With an estimated worldwide audience of 60m viewers, beaming into 50 countries including Scandinavia on pay-per-view at a cost of £60 and the carrot of a multi-million dollar pay-day for the winner, Brian Magee against Mikkel Kessler is big… very big.
Indeed, only a handful of Irish fighters over the past 30 years have engaged in or come close to a fight of this magnitude.
“This is the stuff of dreams for me,” said Magee, who meets Kessler for the vacant WBA World super-middleweight title.
Normally with such a high profile fight with the stakes so high there comes the usual bitter hyperbole but the slogan on the fight poster ‘A question of honour’ seemed to sum up the feelings of both combatants as they pondered what would lie ahead on December 8 before a sell-out 13,000 fans in Denmark.
Top German promoter Kalle Sauerland commented: “You have two guys who are a credit to the sport, they’re not about slapping and spitting at each other, they’re not going to fill papers with a load of s**t talk, excuse the language. They’re two warriors and it’ll be a great fight.”
Magee has sampled such a major stage, when losing to Lucien Bute in Montreal last year, but he was adamant that facing Kessler — a man who has been at the top of the 12st scene for decade — would provide his ultimate test.
Against Bute he came up short after a brave assault but the 37-year-old returned to win the WBA interim title and, significantly in Denmark, knocked out Rudy Markussen earlier this year. In the period that Magee has taken his career to a new level, Kessler has defeated Carl Froch and moved up to win the WBC light-heavyweight belt.
So when Magee’s manager Pat Magee said at yesterday’s press conference in the Europa Hotel that he expected “a special night on December 8” it was easy to see why.
“If you consider that Brian in his last fight against Rudy Markussen knocked him out with one punch, which is very unusual in boxing and equally when Mikkel knocked out Allan Green he did it with one punch so you’ve got a fight made in heaven and I don’t see this going the distance,” said manager Magee.
“We could have taken an easier fight to win this WBA belt but Brian decided that he wanted to fight the best and the best is Mikkel Kessler, he’s been around a long time, he’s been a four-time world champion and that is some record. And to take him on says a lot about Brian Magee. It’s going to be something special.
“This fight has taken a long time in the making and one of things that we kept negotiating was the interest in Denmark because the Danes want to see can a Dane beat Brian Magee.”
Kessler, 33, knows the expectation surrounding him as he is a huge sporting star in Denmark and Magee’s defeats of fellow countrymen Markussen and Mads Larsen has added extra spice.
Kessler said: “I know Mads Larsen and Rudy Makussen, he has beaten two of my friends and now it’s pay-back time but I see every fight as an opponent like everybody else. I will train for Brian Magee as I did for Carl Froch but of course this fight means a lot in Denmark and yes this is a question of honour.”
Magee has long been on the road for his fights with June 2004 at the King’s Hall the last time he headlined in his home city but there was a hint yesterday that victory over Kessler could well lead to a long overdue homecoming.
Conquering Kessler in Herning will be no easy task but Magee has no doubt that he has come a long way from that night in Belfast eight years ago when he was outpointed by Robin Reid.
“If I at 37 was fighting the 28-year-old Brian Magee I would win without a doubt. I’m a different fighter, a better fighter and I’m ready for this,” said Magee, who believes defeat to Bute has also improved him as a boxer.
“Bute was a superstar in Montreal but Mikkel is a superstar of our division throughout the world. It’s a bigger fight and it’s a harder fight as well. World titles, they don’t give them away… I’ve been to the top of the tree, been back down again and now it’s fantastic to fight again for another world title.
“I’ve learned a lot and I’m at my best now.”