Sakio Bika vs. Anthony Dirrell: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2014

Sakio Bika vs. Anthony Dirrell: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, WBC super middleweight champion Sakio Bika defends his belt against undefeated Anthony Dirrell. This is a rematch of their draw last December.

    Any 168-pound belt not held by Andre Ward is a bit irrelevant. But Dirrell is one of the top fighters left in the division who hasn't faced the pound-for-pound star, so a win could position him nicely.

    For the veteran Bika, it's an opportunity to prove he's still near the top of the heap at super middleweight.

Tale of the Tape

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    Per Boxrec      Sakio Bika     Anthony Dirrell
    Record:     32-5-3, 21 KOs     26-0-1, 22 KOs 
    Height:     5'11.5"      6'.05" 
    Reach:      71"     74.5" 
    Weight:      168 lbs      168 lbs
    Age:      35      29
    Stance:     Orthodox      Orthodox
    Hometown:     Sydney, Australia      Flint, Michigan
    Rounds:     238      83 

    Anthony Dirrell is only an inch taller than Sakio Bika, but he has a sizable reach advantage. That will serve his technical boxing style well.

    Bika will need to force his way inside and make it ugly.

    A native of Cameroon, Bika lives in Australia now. He's been fighting at a high level for years now and has faced some of the best of his generation. Dirrell's fight last December with Bika was the Michigan native's first experience at the world-class level.

Main Storylines

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    Last December Sakio Bika and Anthony Dirrell fought to a draw, which allowed Bika to retain his WBC title. Both men had some very good moments in a bruising, hard-fought battle.

    Dirrell is the younger brother of Olympic medalist Andre Dirrell and had an extensive amateur career in his own right. He did good work in the early rounds against Bika last time and even knocked the champion down in Round 5.

    But Dirrell seemed to fade under the relentless pressure and "veteran tactics" Bika employed. I thought Bika had earned a narrow decision, even with his Round 11 point deduction for a low blow.

    Still, it was a very close fight, and since Dirrell remained undefeated, a rematch is definitely appropriate.

    Bika's greater experience played a big part in the last fight. The WBC champion has fought at the world-class level for years. He's been in the ring with Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward, the two best super middleweights of this century.

    Bika was by far the best and most experienced fighter Dirrell had ever faced. It will be interesting to see what he learned from that tough battle and how he improves this time around.  

Strengths

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    Sakio Bika is one of the most effective brawlers in the sport. He has a solid chin and great cardio. He throws a lot of punches from awkward angles and does pretty much whatever the referee will let him get away with.

    He's also an extremely experienced fighter at the world-class level. Bika is not just comfortable in the deep waters. He thrives in them.

    Anthony Dirrell is a skilled technical boxer with good punching power. He's been a student of the game since he was a kid, and in this fight he's facing an opponent he's already had 12 rounds to study up close.

Weaknesses

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    Sakio Bika consistently puts himself into position to be hit. It cost him a 10-8 round against Anthony Dirrell in their last fight.

    Bika's borderline tactics have also cost him points and in one case got him disqualified in the past. If not for the point he lost for a low blow in Round 11 last time, he would have left with a split decision over Dirrell.

    Anthony Dirrell wilted under Bika's pressure in the second half of their last fight. His cardio looked suspect. He didn't throw enough punches and didn't throw the right kind of punches to set up his power shots.

    Although he's fought for a long time and is undefeated, he's cruised against second-tier and lesser competition.

Sakio Bika Will Win If...

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    I've only ever seen Sakio Bika fight one way, and I doubt he's going to change things up for this rematch with Anthony Dirrell. Bika is an aggressive pressure fighter who skirts the rule book and makes his opponents as uncomfortable as possible.

    He has to try to get off to a quicker start, though, this time around. Bika had good success pounding on Dirrell's body in the last fight and should be looking to muscle the challenger into the ropes and hammer on his torso from the first round.

    If Bika can start slowing Dirrell down earlier in this fight, he won't have to play catch-up in the later rounds. It's safe to assume that Dirrell will be more prepared for the roughhousing this time, so Bika needs to give him more of it sooner.

    But Bika also needs to be wary of unleashing his inner beast. Dirrell's corner will ask the referee to watch for low blows and other illegal tactics in the pre-fight instructions back stage. Bika should expect another close fight, so he doesn't want to give away points.

Anthony Dirrell Will Win If...

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    Anthony Dirrell has to come into this fight mentally and physically prepared to stand up to the kind of pressure Sakio Bika will bring over 12 grueling rounds. He can't let his punch output and activity fall off in the second half of the fight.

    Dirrell has to work more intelligently to set up his power shots in this fight. That's going to mean being active with his jab. He should exploit his reach advantage to double and triple up on the jab from the outside while looking for the opening for his straight right.

    Dirrell needs to use movement to avoid getting caught on the ropes. He has to put his punches together in combinations when he's trading with Bika.

    He can't let it look like Bika is putting in more work.

Prediction

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    After presenting a card filled with one-sided mockeries last weekend, Golden Boy and Showtime are presenting a far more competitive card from the StubHub Center on Saturday. Shawn Porter vs. Kell Brook should be a very competitive fight, and the same is true about this rematch between Sakio Bika and Andre Dirrell.

    This fight comes down to a couple of questions. Did Bika expose Dirrell as lacking in physical sturdiness in their last bout? Will Dirrell learn from the experience gained during that draw and come better prepared this time?

    I think it's a case of the latter. Dirrell will make adjustments and largely avoid the kind of struggles he faced in the second part of the last fight. That's why, even though I had Bika winning a narrow decision last time, I'm picking Dirrell to take a close one this time out.

    With a belt around his waist, Dirrell could bring some new life to the division. A shot at Andre Ward would not seem out of the question, although network conflicts could stand in the way.