Boxing bouts between ageing veterans are always interesting – just think Mike Tyson’s recent return to the ring.
But a long, long-awaited trilogy bout between Sam Soliman and Sakio Bika exceeded everyone’s expectations, stunning the crowd at Newcastle Entertainment Centre with a remarkable display of toughness.
The two former world champions, Soliman at 47 years old and Bika at 41, did battle over a full eight rounds at a 75kg catchweight – and somehow fought like two men a decade younger than their birth certificates would claim!
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The two great warriors have over 100 pro fights between them, and have proved themselves legends of the sport over the years.
And from the first touch of their gloves to the final bell, they fought at a frenetic pace – despite their last meeting being four years ago, and Bika himself having not fought in three years.
Boxing great Jeff Fenech said in commentary: “I can’t believe the pace these two old guys are going at. And they’re throwing big punches as well.”
“They’re setting a frantic pace here,” Ben Damon replied.
After being outboxed in the first couple of rounds, the taller man in former Cameroonian Sakio Bika slipped in the third round and appeared to injure his knee. But that was never going to stop him. That same round, he pressed forward and appeared to have Soliman on the brink of defeat – a position both fighters were in at different times during their classic battle.
The pair both ended up bruised and bloodied, with the claret flowing from cuts above their eyes as the fight wore on.
“This one’s been an amazing performance from two guys who are veterans. This has been crazy,” Fenech said.
In the final two rounds, Bika absolutely dominated his rival, landing huge punches that would have floored anything short of a chin made of pure granite.
But somehow, defying belief, Soliman managed to stay standing – and even hit back with some strong shots of his own.
When the final bell rang, Damon exclaimed: “Oh my goodness! Two former champions in their forties have left absolutely everything in the ring.”
Fenech said: “That’s one of the most amazing fights I’ve ever watched. For their age, oh my god.”
Sakio Bika ended the winner by unanimous decision, with a wide points margin in his favour: 80-73, 79-73, 78-74. Commentators and pundits alike decried the scorecards, believing it much closer.
“It was very hard. I earned my win,” Bika said. “He refused to go down … that was probably one of the toughest fighters in the world.”
Then he called out 48-year-old American Oscar de la Hoya, an 11-time world title winner who hasn’t fought in a decade – but this year teased a return. Don’t rule it out.