Kessler Was Unimpressive Against Sartison
By Erik Schmidt: As a German with a little bit of Danish blood in me (1/8th on my Mother’s side), I was frankly sadly disappointed by Mikkel Kessler’s (40-1, 30 KOs) performance on Saturday night against Dimitri Sartison (22-1, 14 KOs) in their fight for the vacant WBA super middleweight title. Kessler looked old and much slower than I’d ever seen him before any of his fights, looking nothing like the same fighter that had beaten quality opponents like Markus Beyer, Anthony Mundine, Eric Lucas and Librado Andrade. For that matter, he didn’t even looking half as good as he did in his losing fight against Joe Calzaghe in November, and I thought he was beginning to show signs of slipping even back then.
But, Kessler’s fight against Sartison was a new low for him in terms of quality performance. First of all, he looked terrified of Sartison from the earliest moments of the fight, giving him way too much respect than he should have given him. Certainly Sartison had a fine record going into the fight, but he had never fought any quality fighters during his career, hence you could pretty much totally throw out his entire unbeaten record. Kessler stayed on the outside, jabbing on his back foot, for almost the entire fight up until the 11th and 12th rounds, when it was painfully obvious that Sartison was totally exhausted and was ready for the taking.
If you want to be truthful about it, Sartison was already badly fatigued by the 4th round of the fight, which coincides with the exact time that he stopped punching with any kind of regularity. Before that, he was lighting Kessler up like a 4th of July firecracker, even staggering Kessler with a right hand in the 1st round. That particular blow both shocked and saddened me, because I could see that Kessler’s reflexes were beginning to show signs of erosion.
Sartison threw the punch from a mile away, telegraphing it badly, and taking what seemed like forever to land the shot. However, instead of being able to block or dock the shot, Kessler stood there, not seeing it until the moment it crashed off the side of his head, causing him to fly backwards, almost hitting the canvas and staggering noticeably.
I’d be willing to bet that Kessler would have never been hit with a shot like that a little over a year ago, around the time he was making mincemeat of Andrade. That was perhaps Kessler’s zenith of his career, a point in his boxing life where he was at the very top of his game and almost unbeatable by anyone in the sport, maybe even Calzaghe. Unfortunately, Kessler was unable to keep that form for long, looking terrible against fist Calzaghe, and now this new low against Sartison.
For three rounds on Saturday night, Kessler was forced to absorb horrible punishment from Sartison, taking one power hammer to the head after another. Indeed, he showed no signs of being either able to block Sartison’s right hand shots or get out of the way of any of them. On most of the occasions, Sartison would throw a big looping right hand that would travel from outer space, coming back into the atmosphere to land on Kessler’s chin or head with great regularity.
And, if not for Sartison totally running out of gas after the 3rd round, I couldn’t see Kessler coming close to winning the fight. This is what worries me, because there are many other fine super middleweights out there that won’t tire like Sartison did, fighters like Jurgen Brahmer, Jermain Taylor (he recently announced that he is missing up from the middleweight division), Carl Froch, Dennis Inkin, Allan Green and Jean Pascal. In all cases, they’re much better fighters than Sartison, and none of them have the stamina issues that he has, and can fight hard for the entire fight, not just for three rounds.
I’m not sure what the problem was for Kessler, because he didn’t even try to throw a right hand until the last two rounds of the fight. I thought he looked totally afraid of Sartison, was afraid to throw his right out of fear of catching a straight right hand coming over the top, and instead fought entirely with his left hand for the vast majority of the fight. It looked awful, because he showed too much respect, not enough courage, confidence or the warrior mentality to beat Sartison in a straight up fight. In other words, Kessler was playing it totally safe, fighting a completely safety first fight, and avoiding getting hit as much as possible.
In doing so, he put the crowd (and me) to sleep, giving us very little reason to pay attention to the fight. Heck, a lot of the crowd wasn’t even looking at the fight after the 8th round. Instead, many of them aimlessly looked around the ring in a bored manner, perhaps wishing they were somewhere else. This win is really is more of a setback for Kessler than a move forward, because if he is having to struggle with a fighter in the class of Sartison, what’s going to happen when he steps it up against the younger, better fighters in the division? Kessler is getting older now, almost 30, and is time is starting to run out.