SAKIO Bika of Kogarah retained his WBC super middleweight world title following a rugged and controversial 12-round draw with unbeaten American challenger Anthony Dirrell in New York.
The Cameroon-born Bika had to come from behind after a slow start, including a fifth-round knockdown.
He was well behind as he went in to the second half of the fight, but gradually started making inroads with some savage body rips and crosses.
Today's press conference. Looking forward to defending and retaining my world title. pic.twitter.com/dCLrBe4plW— Sakio Bika (@sakio_bika) December 5, 2013
@sakio_bika Sakio, there is an old Indian proverb which goes like this: 'For every blow you land on me, I will return it with four'.— Ray Verma (@rayverma) December 5, 2013
@sakio_bika the sutherland shire is behind you all the way— Kent Johns (@KentJohns) December 5, 2013
Bika was penalised in the 11th round for a low blow, with replays later showing the punch had landed on the belt line.
He also had Dirrell on the canvas. And while many judges had Bika in front at the end of the 12th, the bout was scored a majority draw.
It was Bika’s third draw in his 40 pro fights including 32 wins.
WHEN Australia's only surviving professional world boxing champion, Sakio Bika of Kogarah, defends his title for the first time on Sunday, it might feel the whole of New York is against him.
Or, rather, cheering for unbeaten American contender Anthony "Dog" Dirrell.
"They'll be against me, I know," said Bika when he rang the Leader from St Louis.
"That's why I've left nothing to chance preparing for this."
In boxing parlance, Dirrell's story is a knockout which rivals that of the "scorpion" Bika, one of nine children who grew up in Cameroon, Africa.
Dirrell, 29, is the younger brother of Olympic bronze medallist and fellow pro boxer Andre Dirrell.
Both tried out for the US Olympic team in 2004, and Anthony — viewed as the more aggressive of the two — missed out.
Anthony Dirrell turned pro and stayed unbeaten in the ring until he was king-hit by an unknown quantity in 2007.
Brain cancer, or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, had him sidelined as chemotherapy treatment took over.
He was cleared to box again in 2008 but in January that year Dirrell was held overnight in the Flint city jail on suspicion of armed robbery. No charges were ever filed.
Dirrell resurrected his unbeaten career, but last year it came to an abrupt halt again: when he broke an arm and leg in a motorbike accident.
"I wasn't even thinking boxing," Dirrell said at the time. "I was thinking survival and getting back on my feet."
Despite growing up in a family of 11 in Douala, Cameroon, Bika said his parents gave him the chance to have further education.
"But I just wanted to do sports," he said.
"My first choice was soccer but a knee injury soon ended that. I watched boxing tournaments and I saw the prizes that fighters would win."
He started training in a nearby gym, entered amateur bouts ... and kept on winning (136 amateur fights and only eight losses].
Bika's family were happy when he finally got his chance in the big time, making the Cameroon team for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Although Bika was eliminated controversially, he liked Sydney and after speaking to his family, decided to stay and continue his career, initially under trainer Jeff Fenech.
Soon after he met his wife-to-be, Belinda, at Darling Harbour and they now have three children, still living at Kogarah.
Despite his age Bika, 34, has had relatively few pro fights in 13 years.
One of his Sydney trainers, former amateur champion David Birchell of Gymea, said Bika had been "disadvantaged" simply because "few want to train with him, let alone fight him".
"Sakio hits so hard and isn't afraid of anyone," Birchell said.
"Even the greats who did fight and beat him overseas, such as Markus Beyer, Joe Calzaghe, Lucian Bute and Andre Ward, were never the same after taking on Sakio."
Bika has not had any problems with his weight since moving to New York from his St Louis training base.
He is treating his opponent with respect, but "Yes, he is unbeaten ... but he has never fought the best in the world like I have," Bika says of Dirrell. "Never fought past eight rounds and never fought anyone like me."
Bika, who won the WBC super-middleweight title on June 23 this year over the previously unbeaten Marco Antonio Periban, said he would like to defend his title next in his home city [Sydney]. "Yeah, in front of MY fans this time."
But the Australian is the centre of a conflict of interest — both he and Dirrell have the same manager in the US.
Asked what Bika might do if he is asked to "lay down" for extra money, for an idolised American, Birchell doesn't hesitate:
"He would spit in the b 's face," he answered. "Sakio is a warrior, who would die in the ring before he would ever throw a fight.
"Remember, no one has ever knocked out Sakio Bika."
The Bika-Dirrell world title fight will be televised live on Fox through Main Event this Sunday, December 8.
Who do you think will win between Bika and Dirrell?