Carl Froch secured his legacy as one of British boxing's modern greats with a thrilling unanimous decision win over former conqueror Mikkel Kessler in London.
The 35-year-old Nottingham veteran retained his IBF super-middleweight title and snatched Kessler's lesser WBA crown at the O2 Arena in a superb performance which saw him win with scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 118-110.
Victory over Kessler exorcised the ghost of his epic 2010 defeat in the Dane's homeland and enhanced Froch's reputation as one of this country's finest. Froch is on an astonishing five-year run of elite level fights which began with him claiming the WBC title against Jean Pascal in 2008 and has seen him beat the likes of Jermain Taylor, Arthur Abraham and Lucian Bute.
However, Kessler is one of only two men to have scalped him as a professional, along with the pre-eminent American Andre Ward, and revenge against the Dane had been on his mind ever since they fought three years ago.
Froch came into the bout with a record of 30-2 with 22 early wins and weighed in over a pound heavier than Kessler (46-2, 35 KOs) this week. The Briton won a tactical first round which ended with him enjoying success with his first sustained combination before Kessler answered back with a nice left hook before the bell. More of the same in round two meant Froch was surely two rounds up and in the third both men threw big shots that missed.
The Briton landed an instinctive short right as Kessler advanced early in the fourth but Kessler caught him with an uppercut and two hard jabs in response. Froch landed with his first body shot of the fight but took a three-punch combination for his trouble seconds later as Kessler perhaps took the fourth.
Kessler began the fifth with a big left hook and followed it up with another soon after. A big right over the top was the Dane's best punch but Froch retorted with a right of his own. A left from Kessler to Froch's body was clearly low and earned him a warning before a big right and huge left rocked the Englishman's head both ways. 'The Cobra' sucked it up and took another left before countering with one of his own.
Kessler was hurt by a right in the eighth and goaded Froch in an attempt to hide the hurt. A single right was brilliantly timed as the home fighter seized control again. Kessler smashed in a counter right but Froch was breaking his man down. Kessler kept firing back and both connected with big power shots at the same time to leave the crowd on their feet at the bell.
Kessler did well in the ninth, landing a stiff three-punch combination early on, and scored with an excellent left hook to the body in the 10th before following it up with the same shot to Froch's head. The tough IBF champion barely blinked, instead firing back with wild but venomous right hands to take the round. Kessler smashed Froch around late in the 11th, landing left hooks and massive rights in quick succession to dazzle his man and cut him over the left eye. Yet still Froch remained unbowed, firing back with rights of his own and bullying his man around the canvas as the bell rang.
The final round began to a standing ovation as both men touched gloves and went at it, going toe to toe for the full three minutes until the final bell brought them to a standstill. The two men embraced before the scores were read out, perhaps paving the way for a much-anticipated decider in the near future.