Flights were grounded and sports events cancelled. Sound familiar? Rewind 10 years to April 24, 2010 and that was the situation going into fight week for the first encounter between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler.
A volcanic ash cloud, spewd from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, meant hundreds of commercial flights across northern Europe were grounded, and some sports events had to be rescheduled.
Sitting at home in Nottingham, England, Froch was left wondering whether a third defense of his WBC world super-middleweight title against Kessler at the MCH Messecenter Herning in Denmark would take place.
Froch’s arrival in the in the remote town of Herning was delayed after his flight a week before the fight was cancelled.
Six days before fight night, Froch told this reporter, “If I can’t fly out to Denmark, the fight is not happening. I’m not going on a boat for 20 hours and driving cross country a day before the weigh in. It’s common sense that is not good before boxing and I’ve got the weigh-in to prepare for as well and I can’t do that while I’m travelling.
“I should be resting rather than getting on and off boats. Kessler’s promoter needs the fight to go ahead as do the American TV company Showtime and as far as I’m concerned, at the moment, it is. The fight date of Saturday is looking precarious. I’m now booked on a flight on Wednesday and if that’s cancelled I don’t know if there are any alternatives anyway.”
Froch-Kessler I was part of the Super Six competition, a super-middleweight competition that also featured American Andre Ward and Germany’s Arthur Abraham. After outpointing Jean Pascal for the title in 2008, then defending it with a last-gasp stoppage of Jermain Taylor and another points win over Andre Dirrell, Froch was putting together a good case to be considered the world’s best at super-middleweight.
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Promoter Kalle Sauerland took matters into his own hands and put Froch and his trainer, Rob McCracken, on a private jet on the Wednesday before that weekend’s fight. Froch’s wife, Rachael, then pregnant with their first child, was also on the small private jet.
“The landing was the roughest ever, and me and Rob have been arguing over who was the most worried,” Froch said.
In his autobiography, Froch describes the bumpy flight as “bloody horrific.”
If the build-up was far from ideal, Froch’s performance then needed to be punch perfect if he was to silence Kessler’s home crowd.
Kessler, then 31, was looking to bounce back after he lost his WBA version of the world tile on cuts in his last fight to Ward. That defeat was Kessler’s second career setback after being outpointed by Froch’s bitter British rival Joe Calzaghe for three versions of the world title to decide the division’s No 1 in 2007, and it prompted the Dane to hire a new trainer in Jimmy Montoya.
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Kessler could not afford another setback and that hunger helped him earn a unanimous points decision to end Froch’s 26-fight unbeaten record and reign as WBC super-middleweight champion, with scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113 after a thunderous toe-to-toe tussle.
Froch hurt Kessler in the fifth round with a great right hand, but Kessler survived the crisis to prevail in front of 10,000 of his home fans.
Froch admitted he failed to finish off Kessler when he had him in trouble in the middle rounds, and also revealed he came close to pulling out of the fight due to a perforated left ear drum suffered in sparring.
He said at the post-fight press conference: “It did effect me, I’ve got a perforated ear drum and a few times I got hit on the side of the head my balance was off. On Monday and Tuesday I was also relaxing thinking the fight is off because of the volcanic ash cloud and all the fights being cancelled. I took my foot off the gas and my mind off the job.
“I was thinking about pulling out of the fight because of it [perforated ear drum] and I was effected slightly by the balance. When I got hit a couple of times I felt unsteady and that’s why I didn’t go for the finish when I should have. Shots were effecting me when I got caught around the side of the head. It’s not an excuse, it’s the truth. It’s not the reason I got beat, that’s because I didn’t go for the finish and also the judges were never going to give me a decision.
Mikkel Kessler came away from the bout victorious as the new champion. Photo by Jan Christensen/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images
“I needed to knock him out to win the fight because it wasn’t going to happen on points.”
Kessler was crowned world champion for the third time — but would then not fight for nearly 14 months due to an eye injury. This win was as good as it got for the Dane.
He said after beating Froch: “This is the third time I’ve become champion and Carl can only learn from a loss, like I have done.”
And Froch did learn from the loss as he went on to secure a legacy that marks him out as one of the best, and most entertaining, British boxers in history.
Froch won back the vacant WBC belt in his next fight (Kessler vacated due to the eye injury), when he boxed brilliantly behind his jab to outpoint Abraham in Helsinki, Finland. Ward earned a unanimous decision over Froch to win the Super Six Series in a WBC-WBA title unification fight in December 2011, but Froch rebounded again by winning his five remaining fights, all for world titles. One of those wins was a dominant, unanimous decision over Kessler for the IBF and WBA belts in London in 2013.
Froch, now a boxing television pundit, retired in 2014 with a record of 33 wins and two defeats (24 KOs) after a stunning knock out of George Groves in front of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium. Kessler never fought again after losing to Froch in 2013, and finished on 46 wins, three defeats (35 KOs).