Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mikkel Kessler vs. Andre Ward Prediction


By JE Grant

The Super-Six tournament has already proven a stunning, innovative success. By taking in six top fighters in one division, various promoters are working toward a common goal has not really been seen since the alphabet organizations began proliferating in the 1970s.

Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward are super talents that would not have met for at least a couple of years (if ever) had it not been for the Super-Six. Ward may have very well captured one of the various belts and been forced, as Kessler has been, to engage in meaningless mandatories ad nauseam.

So, it is with particular relish that we get to see this bout come to fruition Saturday night.

Kessler, 30, 42-1 (32 KOs), Denmark, is clearly in his prime years. The tough loss to Joe Calzaghe notwithstanding, he has resided at or near the top of the division for years. Wins over the likes of Markus Beyer, Eric Lucas, and Anthony Mundine, among others, has solidified his place as an elite fighter. What none of those names have given him, however, is the breakout victory that he needs to become an international figure. This tournament, with Andre Ward first on the menu, gives him that opportunity.

His crisp and precise punching has enabled him to adjust to a variety of opponent styles. In his most recent title defense, Kessler demonstrated that he had little trouble adjusting to the tall southpaw Gusmyr Perdomo. While Perdomo does not have nearly the talent level of Andre Ward, he was a useful warmup for the switch-hitter Ward.

Ward, 25, 20-0 (13 KOs), Oakland, came to the pro ranks with an Olympic Gold Medal pedigree -- a rarity for American fighters of late. In amassing his undefeated ledger, he has not been in any hurry to climb the ladder. Whatever doubts fans and pundits may have had about his development had their questions answered earlier this year when he outpunched and outboxed the hard punching Edison Miranda. In that fight Ward show that he could take the big shot and use a range of skills to decision a dangerous opponent.

PREDICTION: Kessler and Ward are possibly the most talented and versatile fighters in the tournament. Kessler has an edge in experience with big fights, having performed in front of huge crowds. That is offset by the fact that they are fighting in Ward's hometown. Kessler is also a proven knockout puncher while Ward tends to wing his right and relies on accumulated blows to cause stoppages. Ward's clear advantage is his hand and foot speed. Calzaghe gave Kessler problems with his ability to punch at blazing speed and move around the ring. On this night, however, it will not be enough for Ward. Kessler has been in the deep-end far more often than Ward and he knows how to adapt. Ward's game plan will likely call for him to rely heavily on jabs and giving Kessler unique angles. If he can keep Kessler off-balance he could sneak a decision win. This fight will go to the fighter with the bigger tool kit and that is Kessler. Both fighters are elite competitors -- don't be surprised to see the two fighters meeting multiple times.

Kessler by 12 round decision.

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