LONDON -- Carl Froch won a unanimous decision over Mikkel Kessler in a super middleweight title unification bout on Saturday night, avenging his first career defeat and adding the WBA championship to his IBF belt.
Fighting in front of a partisan crowd at the sold-out O2 Arena, Froch (47-2, 35 KOs) started quickly and survived several spots of trouble to hold off Kessler (30-3), who beat the Englishman in a thrilling decision in April 2010.
The rematch also was highly entertaining, with Froch appearing to hurt Kessler with a series of right hands in the eighth round. The Danish fighter stormed back in the 11th round with several rocking shots, but Froch replied with a punishing 12th-round performance, getting close to stopping Kessler.
"You've got to have a game plan, but I didn't get hit with too many shots in there," Froch said. "Kessler got hit with too many himself, and that was the big difference."
All three judges favoured the 35-year-old Froch, scoring it 115-113, 116-112 and 118-110.
"(Kessler) is a good counterpuncher," Froch said. "The main difference was, in the first fight, I was backing up. I was letting him dictate the pace. I was letting him push me back.
"I was meeting him as he came (in the rematch), and I was being aggressive with the jab. I was looking him in the eye, and letting him know. When he was going to come forward, I was going to meet him with punches. I was discouraging him and putting him on his back foot."
The 34-year-old Kessler had won four straight fights, including his victory over Froch for the WBC 168-pound belt. He has won just once outside Denmark since June 2005, going 1-3.
Kessler landed more than 55 per cent of his punches, beating Froch in accuracy, but never mounted consistent momentum outside a few middle rounds. Froch dictated the pace until Kessler went for a knockout in the 11th round, but Froch responded with a dominant final round.
Froch and Kessler are among the top contenders in a division widely thought to be ruled by Andre Ward, the unbeaten U.S. Olympic champion who beat both men during the Super Six tournament a few years ago. Ward attended Saturday's fight as a commentator for American television and said he would be open to a rematch with Froch.
"I actually watched (video of) Andre Ward against Kessler, dare I say, yesterday and today," Froch said. "Stepping in and closing the range once he threw the jab. ... I have been working on a long jab."
Froch has won three straight bouts since losing to Ward in December 2011, also beating Lucian Bute and Yusaf Mack in his native Nottingham.