“The Weigh In”: Mikkel Kessler and Enzo Maccarinelli: The Invisible Men?

By Michael Klimes: Have you heard any news of Mikkel Kessler recently? I have not and I worry about the Dane since he seems to have been keeping a low profile or has been forced to due to a legal dispute with his promoter, Mogens Palle. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much information about the contractual wrangling that is occurring behind closed doors and, even more importantly, any news about when and where Kessler’s next fight will be and against whom is shortcoming..

This is a tremendous shame as Kessler just turned thirty in March and should be in his absolute physical prime if not close to it. Therefore, it is vital he lands a big fight soon and does not waste time in disproving the fair perception that he is the heir apparent to Joe Calzaghe. The super middleweight division is very exciting and is one of boxing’s stronger areas with four world class fighters in its ranks: Kessler, Lucian Bute, Jermain Taylor and Carl Froch. Two other fighters just behind these frontrunners are the always game Librado Andrade and Jean Pascal.

Encouragingly, Arthur Abraham, who is unlikely to meet Kelly Pavlik, will be moving up soon as well as he is finding it excruciating to stay at one hundred and sixty pounds. Where Abraham goes, Edison Miranda is not far and the Columbian could move down from the light heavyweights.

All of these potential bouts except against Librado Andrade should be appealing to Kessler, especially one against Lucien Bute who is the most accomplished super middleweight after him. Bute dispelled a lot of the controversy that pursued him after the controversial twelfth round last October in his title defence against Andrade by looking sensational in his four round knockout of the dangerous Fulgencio Zuniga a fortnight ago. Kessler and Bute could meet in the Bute’s adopted hometown of Montreal or in Germany; in either place they are bound to sell tickets and might even justify a spot on HBO’s sought after PPV schedule.

I must admit that I have a soft spot for Kessler as I believe him to be a very good fighter and I am anxious to see him not waste his talent. It is obvious that he is not the most athletically gifted of boxers as he is statutory in stance and he also does not fight on the inside with the greatest compactness. Similarly, he does not exhibit the most versatile punch variety but there are a number of qualities that do compensate for these deficiencies. He has a jab that is like David Beckham’s free kick or Pete Sampras’s second serve, one cannot help but notice its lucid eloquence; there is marksmanship and speed in the punch which articulates perfection and one can imagine other boxers, who share the same gym with Kessler, fixating on it in awe, attempting to unravel its mysterious workings. When Kessler throws a successful jab, the positioning of his toes and the extension of his arm contain the precise measurement of his adversary: the distance, timing and range are admirable. Furthermore, his right uppercut is a splendid piece of craftsmanship, which will make any commentator at ringside praise its power with a sentence that packs an exclamation mark at the end. Only a few fighters such as Juan Manuel Marquez throw a better upper cut and Marquez is a technician par excellence. The straight right hand is also to be avoided by his opponents as is the left-hook.

Complimenting Kessler’s boxing ability is an imposing physique, a hard work ethic, a tough chin and considerable speed. Kessler throws straight punches and can hit a target quickly. On the personality scale he does not score badly – he speaks fluent English, is not lacking in confidence, is friendly and is approachable. He also has experience and is not averse to fighting off home soil as he travelled to Britain and Australia to fight for world championships. Still, there are some aspects of his career that worry me. He fought superbly against Calzaghe and came up short against a great fighter but he does not seem to have exploited this opportunity enough, or rather, he exploited it in the wrong way. He pursued a rematch against Calzaghe, which was understandable due to the money and motivation it would get him. Nonetheless, he spent too much time trying to do this and failed to realise Calzaghe was unlikely to grant him a rematch as he chased two superstars in America: Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Junior.

Kessler then fought in June and October 2008 where he took a breather and re-established himself by winning the WBA belt. On both occasions he looked good but with the latest legalistic knot Kessler has become tangled in, one must wonder if he has again lost momentum. I hope that if Kessler can get out of his current hole quickly and without too much financial loss, he will be able to meet Bute or the winner of the Taylor versus Froch in a bout later this year. Before he fought Calzaghe I thought he was one of the best fighters in the world and I still do. Given a bit of luck, Kessler will continue to make his positive contribution to boxing and I think we need him.

Tragically, I do not think the same can be said of Enzo Maccarinelli who has suffered two brutal loses in the span of year that could end his days as a top cruiserweight. The Welshman fought gallantly against Ola Afolabi who displayed a James Toney like style peppered with a sparkle of Herol Graham. This style frustrated Maccarinelli a lot of the time and he did not have the required stamina to beat his opponent or execute the correct strategy. He smothered too many of his punches and as a result allowed Afolabi to bide his time. Afolabi scored the knockout of the year as he slipped a lazy Maccarinelli jab and countered with a magnificent right hand. Although Maccarinelli is 28 and has youth on his side, it is easy to see that he has been damaged psychologically by these two losses. It is up to him to find the correct mental attitude that will allow him to rebuild his once successful career. The roads of return for both fighters could be long but for different reasons.