, only for him to come back a little over a year after the Froch win. Kessler defeated Medhi Bouadla, before he briefly went up to light heavyweight, beating Allan Green. Kessler then won the WBA regular belt again, this by stopping Brian Magee inside three rounds. Then, in May of 2013, in what turned out to his final fight, Kessler went to war with Froch once more.
Another great fight ensued but this time it was Froch who pulled out the decision win, the fight taking place in London. So, Kessler’s final fight was also his UK debut, and we British fans are forever indebted to Kessler for having agreed to fight on these shores.
Kessler’s final numbers read an impressive 46-3(35). Only Calzaghe, Ward, and Froch ever managed to beat him. Looking at Kessler’s record, one sees a vast number of world title fights listed. Kessler’s was a decorated career, no doubt about it. How great was he? Kessler was great, maybe not all-time great, but great.