The Central African nation of Cameroon is famous for its production of two pulse-quickening things: coffee and native son Sakio Bika, whose dogged, determined, downright annoying (for opponents) presence in the ring is suggestive of a man whose heart pumps espresso.
Bika may now live in and fight out of Australia, where he competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, but he maintains dual citizenship between that country and his homeland, where’s he a star.
In 2013, Bika defeated Marco Antonio Periban to become a 168-pound world champion, and the rapturous reception he received when he returned to Cameroon was somewhere between that of conquering hero, rock star and the dude who invented the burrito cannon.
“I went back home and at the airport there were maybe 3,000 people there,” he says. “It’s crazy over there. I can’t walk in the street. Everywhere I go, there were thousands of people around me.”
Cameroon is a soccer-mad country whose national team was the first African squad to reach the World Cup quarterfinals.
Growing up, Bika was more about scoring goals than knockouts.
That changed after a particularly fateful injury.
“I was a good soccer player,” Bika recalls. “I didn’t really choose boxing in the beginning. But I hurt my knee when I was 13 and I couldn’t play soccer any more. I was living close to a boxing gym, and I decided to box.”
Turned out to be a fortuitous mishap.
In addition to winning the third season of boxing reality TV series The Contender in 2007, Bika has developed a reputation for being one of boxing's toughest outs, giving current and former champs such as Joe Calzaghe, Andre Ward and Anthony Dirrell some of their most grueling fights.
Now, Bika is in for another test, moving up in weight to challenge 175-pound king Adonis Stevenson on April 4 in Quebec City, which will be broadcast live on CBS at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT.
As he prepares for Stevenson, Bika continues to look to another 175-pound fighter for inspiration, the great Evander Holyfield, who began his career in that division before becoming one of boxing's top heavyweights.
“The guy was putting everything on the line,” Bika says of one of his all-time favorite fighters. “When I’m fighting now, when I go inside the ring, I feel like I need to put everything on the line, go all the way for 12 rounds and give the people a good show.”