Kings of the Super Middleweight Landscape

By: Brandon Stubbs
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The super middleweight division is one of the richest divisions the sport has to offer right now. Holding several of the world best pound for pound fighters, all matchups in the division offer some great fights. With 2012 quickly coming to a close and big bouts already lined up for 2013, here is look at the landscape for some of the 168lbs and what lays ahead.

Andre Ward
It’s only right to start off at the top with the WBC, “Super” WBA and “The Ring” champ. Andre Ward proved he was the best super middleweight in the by winning the “Super Six Tournament” back in 2011. Injuring his hand in the final championship bout against Carl Froch limited his action in 2012 to just one fight with light-heavyweight champ Chad Dawson. What Ward proved yet again with his pure dismantling of Dawson is that he is the number one 168er by a far margin. It doesn’t hurt that he owns a million dollar smile, is very well spoken and highly respected in the sport. He will get a chance to paint another masterpiece on January 26 against former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. On paper this is a mismatch and should be easily won by the crafty Ward.

Carl Froch
If Ward is the unquestionable #1 in the division, then Froch is no doubt #2. Many though Carl Froch was exposed in his lopsided loss to Ward in the “Super Six” final, but as time has went on, it is proven that Ward is just that great and Froch is just a notch behind. This fact was evident in May when he flattened the much hyped Lucian Bute and took his IBF belt in a 5th round TKO. And earlier this month he did what great fighters do and dominated a lower class opponent in Yusaf Mack via 3rd round KO to retain his belt. 2013 is going to be an awesome year for the “Cobra”. He will have his second fight with Bute in Canada as part of their fight series, which he should have little trouble winning if history holds true. After that, things should line up for him to avenge his only other career loss to Mikkel Kessler (close fight in 2010) or maybe challenge Ward again.

The Contenders ?

Mikkel Kessler
For Mikkel Kessler it will never be a question if his skill is high, it will be if his health can hold up to keep him in the year. Double vision put him out of the “Super Six”, as well as both hand and shoulder injuries have forced him to cancel bouts in recent years. So far he has only fought once in 2012, but it was a good one. He moved up to light-heavyweight and took on Allan Green, beating him and possibly earning the “Knockout of the Year” in his four rounds of work. He will drop back down to 168lbs and try to gain a piece of  gold when he takes on Brian Magee on December 8. He will need to get past Magee before he will able to go calling out Ward and Froch for rematches.

Lucian Bute
He was looked at as the big prize and payday for the winner of the “Super Six”. But after Andre Ward had zero interest in him, Bute had to settle for the runner-up. Well, we all know how that ended; just think it would have been worse if it was Ward. Its clear Lucian was protected and brought up smart by his promoter in Canada and kept away from major punchers prior to Carl Froch. In his bounce back fight with Denis Grachev earlier this month, Lucian looked less then stellar and doesn’t look ready for a second fight with Froch in 2013.

Arthur Abraham
For years he was hidden away over in Germany, getting hometown decisions as a middleweight. And then a few years ago he decided to move up in weight and come over to the states; bad move. He went 1-3 in the “Super Six” in a two year span against the top 168lb fighters in the world and was exited out. In the time since, he has returned back to Germany and gained the WBO title portion of the division. Unless he changes his style and is willing to go back over to the US, he has no chance among the best the in the division.

The Wild Cards

Brian Magee
Magee has been around the division for some time now. Has fought Bute and Froch, losing to both. He will get one last chance to make an impact in the division when he defends his WBA (regular) belt against Kessler in a few weeks. A loss will make him a side note in the division and a gatekeeper over in the UK.

Kelly Pavlik
Once known as the best middleweight in the world, setbacks outside the ring had put a paused to his boxing career. Now sober and under new trainer Robert Garcia, Kelly has been able to string together win streaks against lesser opponents. With him still having a name in boxing and having Top Rank as a promoter, he was cunning enough to bag a big payday against Andre Ward in January. In his prime this would have been a far closer fight, but have the years of abuse taken its toll on Pavlik?

Andre Dirrell
Maybe the wildest of all of the wild cards is Andre Dirrell. Like Andre Ward he has an Olympic medal, a great smile, very personal guy and top level skills. His lone loss came via split decision to Carl Froch in a pretty entertaining bout. Due to neurological problems, he was robbed of a year in his career. And now due to management/promotional issues he hasn’t fought at all in 2012. He is somewhat stuck between to beef with 50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather. A healthy Andre Dirrell could hang with both Ward and Froch and would handle the rest of the gentlemen previously named with no trouble. Let’s hope in 2013 he can finally be able to show that.

Braekhus Defeats Mathis/Kessler-Magee Confirmed for Dec. 8

***Nordic Fight Night: Braekhus defeats Mathis / Kessler-Magee confirmed for December 8***

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WBA, WBC & WBO Female Welterweight Champion Cecilia Braekhus (21-0, 5 KOs) lived up to her billing as boxing´s “First Lady” with a spectacular points victory over French star Anne Sophie Mathis (26-3, 22 KOs). After ten exciting rounds, she was ahead 97-93 on all three cards. “This is the happiest day of my life,” she said afterwards. “Mathis was very strong, the toughest opponent of my career, but I found a way to beat her. This is my biggest win ever.”

With 2,345 fans in attendance – at least 550 of them from Norway – at Arena Nord in Frederikshavn, Braekhus used her superior boxing skills to stay out of harm´s way, although Mathis had her moments. But Braekhus cleverly blocked her attacks and landed punches on her own – single shots as well as combinations. In the seventh, she even wobbled Mathis, but she bounced back, and it remained an exciting encounter until the very end. “Cecilia fought a great fight,” Mathis said. “She is very fast and a very good boxer.” Asked about a potential meeting with Holly Holm, whom Mathis had knocked out cold last December, she answered: “Braekhus is better than Holm. She is faster, has better movement and better boxing skills.”

Promoter Nisse Sauerland praised Cecilia after “the fight of her life.” He said: “Cecilia left no doubts that she is the best female boxer out there. Mathis was very strong, very dangerous, but Cecilia proved her class in impressive fashion. This was a fantastic fight.”

In the co-featured main event, Patrick Nielsen defended his WBA Intercontinental Middleweight Title with a clear points victory over Jose Yebes. Dennis Ceylan also celebrated a successful professional debut, stopping Artsem Abmiotka in the second round. Erik Skoglund continued his winning streak with a points victory over Ivan Maslov, while Torben Keller outpointed Laszlo Szekeres. Ahmed Kaddour also defeated Max Maxwell on points.

Meanwhile, it was announced that Mikkel Kessler (45-2, 34 KOs) will challenge Brian Magee (36-4-1, 25 KOs) for the WBA Super-Middleweight World Championship at Jyske Bank BOXEN in Herning, Denmark on December 8. Tickets will go on sale at BILLETnet/Ticketmaster on Monday, October 1, at 10 am. “I look forward to fighting in Herning again,” the Viking Warrior said. “The atmosphere was fantastic last time when I fought Carl Froch. The fans made the difference that night, their support really lifted me to one of my greatest victories. With their help, I will become world champion again on December 8.”

Kessler only has the best memories of Herning. In September 2009, he stopped Gusmyr Perdomo to pave his way into the Super Six World Boxing Classic. In April 2010, he then defeated WBC Super-Middleweight Champion Carl Froch in what many thought was the greatest fight ever on Danish soil. “The fans raised the roof that night,” promoter Kalle Sauerland said. “History repeats itself, we expect a sell-out crowd, a fantastic fight and another world title for the Viking Warrior.”

Sauerland is sure that Kessler will take out the “Dane Killer” Magee, who has stopped Mads Larsen and Rudy Markussen. “It´s up to Mikkel to restore the Danish fighting pride,” Sauerland added. “But when he is at the top of his game, nobody can stop him. His KO over Allan Green was impressive. Magee is the next in line to taste the wrath of the Viking Warrior.”

Press Release: Kessler to Challenge Magee

***“A question of honour” – Kessler to challenge Brian Magee for WBA Super-Middleweight World Championship***

Prior to Saturday´s Nordic Fight Night in Frederikshavn, Team Sauerland is delighted to confirm that Mikkel Kessler (45-2, 34 KOs) will challenge Brian Magee (36-4-1, 25 KOs) for the WBA Super-Middleweight World Championship in Denmark later this year. The date and the venue will be announced in due time. “This will be a massive event, I believe the whole country will get behind Mikkel,” promoter Kalle Sauerland said. “He can become world champion for a record fourth time and restore the Danish boxing pride by avenging the bitter KOs of Rudy Markussen and Mads Larsen. It´s taken a while but now all is signed and sealed – except for the venue and the date, which we expect to be finalised shortly. Magee will feel the wrath of the Viking Warrior! It´s a question of honour!”

After stopping Mads Larsen (January 2010) and Rudy Markussen (February 2012), Magee will be looking to complete his Danish KO hat-trick. At the same time, Kessler will be trying to become world champion for a fourth time, having proved his class with a spectacular KO victory over Allan Green at PARKEN in May. His one-punch knock-out has been dubbed as a potential KO of the year. “I look forward to fighting Magee,” the Viking Warrior said. “He´s a good boxer with a lot of heart. It takes something to come to Denmark and knock out both Mads and Rudy. But his winning streak will end when we meet. I am very keen to be world champion again and Magee cannot prevent this from happening. It will be interesting as I think it will be a little like a national team match, I am a proud Dane and this guy will take a beating for having knocked out my countrymen.”

Magee is convinced he will claim another prominent Danish scalp. “I am ready for the hat-trick of KO´s,” he said. “I´ve stopped Larsen, I´ve stopped Markussen and now it´s Kessler´s turn. He´s a great fighter, no doubt about that, but I have the tools to break him. He ran from a fight earlier in the year after he was ringside and witness to the destruction of Markussen but now I have him and he will go the same way. I have already commenced early training and I am working on a fight plan with my coach Bernardo Checa. Denmark has been good to me and I am happy to be going back.”

Further details about the Kessler-Magee fight will be announced after Saturday´s Nordic Fight Night in Frederikshavn. At Arena Nord, Patrick Nielsen defends his WBA Intercontinental Middleweight Title against Spaniard Jose Yebes. The card also features the “Pacquiao Mayweather of women´s boxing” – the showdown between WBA / WBC / WBO Female Welterweight Champion Cecilia Braekhus and French KO queen Anne Sophie Mathis. Ahmed Kaddour, Torben Keller, Dennis Ceylan and Erik Skoglund will also be in action. Tickets are available at arenanord.dk.