CODRINGTON: He's the puncher. / Photo: The Contender
BOSTON, Nov. 6
Graham's Odds: 
Codrington -150; Bika +130
Over 9.5 -165; under 9.5 +145

For fans of The Contender, Tuesday night’s Season III finale on ESPN is a not-to-be-missed occasion.

New York power puncher Jaidon Codrington meets awkward but strong African-born Australian Sakio Bika, with the winner getting a $750,000 purse.

The 10-rounder between two big 168-pounders (Codrington is 6ft 2ins, Bika a little over 6ft) is close to an even-money fight. I believe Codrington has to be considered the favourite after the way he blew through his first two Contender bouts, demolishing tough slugger Brian Vera in the second round and then bombing out tall and stylish Wayne Johnsen with one huge right hand in 67 seconds.

In contrast, Bika has had a tough road to the final, winning on points in gruelling fights against Donny McCrary and Sam Soliman.

Bika seems a likeable enough individual but the crowd will be solidly behind Codrington, who not only is the American fighter but has local region connections as he was born and raised in Bridgeport, CT. Many in the crowd will remember, too, how a tearful Codrington put aside the pain of his father’s passing to stay and fight his way to the final. He will, I think, be riding a wave of emotional support into the ring.

If Codrington does indeed win it will be a remarkable comeback after suffering what some feared might be a career-ending defeat when he was knocked out in 18 seconds by Allan Green two years ago.

It was a devastating loss as he was caught cold and drilled by big left hooks before he knew what was happening to him.

Codrington has won 10 in a row since that dreadful night and in recent fights has once again been living up to the “Chin Checker” nickname that he shares with New York buddy Curtis Stevens.

Bika, five years the older man at 28, did not look anywhere near as spectacular as Codrington in his Contender qualifying bouts but he was effective in his way, showing a good grasp of the basics and a useful left jab. His obvious assets are physical strength and durability and although he doesn’t have the classy style or the glamour of Codrington he knows how to fight.

One thing that favours Bika is his experience. It is not just that he has been a professional three years longer than Codrington but the fact that he has shared the ring with much tougher opposition. Codrington has faced only one world-class fighter, Allan Green, with disastrous results. Bika has been the full 12 rounds with champions Joe Calzaghe and Lucian Bute — although well beaten each time — and was holding his own in a title fight with Markus Beyer when a clash of heads brought a technical draw decision with the German fighter cut. He lost a majority decision to a much more experienced Sam Soliman in only his 11th fight.

While Codrington was a national Golden Gloves champion, Bika boxed for his native Cameroon in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, losing to a Canadian his first bout. He relocated to Australia to turn professional.

Codrington is the more gifted of the two men, faster and sharper, but Bika has travelled tougher terrain in his pro career.

I have no doubt that Codrington is hungry for success but Bika might be hungrier in the truer sense. He sees this fight as a way to providing a brighter future for his small son. In the fights with Calzaghe and Bute he was in over his head against skilled southpaws — and goodness knows it is no disgrace to lose a decision to Calzaghe. Bika fought surprisingly well against Beyer, though. It seemed to me that he buzzed the German with a left hook in the third, and it looked anyone’s fight when the collision in round four caused the inconclusive ending.

Fighting opponents such as Calzaghe, Bute, Beyer and Soliman has been good grounding for Bika; Codrington does not have this sort of experience. The crowd will be with Codrington, but Bika is used to boxing away from home.

My initial feeling was that Codrington might be too naturally talented for the more mechanical Bika, but after giving the fight more thought I came to the view that an upset is very possible. The knockout loss Codrington suffered against Allan Green was truly alarming and his chin has not really been tested since then — some doubt exists in that department. Obviously one must respect Codrington’s hand speed and firing power, but Bika has shown a dependable chin and he seems a determined type.

I fully expect Codrington to win the early rounds, but I think that Bika can withstand the hard shots and can come back with his jab and long hooks and right hands against an offensive-minded opponent who seems willing to take chances to deliver his heavy shots.

While Bika is not a banger as such, I think he might be able to affect Codrington with his punches to the point where he can start to take command of the fight in the late rounds.

It is difficult going against the bigger puncher and more polished boxer, each of which Codrington is, but my feeling is that the big-fight seasoning and inherent toughness of Bika is going to see the African-Aussie through with a gruelling victory, either by decision or possibly on a stoppage in the last two or three rounds if he can wear down the Chin Checker.

RESULT: Bika TKO8 in an incredible, dramatic fight.

Last Updated: 
November 5, 2007 - 3:59pm