By BEN DAMON on April 2 2015
The historic path of Australian boxing is generously lit with bright memories of brilliant performances. Comparing eras, weights and circumstances is as troublesome a gamble as lining up a Melbourne Cup field, but by any form guide there came a glittering performance in June 1989.
Jeff Harding travelled to Atlantic City a deserved underdog in his bout with Englishman Dennis Andries. They contested one of boxing’s most prestigious belts – the WBC Light Heavyweight title – and for 11 of the 12 rounds the prize appeared safely in Andries’ keeping. Then came the crescendo of one of the most poetic comebacks ever seen, with a beaten and bloodied Harding following the inspirational instructions of his trainer Johnny Lewis to, “go out there and come back a Champion”.
Harding crushed Andries in that final round. The well-worn YouTube clip of the fight still prompts a sensation in the same regions the win did a quarter of a century ago, and the legend of The Hitman’s performance places him on an even loftier perch in boxing history than what the beautiful, green WBC belt automatically affords.
Since the days of Harding the WBC Light Heavyweight title has been regrettably absent from Australian boxing’s trophy cabinet, despite some valiant attempts from Paul Briggs (twice), Glen Kelly and, earlier, Guy Waters. However, this weekend, the belt has a chance to return via the unrelenting fists of a brawler with a heart of which even The Hitman would be proud.
Sakio Bika has been variously described by opponents and sparring partners as ‘an animal, ‘a beast’, ‘a menace’ and ‘a tough bastard’, and he is the style of man to accept these monikers like gifts. Upon recently re-watching his preposterous victory in the final of US reality show The Contender, I was prompted to text Sakio and inadvertently label him ‘a psychopath.’ He thanked me for the compliment.
It is this curious element within the mental construction of a fighter like Bika that gives him a chance in his WBC Light Heavyweight world title bout against Haitian-Canadian Adonis Stevenson in Quebec City, Canada this weekend. Bika is a massive underdog, and deservedly so, but like Harding that is the position in which he is most comfortable. And like Harding, he has the opportunity to transcend the esteem of that precious belt with a victory to rival any in the sparkling history of Australian boxing.
Born over the harsh dirt of Africa, Bika has been fighting all his life. From Cameroon, to Australia, and around the world as an opponent to some of the sport’s best, it was perseverance and heart that finally earned Bika his first world title. That WBC Super Middleweight belt was lost with an uncharacteristic effort against a spoiling Anthony Dirrell in Los Angeles last year.
This weekend, in his first fight since the Dirrell defeat, Bika has the opportunity to come off a loss, step up in weight, beat the world-class local hero and claim a second WBC world title at a second weight. The enormity of that achievement simply could not be overstated. In victory Bika would take his place alongside the likes of Lionel Rose, Kostya Tszyu, Jeff Fenech, Dave Sands, Johnny Famechon, Jimmy Carruthers, Daniel Geale, Ron Richards, Danny Green, Jeff Harding and more, with one of the greatest performances ever by an Australian boxer. After the journey he’s had that’s company Bika truly deserves to keep.
SAKIO BIKA V ADONIS STEVENSON is on MAIN EVENT this Sunday morning. Go to mainevent.com.au for details.
BEN DAMON is making a documentary about the life of SAKIO BIKA. Go to sakiobika.tv for details.
1. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
See Full List