By Thomas Gerbasi
Barclays Center, Brooklyn - The fourth time was the charm for veteran Sakio Bika, as he outlasted Marco Antonio Periban for the vacant WBC super middleweight title, winning a 12 round majority decision to become a world champion after three failed tries against Joe Calzaghe, Lucian Bute, and Andre Ward.
“It means a lot,” said Bika. “He was a very tough guy. I respect him.”
Scores were 116-112, 115-113, and 114-114 for Bika, now 32-5-2 with 21 KOs; Periban suffers his first pro defeat, falling to 20-1 with 13 KOs.
Periban was a true ring general in the first round, with a stiff jab, effective movement, and solid defense keeping Bika from getting into any sort of rhythm. The Cameroon native began to get closer in the second round though, and the fact that Periban’s punches were apparently not hurting him didn’t bode well for the Mexican’s future success.
A couple thudding rights from Bika drew a reaction from the crowd in the third, but it didn’t nullify the seemingly endless array of jabs coming back at him from Periban.
An apparent knockdown by Periban in the fourth was wisely waved off by referee Harvey Dock as a slip, but the sequence seemed to light a fire under both men, as the exchanges heated up, with Bika holding a slight edge in the firefights.
Bika saw a knockdown of his own fall by the wayside himself in round five after the two got their feet tangled, but it didn’t deter the Australian, as his workrate increased while Periban’s sagged slightly. Periban got back on track in the sixth though, and he had seemed to find an answer to the riddle of Bika’s wild swinging style, setting the stage for a heated second half to the fight.
A third slip to the mat, this one Periban’s, punctuated a seventh round in which Bika’s late pressure and wild haymakers looked to be bothering the Mexican after he dominated much of the stanza.
The latter part of round eight got the fans roaring, with the aftermath of a stoppage to check a headbutt-induced cut on Periban’s head producing some vicious exchanges that saw Bika land flush repeatedly, only to see Periban still standing and firing back.
In the ninth, the two picked up where they left off in round eight, leaving defense at the door as they swung for the fences. And while Periban’s iron chin was impressive, he was also letting Bika tee off on it too much, allowing the Aussie to make an impression on the judges.
The tenth was a close one, with a late surge by Periban perhaps allowing him to get the nod for it on the scorecards.
Headbutts continued to be an issue in the fight as it wound down, with Bika emerging from a clash of heads in round 11 with a cut over his left eye. It didn’t alter his brawling game plan, but it was Periban’s more disciplined boxing that kept him ahead of his opponent.
With the bout still close, Bika and Periban decided that winning a world title was more important than defense, and both teed off on each other in the final round. With a minute left, the crowd got on their feet, and just when Bika seemed to be surging ahead, Periban would fire back, and then the pattern would repeat in reverse, putting an exclamation mark on a true championship fight.