By Robert Hough
Note: Today’s final press conference for Ward-Bika will be open to the public. It is scheduled to begin at noon at the Oracle Arena – Courtside Club.
Sakio Bika (28-4-2, 19KOs) is on the road again to face another top fighter in his backyard. The resident of Australia and native of Cameroon faces Andre Ward (22-0, 13KOs) on Saturday in Oakland, Calif., at Oracle Arena. No worries, Bika, said recently; the San Francisco native and Bay Area resident won’t be able to take what he’ll deliver.
“Ward can’t handle my power,” Bika said in a conference call to discuss the fight for Ward’s WBA Super Middleweight belt. “I don’t see how he can and I don’t care that I am fighting in his home area, but I am not overconfident that I will get the knockout.”
Bika fought for titles against Joe Calzaghe in England, Markus Beyer in Germany and Lucien Bute in Canada. He lost unanimous decisions to Calzaghe and Bute and the Beyer fight was a technical draw because Beyer was cut by an accidental butt.
If Bika goes the distance, it will be the first time he’s done so since June 2007, when he faced Bute. He’s fought a total of six rounds in his last four fights, but he says he’s ready to double that number in this fight.
“I am prepared for 12 rounds and if I break him down and win on points, I will be very happy,” he said.
Ward was effective fighting inside against Allan Green and keeping more distance against Mikkel Kessler, but Bika, 31, is not concerned by Ward’s versatility.
“I don’t know how he can handle me on the inside or on the outside,” said Bika, 31. “I can handle Andre Ward on the inside and the outside.”
Ward, 26, said he knows what’s coming, to include the prospect of dirty fighting.
“Everybody knows how he’s going to fight,” he said, noting that he, too, can fight rough. “My job is to subdue him and take control of the ring. ”
Ward suggested that Bika could suffer for his temperament.
“I’ve noticed that he can get unraveled when things aren’t going his way so if he does, I will take advantage of that,” he said.
Regardless of Bika’s composure and the opportunities it might present, Ward, who hasn’t stopped a top contender, said he’ll look for a knockout if Bika is hurt, tired or both.
“Becoming a great finisher like Sugar Ray Leonard is something we’re definitely working on and it’s something that’s going to keep showing up as we keep moving up and improving,” he said.
If Ward can finish Bika, he’ll be the first fighter to do so.
Bika, who expressed frustration over having not been chosen for the Super Six World Boxing Classic as one of the original six or as a replacement, said that left him all the more motivated to train for the Ward fight and take his title, but it he knows it won’t be easy.
“I know Andre has a very good style,” Bika said. “He moves a lot and will be very tough. On the 27th, everyone will see what I will bring to beat Andre Ward. I don’t need to say too much about his style. It will be an exciting fight.”
This chance is all the more sweet because it’s been tough to get fights with top guys, Bika said.
“Since 2006 I’ve challenged everyone, but no one wants to fight me,” he said. “I challenged Mikkel Kessler and I’ve challenged others.”
Sure, it’s a huge opportunity for the African fighter, Ward said, but to him, every fight is at least as big.
“I’m just as hungry as any opponent I’m fighting,” he said. “I’m just as desperate as any opponent I’m fighting. I take this game very, very seriously. Having a championship and defending it means the world to me.”
If Bika’s accustomed to traveling, Ward’s getting accustomed to fighting replacement opponents. He was set to fight Jermain Taylor in the Super Six, but he was replaced by Allan Green. Andre Dirrell was supposed to have been next, but he dropped out of the tournament because he said he had neurological issues after his fight with Arthur Abraham. Abraham was disqualified after he landed a vicious blow to Dirrell’s chin after he slipped.
Another replacement and the fact that fight is not part of the tournament are of no concern to Ward.
“At the end of the day my championship belt is still on the line and at the end of the day I’ve got to show up and get the job done,” he said. “I’ve got a guy on the other side of the ring that’s trying to hurt me. For me personally there’s no let down. This is as big as it gets. There’s really no problem with this not being in the tournament. Everyone understands why it’s not in the tournament but this is a fight so as far as myself and my team are concerned, it’s business as usual.”
Ward dismissed speculation that he and Dirrell conspired to scrap their fight.
“That’s personally not who I am. I was always going to do what I had to do,” he said. “When you sign a contract it’s a binding agreement and we were legally bound to fight Dirrell.”
People can talk about that; the other Super Six fight on Saturday, Abraham vs. Carl Froch, which will be shown Saturday as part of a Showtime doubleheader; potential future opponents; or anything else that might come to mind and Ward, who quoted a famous football coach, doesn’t care.
“At this point, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham and Lucian Bute are non-factors,” he said. “It’s all about Sakio Bika right now. I’ll take a line from Vince Lombardi: Success demands singleness of purpose. I’m locked in on Sakio Bika and Saturday night.”