Sakio "The Scorpion" Bika (31-5-2, 21 KO) is the very definition of a gatekeeper in the super middleweight division.
On Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., he will refuse or reluctantly allow Marco Antonio Periban (20-0, 13 KO) claim to the WBC's brand of the 168-pound title.
With the injured title holder Andre Ward recently given the "champion emeritus" designation, the title became vacant. The WBC decided to sanction Bika-Periban as a title fight for Ward's vacated belt.
Suddenly a fight that was to be a mildly entertaining bout on the undercard of the Adrien Broner vs. Paulie Malignaggi feature has taken on more significance.
Here is the information needed to catch this bout and some deeper analysis on the matchup.
The Book on Bika
Unconventional Route to Title Shot
Bika has had two shots at a share of the 168-pound crown in his career; he lost both attempts.
In 2006, he dropped a unanimous decision to then-WBO and IBF champion Joe Calzaghe.
In 2010, he lost another unanimous decision to Ward for the WBA title.
Those opportunities came and went in the manner most would expect, but this chance at title glory just seemed to happen for Bika.
He has a shot to capture the prize he's worked 13 years to obtain and he doesn't have to defeat an established champion to get it. Bika is in a great position, but he can't take his opponent lightly. If the 33-year-old Cameroonian isn't on his game, he could still be in for a disappointing evening.
In the Ring
Tough and physical is the best way to describe Bika's fighting style. He's a good but not great puncher who can wear opponents down with cumulative punishment and pressure. Before he was solved by Ward, he gave him a little trouble because of his somewhat awkward style.
Bika's approach is more offense than defense, and to put it bluntly, he gets hit too much.
Trainer Kevin Cunningham was added in May of 2012 to help Bika "tighten up his defense," as Dan Rafael of ESPN.com noted. The results showed sparingly as Bika's instincts to brawl won out in some instances against Dyah Davis a month later and Nikola Sjekloca in February.
He'll definitely need to draw from Cunningham's defensive teachings against a long-armed, hard-punching contender like Periban.
The Book on Periban
Is He Golden Boy's Next Champion?
Being promoted by Golden Boy is like having an American Express card; membership has its privileges. First and foremost, it was Golden Boy that pushed the WBC to sanction this fight as a title bout.
That move has put Periban in position to win a title in what is his first fight against a known opponent. To say his resume prior to Saturday night's bout is nondescript would be putting it lightly.
Only boxing savants will recognize any of the names of Periban's past opponents. The bout with Bika will be his first 12-round fight. In fact, he's only had four 10-round contests.
That said, Periban is undefeated and he's looked impressive in his performances.
We'll see if he can take advantage of his GBP privileges.
In the Ring
Periban's predominant feature is his ridiculously long reach. Measuring 78" from armpit to knuckle, Periban's arm length could be a major factor.
So far in his career, he has used his jab to gain rhythm and to set up a thunderous straight right hand. Take a look at this explosive knockout of Shujaa El Amin (then known as Dion Savage) at the 2:45 mark of the video below.
The 28-year-old Mexican doesn't have great quickness, but he does have solid punching fundamentals. He's an effective puncher because of his length and power, but he will be severely tested by the more experienced Bika.
He'll finally be facing an opponent who won't just go away after being tagged with one hard punch.
Bika will outwork Periban to claim a tough unanimous decision. Periban will have his moments, but ultimately Bika's experience, toughness and work rate will give him the edge.
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