BOSTON, Nov. 6
BIKA batters through. / Photo: EMILY HARNEY, Fightwire Images

Great is an overused word in sports but it applied to the dramatic, action-packed, changes-of-fortune war in Boston on Tuesday night that saw the 32-year-old Sakio Bika teeter on the brink of defeat before outlasting and overpowering Jaidon Codrington in the eighth round of The Contender 168-pound tournament finalé.

As ESPN’s Joe Tessitore said, this was a truly great fight. It would not have been out of place in boxing’s great eras. Watching Bika and Codrington blast away at each, for round after round, inspired respect for the fighters and also a sense of awe at the punishment they were able to give and take. Old-time contenders such as Henry Hank, Bennie Briscoe, Rory Calhoun, Ralph “Tiger” Jones, Gil Turner and the many others of that ilk would have been proud, I am sure, to have taken part in a fight such as this.

Not just every round but every second of every round was riveting. As commentator Tessitore exclaimed at the end of the fifth: “If you don’t like this, you don’t have a pulse!”

Although Bika was ultimately too seasoned and too strong, Codrington seemed to be in with a chance almost to the very end.

It was amazing that Codrington, knocked out in 18 seconds by Allan Green in his only loss, was able to take so many heavy hits and keep coming back. The 23-year-old New York boxer showed a big heart and the instincts of a real fighter. He gave everything he had and pushed himself almost beyond the limits of his endurance, yet it still wasn’t enough.

It was almost enough, though, because Bika was as close to defeat in the wild opening round as Kelly Pavlik had been in the second round against Jermain Taylor, while at other times Bika was wobbled by Codrington’s big shots — especially the left hooks.

That opening round was sensational. Surely it will be considered the round of the year by everyone who saw it. Bowled over in the first 30 seconds by Bika’s big-hitting early charge (and hit while down, an overeager offence by Bika that escaped reprimand), Codrington almost won the fight when, backed up on the ropes and under fire, his beautifully timed left hook counter dropped Bika to his knees.

Bika looked extremely unsteady after taking the eight count, but although his legs were disobedient he seemed clear-headed and had his wits about him, hanging on, ducking and rolling in his awkward way, anything to stay in the fight — and by the end of the round he was trading hooks with the left hooker and holding his own. It was astonishing to behold.

As was the case with Taylor against Pavlik, the big opportunity to end the fight had slipped away from Codrington. He was able to hurt Bika several times in subsequent rounds — a right hand in the fourth, a left hook in the fifth, in particular, but he couldn’t hurt him enough.

Usually when Codrington hits someone the way he hit Bika, they go away. The Australian-based fighter from Cameroon was a different proposition, however. He just kept coming forward, again and again, sometimes jabbing but mostly winging his huge hooks and right hands in great, sweeping arcs, with an occasional uppercut thrown into the mix. Codrington was able to block a lot of these punches but others went around his guard, while Bika is so strong that at times he was able to punch right through the younger man’s defences.

Codrington acquitted himself nobly in the sort of situation he had never been in before, but as analyst Teddy Atlas pointed out, Bika had been in these places and knew what a long, punishing fight was all about, while Codrington was just finding out.

Bika was swollen over the left eye by the seventh but Codrington looked near the end of his rope, flopping to his hands and knees as much from fatigue as anything, although Bika had leaned down on him. Even though it had not been a knockdown it must have been encouraging for Bika to see his opponent on the canvas, an indication that his rival’s ability to resist was starting to ebb.

Codrington was brave to the bitter end but he just did not have anything left with which to hold off Bika in the eighth, and when he wilted from a series of big right hands, his defences blown apart, it brought the well-timed intervention of referee Dick Flaherty after two minutes, 18 seconds of the round.

The veteran referee had played a key part in the greatness of the contest by not stopping the fight in the opening round as Bika floundered under fire. Flaherty realised that the game and experienced African was doing everything he could not to get stopped, and he gave him every chance to weather the storm — the same chance that referee Steve Smoger had given to a staggering Kelly Pavlik in Atlantic City in September.

I do feel that Bika should at least have been cautioned for hitting Codrington while his opponent was down in the first round — one punch landed while another was blocked as the New York fighter pulled his gloves up to his head — but no harm seemed to have been done and the incident had no bearing on the final result. In fact, had the referee called for a time out to caution Bika it might actually have done the Cameroonian a favour by steadying him down a bit, and he then might not have got hit by the left hook that nearly did him in.

As it was, what the fans in the arena and ESPN viewers saw was a truly unforgettable fight. The stronger, more mature fighter deservedly won, but the less-experienced though gifted loser gained in stature for his role in a breathtaking battle.

NOTE: In the fight preview I had Bika as being 28 years old, as listed on, but the FightFax record book gives his date of birth as 1975, which would make him 32. ESPN gave his age as 32. I will amend my records accordingly.

Last Updated: 
November 6, 2007 - 3:40pm