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How great is Michael Kessler?

While you might point to Battling Nelson when it comes to the greatest boxer to ever come from Denmark, others might say the distinction should go to Mikkel Kessler. Kessler, who enjoyed numerous reigns as middleweight champion of both the WBA and WBC, was one of the heaviest and most impressive 168-pounds of his era. From 2004 to 2013, “The Viking Warrior” would mix it up with the best of the best and more often than not, Kessler would win.

Born on this day in 1979, Kessler is perhaps best known for his three fights with British duo Joe Calzaghe and Karl Frosch. Kessler dropped a unanimous decision to Calzaghe in their Grand Unification showdown in 2007, while Kessler went 1-1 with Frosch, a first fight that happened in 2010, and an eagerly anticipated comeback in 2013. There was talk of a treble, but for whatever reason. or the reasons why this did not happen.

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Kessler, a fine amateur, turned pro in March 1998, his first fights were at 154 and 160 lbs, before Mikkel moved up to 168. After 22 fights, all wins, Kessler’s tall frame settled into super middleweight. Primarily playing at home, Kessler would make his U.S. debut in March 2000, when he defeated Israel Ponce in Las Vegas. It wouldn’t be until November 2009 when Kessler returned to America to fight.

Kessler, after racking up solid victories over Dingane Thopela, Craig Cummings and Julio Cesar Green, won the WBA middleweight title in November 2014, by defeating Manny Siaka by stoppage. Of the 14 additional fights Kessler would have had, all but two of them would be world title fights. After two defenses of his WBA title, Kessler, then 26 and closing in on his head, stopped Marcus Baer in three rounds to add the WBC title to his growing collection (Kessler had previously also reigned as the WBC international champion).

Now an indoor and outdoor superstar, Kessler scored a UD score on Librado Andrade, before meeting the “Pride of Wales” in a three-belt unification struggle. Calzaghe fought brilliantly in the fight at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, as did Kessler. The two bring out the best in each other. In the end, Calzaghe, 43-0, was slightly better than Kessler, who was 39-0 at the time, with Joe taking the unanimous decision. Calzaghe later said that this was his finest hour.

Kessler was far from finished after tasting defeat for the first time.

Kessler captured the vacant WBA “Regular” title with a quick win over Dimitri Sartisan in his next fight, holding it twice. Kessler then entered The Super Six. Back in the US after all those years, Kessler was well defeated by Andre Ward, who won an 11th round TD, this after the fight in Oakland, California was suspended due to cuts Kessler suffered. Ward went on to lift the Super Six Cup. Kessler, now 30, rose to the top of Froch in an impressive fight that saw the Dane win another title fight; Kessler regains the WBC belt.

An eye problem saw Kessler announce his retirement, only to return just over a year after Frosch’s win. Kessler defeated Mehdi Bouadla, before briefly moving up to light heavyweight, by defeating Alan Green. Kessler then won the WBA regular belt again, by stopping Brian Magee within three rounds. Then, in May 2013, in what turned out to be his final fight, Kessler went to war again with Frosch.

Another big fight ensued but this time it was Froch who pulled the winning decision, the fight which took place in London. So, Kessler’s final fight was also his UK debut, and we British fans are forever indebted to Kessler for agreeing to fight on these shores.

Kessler’s final numbers read 46-3 (35). Only Calzaghe, Ward, and Frosh manage to defeat him. Looking at Kessler’s track record, one sees quite a number of world title fights listed. Kessler’s was a decorated career, there’s no doubt about that. How great was he? Kessler was great, maybe not all the time great, but great.

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