CARDIFF--I felt like I was walking into the lion’s den—no make that the Welsh Dragon’s den Sunday morning at Millennium Stadium. I heard 50,000 voices, about 90 percent very unfriendly and a small sprinkling of guys waving my red and white Danish flag.
I could not hear a word the people were saying but I know it wasn’t, “Hey, Mr. Kessler, good to see ya, good luck.” After Joe Calzaghe, a masterful champion beat me over 12 hard rounds, some in Team Kessler told me the Calzaghe partisans were screaming obscenities and singing the football song, “Who Are You
The whole world knew who Mr. Calzaghe was BEFORE this bout which was seen in 70 countries. Now I think, and I hope, the whole world, or at least that part of it which cares for our great sport of boxing, knows who Mikkel Kessler is.
I offer no excuses except to say I was not in 100 percent top form. It didn’t help that my guy, Mogens Palle, fell seriously ill and remains in hospital here. I am praying that Mogens soon rebound and returns to Denmark. He will be celebrating his 50th anniversary as a fight promoter Wednesday and I hope to visit with him on that special day. Because of his condition he could not be with us at ringside.
Like I say no sour grapes, no whining, and no excuses. Joe beat me fair and square on his home grounds. This cat has more tricks than any magician. I knew he would be difficult to hit but I think I clearly hit him harder and more often than any other opponent he’s ever had! I tip my hat to Joe, to his father/trainer Enzo and to their promoter, Frank Warren.
Warren told me in the ring when it was over, “You will be the top champ, you will be The Man, once Joe retires.” Good, sportsmanlike comments and I got more of those plus genuine applause from the punters when I walked out of the arena after doing interviews with Danish TV, with British Setanta and with HBO.
I also appreciated the fact that HBO’s Kery Davis came over to me after the press conference and told me I still figure in their plans and there are “many” good fights which they will consider for me. Kery is a real gentleman.
I didn’t want to spoil Joe’s moment, his big night, but I wanted to ask and I ask now of Warren and Enzo and Joe, why not a rematch? But Joe made it clear as we sat on the podium, saying, “I don’t think so because you will only do better and I may not do as well. I don’t like rematches.”
Maybe, when the magnitude of the event sinks in, Team Calzaghe will reconsider. This show was a huge commercial and artistic success and a rematch would be even more lucrative for all the involved parties.
An American reporter asked me and our American agent, Michael Marley, who I might fight next. Marley said, “A guy who was willing to come into Joe’s kitchen and fight him right there, as Mikkel did tonight, will go anywhere and fight anybody.”
My two world title belts are suddenly gone. I miss them already. I am young, only 28, and I believe my best fights and better nights are ahead of me.
I will look at any opponent out there—IBF champ Lucien Bute, the winner of Taylor-Pavlik II, Anthony Mundine for a rematch…my options are many. I know I didn’t hurt myself, especially in the UK and America, with my performance.
I thank HBO, Setanta, Viasat in Denmark, my promoter/manager Bettina Palle, my training team and everyone else who gave me their support.
I didn’t win this fight but I believe I won over millions of fans.
I hope my effort and Joe’s give more fuel to boxing’s brilliant resurgence.
He has proven, for the moment that he is Number One at 168 pounds. If he abandons the weight, I lay claim to that position. I am not guy who is content to be Number Two in anything.
I will be back. And I will return stronger, sharper and tougher than ever. I know I am just going into my primetime years in boxing.
Again, big respect for Joe. But the best of Mikkel Kessler is yet to come!