By Jake Donovan
The last time Sakio Bika suffered a ring loss was when he played the role of Super Six sub in dropping a wide decision to Andre Ward nearly three years ago.
The closest he's since come to losing was in his very last fight, when Anthony Dirrell gave him all he can handle for 12 rounds in their super middleweight brawl last December. The judges were split on how the action played out, rendering the bout a draw, which meant Bika would get to keep the alphabet trinket he acquired six months prior.
Fast forward nine months later, the two will meet again. Their super middleweight title fight is staged as the chief support of a SHOWTIME-televised tripleheader, which airs live from the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Bookending the fight, Omar Figueroa defends his lightweight belt versus Daniel Estrada in the televised opener, while Shawn Porter puts his welterweight belt on the line versus Kell Brook in the evening's main event.
Perseverance is the best way to describe the lengthy career enjoyed by Bika (32-5-3, 21KOs). The 35-year old came up short in three previous tries at alphabet glory before hitting paydirt with a narrow points win over Marco Antonio Periban last June.
His lone title defense came last December, barely extending his reign in fighting Dirrell to a disputed draw. The bout marked the first time Dirrell (26-0-1, 22KOs) fought on the title stage, and handled himself remarkably well. A member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic boxing squad along with his brother Andre Dirrell, the feat was trumped by the current proudest moment in his life - overcoming Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, which kept him out of the ring for nearly two years before embarking on a comeback in 2008.
Dirrell won 14 straight before failing to convince at least two of the three judges that he deserved the win over Bika last year.
Will the unbeaten contender claim the crown? Or can Bika reverse the disturbing trend of Australia-based boxers coming up well short in major fights as of late?
Read on to find out how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes tonight's super middleweight action will play out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: SAKIO BIKA vs. ANTHONY DIRRELL
Ryan Burton (Dirrell UD): “Their first fight wasn't pleasing to the eye but I think Dirrell learned from the experience and will win a decisive decision.”
Jake Donovan (Dirrell UD): “There was nothing about the first fight that suggests we won’t see a virtual repeat, this time with Anthony Dirrell getting the decision he deserved last December over Sakio Bika.”
Ernest Gabion (Dirrell TKO10): “Anthony was the Dirrell brother I thought would have a higher ceiling and it may be proved to be correct as his career seems to be back on path after several setbacks. He is young with good power and utilizes it well. In this fight he will finally get over the hump and stop Bika.”
Keith Idec (Bika UD): “Get ready for 12 more rounds of Sakio Bika chasing Anthony Dirrell around the ring. Dirrell won’t pick this night to stand and trade. He’ll instead look to pot-shot the wild-swinging, dirty fighter from Cameroon enough to walk away with a points win and a paper championship. Bika’s relentless pressure should cause Dirrell enough trouble, though, to enable Bika to retain his title.”
Cliff Rold (Dirrell Dec.): “The experience of the first fight will have Anthony Dirrell more prepared the second time around. Sakio Bika will make it tough — he’s made it tough on almost everyone — but the younger man pulls away on the cards this time.”
Reynaldo Sanchez (Dirrell UD): “Bika has no power to knock out Dirrell, in my opinion this time Anthony will be smarter and not let doubts about his victory. Do not want to see a trilogy.”
Luis Sandoval (Dirrell UD): “Their first fight had a little bit of everything and was close but I think The Dog will figure things out better this time around. Bika's aggressiveness will keep him in the fight but it will be Dirrell who will box his way to a tight decision and capturing his first world title.”
Alexey Sukachev (Dirrell UD): “In my opinion, Dirrell has got it in the first fight, and Bika was very lucky to escape with an unjust draw. This will not happen again this time, and Dirrell speed combined with his power will make a number on the Cameroonian. There can be a couple of knockdowns but Bika will survive the distance.”
Anson Wainwright (Dirrell Dec.): “When these two met late last year Dirrell dropped Bika before boxing on the back foot and the fight ended as a draw.This time he says he’s coming for the knockout, but that won’t be easy against someone as tough as Bika. That said I believe Dirrell will outpoint Bika, who last time out looked to be showing signs of slowing down.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox