Friday, November 2, 2007

A Dark Horse Factor In Calzaghe-Kessler

I failed to mention it in my preview yesterday, and immediately regretted it, but I think there's a big potential problem for Mikkel Kessler in tomorrow's mega-fight versus Joe Calzaghe for all the super middleweight (168 lbs.) marbles.

Kessler's nervous.

It's not required to speculate anymore about whether Kessler is nervous, as Calzaghe did. Calzaghe said he thought Kessler was "tightening up" after the stoic, friendly Dane began hurling some trash talk in the direction of the British champ. For Kessler to have done that was certainly out of character. Then Kessler mysteriously began disappearing from conference calls hyping the fight, another strange bit of behavior that might point to nerves.

But speculation is no longer required because Kessler has admitted he's nervous. "You have to be nervous," Kessler said in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, noting that "This is the biggest fight of my career."

I actually thought -- and I believe some of the HBO commentators did, too -- that Kessler looked nervous in the first couple rounds of his fight this year against Librado Andrade. It was Kessler's first moment in the international spotlight, unless you count the same-day highlight clip of Kessler's blowout of Markus Beyer last year that HBO substituted for showing the actual fight.

But now Kessler's really, really, really in the international spotlight. Every boxing fan in the world is probably going to be doing his or her damnedest to watch Calzaghe-Kesser. Even worse, there are going to be anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 some-odd fans actually watching Calzaghe and Kessler in person, and almost all of them are going to be Brits, since the fight's in Calzaghe's backyard.

Maybe Kessler was just being refreshingly candid, where another fighter would not be, about his emotional state. Maybe anyone would be nervous leading up to the biggest moment of their entire career. Maybe the trash talk/disappearing act was nothing at all to do with nerves, and maybe, if Kessler is nervous to start the fight, he'll settle down once he tastes a little success, like he did against Andrade.

But if you're a Kessler fan -- and I am; see the list of "favorite fighters" on the right side of the page -- it should be cause for anxiety that Kessler is so, well, anxious. Even if you're not a Kessler fan, and are just looking for a good fight, you should be anxious. Because if Calzaghe jumps on Kessler early, and gets him in a hole, and Kessler never does manage to settle down, this might not be much of a fight at all.

Our insides are gross and unpredictable.


Dammrod said...

I'm rooting for Kessler. The man is awesome, and he has the potential to be a true boxing superstar. I hope these prefight jitter are just that: prefight.

I hope Kessler ends Calzaghe's Stalinesque hold on the WBO belt by knocking the Brit out!

Tim -- said...

Stalinesque! Nice call.

Pebbles said...

You write very well.