As a die-hard boxing fan it's not hard to get sucked up into the hype of a big time fight, especially one as solid as Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto. The difficult thing is dealing with the hype hangover.
If you are a boxing fanatic like me, you spent the weeks leading up to the fight just poring over every article, video, chat room and friendly conversation that had anything to do with that fight. You watched every installment of HBO's 24/7, and maybe even watched them twice. You wore out the Pacquiao-Cotto discussions with your girlfriend (probably didn't take long), you even bought bobble-heads of the fighters (I did, can't help it. I love both guys). The problem is that after the big night your brain is mush.
You have have done one of two things since Saturday: become completely obsessed with recaps and analysis or just plain tired of reading about boxing. I understand how you feel — the hype to a big fight can wear down any man, but I am here to tell you it is unacceptable.
That's because we have two fighters who need our support and attention. Andre Ward and Mikkel Kessler will square off in Oakland on Saturday night for the WBA Super-Middleweight title. In almost any other month, this fight would be a huge deal, but after the amazing performance that Pacquiao put on in what was easily the most anticipated fight in years, this fight seems to have taken second fiddle — I have been referring to this fight as the "Christmas Baby Fight". I was born three days after Christmas, and because of that, I have always been stiffed on gifts, parties and anticipation for my birthday. I feel for Ward and Kessler. I know what it's like to be the afterthought to a bigger event.
That should not be the case with this one. These are two of the best super-middleweights in the world and they should not be ignored. This is the final fight of group stage one in Showtime's Super Six tournament, and these could be arguably the two best in the tourney.
Mikkel Kessler(42-1, 32 KO)
Kessler's rap sheet is much more impressive than Ward's. His only loss came at the hands of Joe Calzaghe two years ago (which is no shame; 46 others fell to Calzaghe, too). Kessler has wins over Librado Andrade, Marcus Beyer, Eric Lucas and Anthony Mundine. He has solid boxing ability, a granite chin and what could be the best 1-2 in the biz.
Andre Ward (20-0, 13 KO)
Ward was the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, and started off his career at middleweight. He has yet to lose in his professional career, but the quality of names on his resume aren't even close to the names on Kessler's. Ward has wins against Rubin Williams and Jerson Ravelo, and his biggest win to date came against the brawling Edison Miranda. Ward is a smart fighter with fast hands and outstanding athletic ability.
When Calzaghe retired, most thought Kessler would be the heir apparent, but due to some promotional issues, he ended up sitting out of the sport for most of 2009. He had one tuneup fight back in September in Denmark before getting into the tournament. Ward, on the other hand, stepped up in 2009 by taking on Miranda — by far the toughest test of his career. It was a test he wound up passing, as he won by TKO in the eighth round. Ward was pegged as a superstar after getting the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, but got wobbled a few times in early fights, took the slow road and was beginning to test the patience of his fans. These days, when it seems like too many fighters are in a hurry to fight for a title, Ward took his career slowly and carefully. Now, five years since he won his gold medal win, Ward gets his first title fight.
The fight takes place in Ward's hometown of Oakland — not a bad place to have your first title fight. Just ask Carl Froch if being the hometown fighter has it's advantages: Froch beat Andre Dirrell in a close fight earlier this year in his hometown of Nottingham, England. This is a tough fight to call because Kessler has the power to KO Ward, but Ward has the ring intelligence to move and box from the outside.
Questions and answers
Can Kessler cut the ring down enough to corner Ward?
Ward has the far superior hand-speed, but is that enough to keep Kessler off him?
Can Kessler win a decision in Oakland? Does Ward have the power to KO Kessler?
In the end, I'm going to go with Ward to take a tight decision in what should be a great fight. I feel he will potshot the Dane from the outside and not let himself get caught against the ropes. I will say that if Kessler can force the fight and make Ward trade shots with him, he could get the KO. Ward has shown a shaky chin at times, and "The Viking Warrior" can drop that 1-2 combination like a hammer — just ask Marcus Beyer. That being said, I don't think Ward will let Kessler set his feet and throw with as much pepper on his shots as he would like. Ward will use his superior hand speed and out-box Kessler. Remember, they are fighting in Oakland, so if it's close, the fight is going to Ward.
This will be a much more entertaining fight than the Dirrel-Froch match because at times, Dirrell fights as if he is afraid of fighting, while Ward doesn't mind mixing it up. I really think this could fight could go so many ways, but Ward is just so fast, and in his home town, that is a lot to overcome for the Dane. Either way, I feel the winner Saturday could take the whole Super Six tournament and may very well be the best super-middleweight in the world.
If that isn't enough to shake your hype hangover, I don't know what will. Well, maybe a Bloody Mary.
Two questions to ponder
Who do you pick this weekend?
Who do you think will win the whole tourney?