Sakio “The Scorpion” Bika dove into one end of a hotel pool as part of a workout. Unfortunately, it was the deep end, and he cannot swim.
“Sakio jumped into the pool as part of a training session and went right to the bottom. Thirty seconds later, he hadn’t come back up,” Australian director Ben Damon said of an incident that occurred two days prior to Bika’s loss to Lucian Bute in June 2007.
“His trainer, Mike Pitts, had to jump in and get him. Sakio nearly drowned before a world-title eliminator. He fought quite poorly, I think, to a large degree, because of the near drowning.”
The near-death tale is not the only one involving Bika in the upcoming documentary Champion: The Journey of Sakio Bika, which is being directed by Damon. The boxer's nickname of "The Scorpion” originates from his experience of getting stung as a 13-year-old in his native Cameroon.
The film, which will feature narration by boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard, has been shot in Australia, Africa, Europe and the United States.
"It's an honor to represent my country, Cameroon, and for my life story to be told," said Bika, who turns 36 on April 18. "Many young people around the world can understand that anything is possible if you work for it."
Bika will make his 175-pound debut against world champion Adonis Stevenson in Quebec City on April 4 in a fight televised on CBS.
The documentary, which is targeted for release in July, also will feature footage surrounding the title fight.
“We'll touch on Sakio’s entire life, from the slum that he grew up in Duala, Cameroon, to his path to a world championship and the aftermath,” said Damon, an Australian journalist, TV host and ring announcer.
“Sakio’s father lost the use of an arm and a leg while working, yet he managed to support a wife and nine children. I think that’s where Sakio has gotten his work ethic. He may not be the most talented boxer, but he’s ruthless and relentless and keeps going in the ring."
Bika now lives in and fights out of Australia, where he competed in the 2000 Olympics, and also met and married his wife, Belinda. The couple has 9- and 6-year-old sons, and a 20-month-old daughter.
“Sakio grew up in a two-bedroom dwelling with no running water, but he eventually became a world champion,” said Chris Carman, who handles the business affairs of Bika, who has dual citizenship in Africa and Australia. “He has never had an easy career or life. When he first came to Australia, he didn’t speak very good English. He had to learn very quickly.”
Bika defeated Marco Antonio Periban to become a 168-pound world champion in June 2013, and retained his title with a draw against Anthony Dirrell later that year.
He lost in a rematch with Dirrell last August, but was able to return to his birthplace of Douala earlier in 2014 to upgrade the burial plot for his father, who died in 2010.
“That was the first time that Sakio returned to Cameroon since winning his title. He wanted to go back and revisit his father to make sure that there was a good headstone," Carman said. “Sakio stays in shape, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, and doesn’t take drugs. His goal is to inspire others to fight their way out of poverty.”