It took over a decade and four tries, but in June of this year, Sakio Bika won a world title when he beat Marco Antonio Periban for the vacant WBC super middleweight title. Whether or not that title should have been available at all, Bika will make his first defense on Saturday night, when he takes on unbeaten challenger Anthony Dirrell in Brooklyn on Showtime.
"I feel good and I want to show the people at Barclays Center that I am one of the best," Bika said yesterday at a media workout. "I want Barclays Center to become my second home. I feel happy to be back in New York."
Bika (32-5-2, 21 KO) competed for Cameroon in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and stayed in Australia to turn pro. For years, he was best-known as a rough and tumble brawler, a powerful, fearless, and often dirty fighter who made up in grit what he might have lacked in technique.
Notably, he challenged Joe Calzaghe in Manchester in 2006, and while he lost a clear decision, he was able to make it a ragged fight. A couple of years later, he added a "Hulk" Bika factor to his game when he became personally offended by how a fight with Peter Manfredo Jr was going in Providence, flipping his lid and demolishing Manfredo in front of his hometown fans.
In 2010, both of Bika's personas were on display. As he was smashing Jean Paul Mendy in an IBF eliminator, he hit his opponent while he was down, earning a first round DQ loss. After that, he got a chance to face WBA titleholder Andre Ward in Oakland, and though he again lost and clearly so, Bika gave Ward his toughest test to date, then and now.
But now at 34, he's reinvented himself as something of a boxer-puncher under St. Louis trainer Kevin Cunningham, most noted for his work with slick Cory Spinks and Devon Alexander. While Bika doesn't have their speed or finesse, he's adjusted well to the new style, which may prolong his career, and has brought him a level of success that had eluded him before.
Bika is pleased with the results he's seen with Cunningham, and has semi-adopted St. Louis as his new home.
"It's going to be a good night for St. Louis. Everything we did there was good," he said. "I'm looking to maintaining my record and win this fight."