Adonis Stevenson to defend title against Sakio Bika in Quebec City
Herb Zurkowsky, Montreal Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The talk, it seems, will begin again where Adonis Stevenson’s concerned.
He might be World Boxing Council light-heavyweight champion, but controls only 25 per cent of the 175-pound division. And for this transgression, he’ll be overshadowed by Sergey Kovalev. Or Jean Pascal, for that matter.
“The criticism doesn’t bother me. You have people like that, talking … people who don’t know s— about boxing,” Stevenson said on Friday.
The 37-year-old southpaw will make the fifth defence of his title, April 4 at the Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City, against Sakio Bika — perhaps best known and remembered for losing a 12-round 2007 super-middleweight title-eliminator against Lucian Bute at the Bell Centre.
The bout between Stevenson and Bika, scheduled for 12 rounds, marks the debut of Premier Boxing Champions on CBS — perhaps guaranteeing Stevenson a large American television audience although the card will be held on a Saturday afternoon in the early blushes of spring.
And, it seems when it comes to light-heavyweights, more people are focused on the upcoming March 14 Bell Centre showdown between champion Kovalev and Pascal, a bout that will be showcased on American specialty network HBO. The winner’s expected to meet Stevenson — provided he prevails — once Kovalev or Pascal makes a mandatory World Boxing Organization defence against Nadjib Mohammedi.
“He’s not second to nobody,” promoter Yvon Michel said of Stevenson. “His fight will be seen by many more people because of CBS. It’s a huge platform and a huge production.
“Last fall, Kovalev wasn’t very well known. If (Stevenson) would have fought Pascal there would have been more people in attendance, but CBS wouldn’t have been there.”
Stevenson, 25-1 with 21 knockouts, reportedly will earn a purse in the $3-million range against Bika. It has been suggested Kovalev and Pascal, combined, will total that figure, although that could change contingent on pay-per-view sales.
Nonetheless Stevenson, who lives in Blainville, is fighting in Quebec City for the second consecutive time although that date’s open at the Bell Centre, according to Michel. The promoter claimed he didn’t want two Montreal boxing cards presented that closely together. Stevenson has developed a following in Quebec and is comfortable there.
“Adonis has never been overshadowed,” Michel said. “That fight (between Kovalev and Pascal), it’s understandable. It’s a special one.”
Now it’s up to everyone concerned to convince the paying public that Bika’s a legitimate opponent. While it’s true Bika, originally from Cameroon and now living in Sydney, Australia, captured the vacant WBC super-middleweight title against Marco Antonio Periban in June 2013, he didn’t hold the belt for long. Six months later, Bika fought to a draw against Andre Dirrell. And when they met in the rematch last August, Bika lost a unanimous decision.
“It’s ridiculous to say this fight isn’t a challenge. It was the best challenge that was there,” Michel said. “It’s the best opponent for Adonis since Chad Dawson. He’s more qualified than anyone that has fought Stevenson. He keeps coming. He has a strong chin and he has never been stopped. He has fought seven world champions. He’s a road warrior. He’s used to having success — and he’s not coming to lose.”
Bika undoubtedly is willing to take on all challenges and isn’t opposed to going into his opponent’s backyard. But every time he has attempted to step up, he has come away vanquished. He lost to Markus Beyer, Joe Calzaghe, Andre Ward and Dirrell in world-title fights. He lost title eliminators to Bute and Jean-Paul Mendy.
There is, of course, no shame in losing to the champ, and Bika did take Calzaghe, Ward and Dirrell the distance.
“People only remember when he lost to Bute, but after that he won the (reality show) Contender. He went to the Super Six tournament. He became world champion. He always was invited for big fights,” Michel said. “Even if you lose, if Showtime or HBO call you back it’s because you deserve it and are qualified.
“He fought Calzaghe, Ward and gave hell to all of them.”
Indeed, that Bika (32-6-3 with 21 KOs) is getting another title shot on the heels of losing to Dirrell speaks volumes and shouldn’t be overlooked. Bika’s ranked eighth by the WBC in the 168-pound super-middleweight division.
“I always knew I could get more opportunities and I’m very positive I’ll win the fight,” he said. “I fought so many southpaws. Stevenson’s just an opponent, like I fought before — Calzaghe … Bute … Beyer.”
If anything potentially makes the matchup intriguing, it’s the fact Stevenson generally knocks his opponents out — and Bika has never been stopped. Presumably, Bika will require some speed and movement against Stevenson. And it could be potentially dangerous for him to mix, not that he appears daunted.
“Does he have punching power? I don’t think so. I have the power, too,” said Bika who, at age 35, could be running out of opportunities. “I’ll take it and give it back. Can he handle my power? I don’t know. I’m very sure I’ll handle his punching power.”
Bika leaves Saturday for training in St. Louis, where he’ll work under Kevin Cunningham. Stevenson, meanwhile, is returning to his roots and will train in Montreal, operating out of a new private gym where he is an owning partner. Stevenson normally trains in Detroit out of the Kronk gym.