Ward holds off Bika to retain WBA crown
Andre Ward had cuts near both eyes, took an elbow to the face and was only able to muster a few flurries.
On the roughest night of his career, Ward absorbed everything Sakio Bika of Cameroon threw. Then, like Ward has done in each of his previous 22 fights, the Bay Area native followed his smooth left jab to victory.
Ward successfully defended his WBA super middleweight title, unanimously outpointing Bika in front of a sparse crowd at Oracle Arena on Saturday night.
''I'm hard on myself and I don't think I did good, but we got the win and I'm proud of that,'' Ward said. ''Bika's and my style clashed. We bumped heads and elbows. We did what we had to do out there, especially me, to win.''
Fighting in front of his hometown crowd as part of a dual-site co-main event, Ward didn't land many big shots, but repeatedly hit Bika with a stinging left jab that the challenger was unable to counter. Ward won all 12 rounds on one judges scorecard and was ahead 118-110 on the other two.
Ward (23-0) was supposed to be fighting as part of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, but took the fight with Bika after Andre Dirrell pulled out of the tournament because of headaches and dizziness.
That opened the door for Bika (28-5-2), but the 31-year-old was unable to capitalize and lost for the second straight fight after winning his previous six.
''Andre was a great warrior and he deserved to win,'' Bika said. ''I'm just thankful he gave me the opportunity.''
Bika entered the ring to Bob Marley music, dancing and smiling and looking confident. He left the same way, although there was no music and he had a cut on his left eye.
Both fighters sustained cuts in the rough, physical bout that had referee Dan Stell issuing warnings to both at various times.
''We expected this kind of fight with Bika,'' Ward said. ''Every laceration I have was literally (from) a headbutt or an elbow. I clearly remember each one of them. That's what you get when you fight a guy like Sakio.''
Bika, who was disqualified in the first round of his most recent bout when he hit Jean Paul Mendy while Mendy was down, came into the fight with a reputation as a dirty fighter. He was the aggressor most of the fight, but kept complaining to Stell about Ward's tactics.
''(He) beat Bika at his own game,'' Ward's promoter Dan Goosen said. ''It was a rough fight more so than dirty. It was a rough and tough, down in the dirt-type of fight.''
Ward outpointed Bika by countering nearly every attack, scoring with his left jab and avoiding Bika's big right. It's Ward's fifth win by decision in his last six bouts.
The fight was part of a dual-site co-main event. In the other featured bout, Carl Froch scored a unanimous decision over Arthur Abraham to win the WBC super middleweight title.
The Froch-Abraham fight was part of the Super Six tournament and helped set the seedings for the semifinals. Ward, the top seed, will face Abraham while Froch will fight Glen Johnson. Both fights will likely happen some time next year.
After a slow start, Bika tied Ward up in the third and landed several hard right hands that landed to the side of the champion's head. Ward countered with his stinging left jab and came back to win the round, but suffered a slight cut above his left eye. He sustained a cut under his right eye later in the fight as well.
Ward appeared to knock Bika down in the fourth, but referee Dan Stell ruled it a slip. When Bika rose to his feet, Ward caught him with a left hook that stunned the challenger. Another left jab by Ward snapped Bika's head back, but the Cameroon native simply smiled.
Bika continued to throw looping shots in an effort to land a knockout punch, but Ward repeatedly slipped the attack and dodged out of trouble.
Ward's best flurry came in the ninth when he had Bika against the ropes and landed multiple left hooks. Bika, who was warned early in the round for hitting Ward in the head with an elbow, survived, but was clearly stunned. He also suffered a cut after getting hit by a Ward jab right before the two fighters clashed heads.
''One thing I am happy about is learning how to win different ways,'' Ward said. ''I want to be a great fighter and you have to learn to deal with every style. I could have made it an easier fight, but ... sometimes I want to mix it up.''