With the Mikkel Kessler vs. Andre Ward match just over a week away, the two fighters held a media conference call on Tuesday evening. Both men had a lot to say about their training, the upcoming fight and the Super Six Tournament as a whole. Read on for quotes from both Kessler and Ward, and don’t forget to take a peek at our Super Six Tournament page, featuring updated standings, results, previews and more.
“it’s nice to be over here in the States. I don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape. I’ve done a lot of sparring, good sparring and I’m ready to come over here and fight. I have no injuries or anything. Everything’s been great.
“I’ve been here for two weeks now and everything is going good. The climate and time change is very good. Of course it took me three or four days to get used to it but as I said before, my condition has never been better. I just sparred eight rounds today and it was one of the best eight rounds of my life. I’m looking forward to Ward and I’m looking forward to war.
About fighting away from home in the first round:
“I told my promoter before that I don’t care where I fight. I’m used to fighting outside of Denmark. Of course you always want your home field. I wanted to fight in Denmark but maybe next time hopefully. A fight is a fight and a ring is a ring. It doesn’t mean anything to me where it is. Obviously if it’s a decision you have one more point if it’s your home field. But I’m not that kind of boxer. I’m the kind of fighter who makes his points through the rounds. I’ve tried it three or four times before and I know how it is. I’m not afraid of that.
“I made my travel schedule before the other fights. I know when (Jermain) Taylor and (Andre) Dirrell arrived (in Europe) and it wasn’t long enough. You have to be there at least three weeks before so you can adapt to the time change.
“It feels good to be the favorite (in the six-man tournament). As a fighter you always want to be the underdog and to go in there with no one believing in you. I’m happy that people have seen my skills as a fighter and that I can show them that I am the champ.
“I don’t think about knockouts (in regard to the Super Six format). If it’s there, it’s there. But I have to think about it one fight at a time and I think guys will go in there looking for the knockout if they need the extra point to get into the semifinals so I think that’ll be very interesting. But right now I have to only think about the win.”
Are you looking forward to showcasing your skills in front of an American audience?
“Yes, of course. I’m going to show them how my boxing style is. I’m ready for that, to show the American fans how I fight. It’s difficult for me being a Danish guy to get known in the U.S. So here’s my big chance for it.”
What did you learn from the whole Calzaghe experience?
“I fought my heart out. I learned a lot from the experience. It was my first loss and I thought, ‘Oh, no. Everything’s over now.’ But it has only made me stronger.”
Did you learn any lessons from watching the first two fights of the tournament?
“Of course I saw the fights but I can’t use any of it in my next fight because I’m not fighting those opponents. I’m going to fight another guy. I’m going to take it like all my other fights and I’m not thinking about the tournament, only this fight.
“Every fight I fight like it’s my last fight. That’s the way I see it and why I get better and better for each fight. I’m very excited to fight Ward in his hometown. I think it’s going to be a great fight.”
“I’m mentally and physically prepared. I just can’t wait. I’m 11 days away and I’m counting my fingers every single day because I’m ready for war.
“I’m just approaching this with great anticipation. It’s something you dream about. The best words I can give you are I’m very impatient and I’m ready to fight. I’ve haven’t been training for this for five or six weeks. I’ve been training for this for most of my life. I’ve been doing this since I was 9 years old and I’m 25 now so it’s time. It’s just time to go after this world championship. I don’t think my road up to this point has been slow. I don’t know what the barometer is or who sets the standard but one thing you have to keep in mind is that some of the gold medalists like Sugar Ray Leonard who did it in three years and guys like that, they fought without head gear. So the acclimation process to the pros was a lot easier for those guys, amongst a lot of other reasons. So I don’t think our road up to this point has been slow or stagnant. It’s been right on time.
“Nazim Richardson, a decorated trainer, used to tell us that you may have what it takes to beat the champion but you have to be man enough to win a championship and also to keep it. And I’m man enough now and at the point where I not only have the intelligence but the physical strength to not only win it but to keep it for a very long time. We were just waiting for the right time. I don’t think it’s been slow at all.
Will you be looking for the knockout?
“Just the win. Obviously you look at different things and different strategies that may lead to a knockout but I don’t go in there looking for it. If you look for it it never comes so absolutely it’s just about winning first and foremost.
During the Olympics you were always the first to arrive and the first to leave and you studied so much film. Have you done the same preparing for Kessler?
“It’s just a testament to my personality and how seriously I take my job. I think the main thing is that I love to win. I’m very, very competitive and know there are some ingredients that come with winning and that part of that is in the gym and in the ring as far as physical preparation goes. But it’s also the mental preparation and just watching film and that kind of thing. It’s the same approach I took as an amateur, at the highest level as an amateur, and it’s the same approach I take now. It’s just who I am.
“My thing is I want to just maximize my potential in training camp so when the fight comes it’s just time to perform and you don’t have to second-guess it. So I’ve trained for Mikkel Kessler the same way.”
What did you take away from the last time you fought in Oakland?
“I mean, everything was pretty much the way I thought it would be. I’m the type of person who likes to live my life in the middle. Because people are going to be screaming and yelling and they’re going to try and get your attention two week’s before the fight or a week before. Even the night of the fight they’re yelling your name. Good things and bad things. I just try and stay in the middle. I try to stay focused and keep my eye on the fight at hand. This is a long time coming, more than a decade of preparation so I won’t allow it to be a distraction. And just like the (Edison) Miranda fight I will use the crowd as motivation. They were excited for the last fight and they are extremely excited for the next fight. I’m definitely going to use it to my advantage but at the end of the day it comes down to two men fighting and who comes out on top. Who’s going to focus and who’s going to execute the game plan. If you go in there thinking just about the home-field advantage it’s going to be a long time because it’s not going to get you through every time. It’s just focus. It’s focus if you’re fighting at home or fighting abroad.”
Is Kessler the most talented fighter you’ve ever faced?
“Absolutely. Without a shadow of a doubt. He’s the champion. He’s the most skilled and the most tough. Absolutely.
Did you learn any lessons watching the first two fights of the tournament?
“Not really. When you fight a champion you have to believe. What I’m saying is there were some cases in the Dirrell fight with body language that some of the closer rounds went to Froch. Even though I thought Dirrell won the fight. That’s something that you have to be aware of. You have to been in command at all times. It’s different for you guys in the media who get to think of all the different things that can happen. When you fight a fight like this, this is it. This is what you think, this is what you eat, this is what you drink. You can’t sit back and think, what if this happen or that happens. It just happens. It’s all about this fight right here.”
Will the 168-pound weight limit be a problem for you over the next year and a half?
“I don’t think it will be a problem. I live a clean life. I don’t have any extremes when I’m not fighting. I’ve only had 20 fights and I’m always training. I think if there wasn’t a tournament I would be in the super middleweight division at that time anyway. I don’t think it’ll be a problem at all.
“I expect a very, very, very tough fight. I don’t want to get into many details but I expect to see the very best Mikkel Kessler. I expect a better Mikkel Kessler than I saw against Pedromo. I expect a better Mikkel Kessler than I saw against Calzaghe. If I didn’t expect to beat every man in this tournament then I shouldn’t be in this tournament.
“I’m planning on bringing the total package. I don’t know how you perceive me as a fighter but I plan to bring a little bit of everything on November 21st. Not just speed, not just foot work. The total package.
Do you feel the pressure from the American boxing fans after the loss of the two Americans in the first Super Six fights?
“I don’t look at it like pressure. I look at it like it’s a privilege. I’ve been here before with the Olympics and it’s something that I relish. There’s always going to be pressure. It just depends on how you deal with the pressure. It was unfortunate that both Americans lost their fights but It’s just added more motivation. It just really motivates me and I did take it personal because that’s what everyone expected it to be. Even Carl Froch said everything is going as scheduled. And I take that personal. I’m a proud American and it’s time for the super middleweight champion to be an American. They’ve dominated over there for a long, long time but I want to do my part to bring back the belt here on American soil.”
Kessler has fought twice as much as you as a pro. How will you overcome his experience?
“I’ve been fighting for a long, long time. This isn’t my first big fight. This isn’t my first big stage. I’ve been here before in terms of the pressure. It’s just my time to shine. If you look at other great fighters when you have the skill and the hunger, records don’t mean anything. If you look at Floyd Mayweather Jr. when he fought Genaro Hernandez he wasn’t supposed to win that fight. Muhammad Ali when he beat Sonny Liston he wasn’t supposed to win that fight. Sugar Ray Leonard and Wilfredo Benitez, Leonard really wasn’t supposed to win that fight. So that’s how I look at it. A guy who has more fights than you is not going to stop you from fulfilling your goal.
“I don’t want to be the shining American. I’m not necessarily looking to be the man. I just want to do my part as an American to represent. I’ve always been the type of guy who protects the kid from the bully. I don’t want to say the Americans are getting bullied by the media or anything. I’m not going to go that far. But we haven’t been given much of a chance. But I take that and I use it as motivation.
“I think we’re both hungry. I think I have a different kind of hunger. He has a hunger to keep what he has and I have a hunger to want to take what he has. It’s hunger none the less but it’s just slightly different that’s all.
If you win this fight does that make you the favorite to win the tournament?
“I think it would. If I beat Mikkel Kessler it will send shock waves into the tournament and throughout the boxing world because it’s just something they cannot fathom happening. They just don’t see it happening. They won’t believe it until it happens. I think people’s minds will change after this for sure.”
Talk about your relationship with your longtime trainer Virgil Hunter?
“Virgil’s been like a God-send to me because he’s been so much more than a trainer. He’s been my one and only trainer my whole career. And that’s very important for a fighter to have. We don’t even have to talk much. He knows what I’m thinking and I know what he’s thinking. But even bigger than that, when my father passed in 2002 he stepped in and became a father to me. He’s helped me and given me a lot of wisdom. A lot of people have said I have wisdom beyond my years and the reason why is because he’s a wise man. If you want to be a wise man you hang around wise people. He’s just taught me so much about manhood, about life. He’s just helped me rise up to be the man that I am today; The family man that I am today. I want him to get the recognition he truly deserves. To be a recognized trainer you have to have a breakthrough fight. Well, this is our breakthrough fight. He’s been so many things: A father-figure and an adviser. But I would love the world to acknowledge him as a world-class trainer.”
“We’re very excited coming into this big fight. It’s going to be a massive event and a massive challenge for Mikkel Kessler here. Mikkel Kessler is a man who has been there before having boxed Joe Calzaghe in front of 55,000 fans. So we’re going into the Lion’s Den which is something I think speaks a lot to the champion’s mentality. He has prepared for this tournament and is going away from home for his first fight to box in front of 19,000 fans in Oakland. So it’s obviously going to be a massive stadium and a massive setting for this great Super Six event. Everyone will get to see the Viking Warrior coming into the States and making a statement about what he wants to do in this tournament.
“There are a lot of great fights coming up but I’m looking forward to Ward-Kessler. It’s a can’t miss. Andre Ward is an offensive-minded very intelligent fighter inside of that ring. Mikkel Kessler is a proud champ. We know it’s going to be a great fight. All of the participants of the first two fights will be ringside and we will introduce them to the media.
“Andre Ward is one of the meanest fighters I’ve ever been associated with and we’ve been associated with some great fighters throughout the years.”