Two weeks ago I had the good fortune to speak to Sakio Bika ahead of his return to the ring against Australian middleweight Adam Stowe. Bika was bright, confident and determined to project himself toward bigger targets by winning convincingly in his first fight in 40 months. It was a practical stepping stone for a pragmatic former world-champion with a shrinking window of opportunity.
Within the week, pragmatism was replaced by disappointment as an administrative oversight by the Cameroon born Super-Middleweight left his fight with Stowe in tatters. The waiting crowd, eager to see a fighter of Bika’s calibre, were hard to placate when the realisation Bika wouldn’t be able to fight began to break. As a result, trouble ensued. Where Bika had hoped for a knockout and a new beginning, he found police dogs and pepper spray, fist fights and discontent.
It was a sobering episode in a long career. As with all things in boxing, from disaster grew opportunity.
The global pandemic is unquestionably requiring pragmatism from boxers if they wish to stay active. Bika, a career Super-Middleweight, 168 pounds, with a willingness to box at Light-Heavyweight, 175 pounds, has agreed to make 75kg (165 pounds) in order to make a fight with fellow veteran Sam Soliman.
Soliman has history as a Middleweight and will be the naturally smaller man, and as a 47 year old, if active more recently than Bika, he is beyond the veteran stage. No man should be prevented from working merely because of their age. However well intentioned intervention may be, each case must be judged individually. Both parties deserve great credit for the sacrifice and compromise they’ve demonstrated. Bika in shaving further pounds from his taut and large frame while Soliman is agreeing to box against a significantly bigger man.
Two fighters in their forties shouldn’t intrigue unduly, but there is something hypnotising about the pair, who were significant figures a decade or more ago, facing each other now. The winner will seek opportunity beyond the boundaries of Australia as the pandemic eases, the loser, will hopefully retire. In a rarity for the modern era, the bout will be an unlikely rubber match after the pair split victories over a decade in parallel careers.
I learned a long time ago, not to wager against Sakio Bika. Beating Soliman, a fighter still favourably viewed by the sanctioning bodies having contested regional belts even into his forties, will provide him with far more thrust than the Stowe fight would’ve done. Despite the embarrassment that night caused for the parties involved in Bika’s last run, it may prove to have been exactly the stepping stone they’d hoped it would be, just not in the manner they expected.
Sakio Bika and Sam Soliman meet on March 31st, an undercard attraction for Tim Tszyu’s headline bout with Denis Hogan.