Kessler signs with promoter Sauerland

Super middleweight titlist Mikkel Kessler of Denmark signed Thursday with German promoter Sauerland Event, clearing a major hurdle to his entrance into Showtime's six-man super middleweight tournament, but perhaps creating another potential pothole.

"We are thrilled to welcome one of the world's most popular and most respected boxers to the Sauerland family," Sauerland Event general manager Chris Meyer said in making the announcement at a news conference in Copenhagen. "We have big plans for Mikkel."

Kessler (41-1, 31 KOs) had been involved in a dispute with Danish promoter Mogens Palle that kept him out of the ring since October. With the dispute apparently resolved, Sauerland Event signed him.

Kessler is supposed to be one of six top 168-pound fighters to take part in a round-robin tournament Showtime is trying to put the finishing touches on this week. The others who are supposed to be involved are titleholder Carl Froch, former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, rising American contenders and 2004 Olympic medalists Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell and Arthur Abraham, a middleweight titlist who would give up his belt and move up in weight.

Kessler's first bout of the tournament, which is supposed to begin in October with the first of 12 bouts before a winner is crowned in mid-2011, is supposed to take place Nov. 7 in the United States against Ward.

However, Sauerland Event announced that Kessler's next fight would be a mandatory defense against the obscure Gusmyl Perdomo (16-2, 10 KOs) of Venezuela. The July 3 deadline for the sides to make a deal for that fight came and went, so the WBA is expected to call for a purse bid any day, Meyer told ESPN.com. The fight would take place 45 to 90 days after the bid, meaning it could be a very tight schedule for Kessler between the Perdomo fight and the Ward bout. Of course, there is also the possibility that Perdomo beats Kessler. If that happens, it is unclear what would happen to the tournament plans, although Showtime could certainly replace him.

Without addressing the particulars of the tournament, Meyer said, "[The] plan is first the mandatory then the rest."

Whatever the plan is, Kessler is looking forward to fighting again. He has been out of action since a third-round knockout of Danilo Haussler on Oct. 25 in Germany and the ensuing dispute with Palle.

"It was very disappointing to be inactive for such a long time," said Kessler, 31, who has won two in a row since his lone loss to Joe Calzaghe in November 2007. "I am incredibly pleased that I can start boxing again both in Denmark and on the world stage. All the major promoters were interested, but I have chosen to sign a contract with Team Sauerland because they have had the best offer on every point. This includes everything from the capability of arranging the big and interesting matches to the financial agreements."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.