When Sakio Bika made his first super middleweight title defense against Anthony Dirrell in December it was an all-out brawl that ended in a split draw.
Although Dirrell scored a knockdown in the fifth round and had Bika in major trouble, Bika rallied in the sixth round, a round of the year contender in which both men were staggered. It was a brutal affair and Bika, with his rough style, cost himself a point in the 11th round with a low blow.
In the end, the draw seemed justified with both sides unhappy and a rematch under immediate discussion.
Neither man has fought since and they will indeed do it again Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, in the co-feature on a card headlined by welterweight titlist Shawn Porter (24-0-1, 15 KOs), 26, of Akron, Ohio, making his second title defense when he faces mandatory challenger Kell Brook (32-0, 22 KOs), 28, of England.
Lightweight titleholder Omar Figueroa Jr. (23-0-1, 17 KOs), 24, of Weslaco, Texas, will make the second defense of his belt against mandatory challenger Daniel Estrada (32-2-1, 24 KOs), 29, of Mexico, in the opener.
By the sound of Bika and Dirrell, they plan to pick up where they left off nine months ago.
"The first fight with Dirrell, I started off a little too slow," said Bika, who trained with trainer Kevin Cunningham in St. Louis. "For this fight I will try to show that I am the boss in the right from the beginning, and make him scared. I want to attack him relentlessly and prove to him that he doesn't belong in the ring with me.
"I definitely feel that I won the first fight and everyone saw that. The body shot that he got on me was a low blow, it was a lucky punch. I kept on hitting him so hard and he couldn't handle the pressure I was putting on him. I know that I won that fight. My biggest strength against Dirrell is that I am much stronger than him and I can handle all the pressure that is thrown my way. I am very strong and will pressure him constantly."
Dirrell (26-0-1, 22 KOs), 29, of Flint, Michigan, also believes he won the first fight.
"I'm here to officially take what's rightfully mine," he said. "Bika knows I won our last fight. It's good we got to go straight to a rematch with no fights in between. I expect to see nothing new or different from Bika. Bika is Bika. In the ring, he is who he is. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
"I thought I fought a good fight the first time, but I can do even better. I can box better and I can stick to the game plan better. He can't touch me when I box. In fact, he can't touch me no matter how I fight him."
With a victory, Bika (32-5-3, 21 KOs), 35, of Australia, said he next wants to fight a big-name opponent -- he didn't say who -- or that he would consider moving up to light heavyweight.
"If I am the victor in this fight, I won't call any names on who I want to fight next," he said. "Every time that I call on a fighter, everyone gets too scared and doesn't want to fight. I need to sit down with my management [Al Haymon] and see if I need to move up a weight class and fight a big challenger maybe in the light heavyweight division because I feel that I am capable."
Last week, Daniel Jacobs claimed a secondary middleweight belt by knocking out Jarrod Fletcher in the fifth round to become what many believed was the first cancer survivor to win a title. If Dirrell beats Bika, he can join Jacobs, who didn't box for 19 months between 2011 and 2012 while fighting a rare form of bone cancer that nearly killed him.
Dirrell was out of action in 2007 and most of 2008 while battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosed in December 2006. Jacobs, who has been friends with Dirrell since they were teenage amateurs, will be ringside to call the fight, filling in for Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi.
"That's good that Daniel Jacobs is calling the fights for Showtime," Dirrell said. "He's a cancer survivor like me. Between us, we want to continue to inspire others all over the world."
Said Jacobs, "When I had my very first charity fundraiser party Anthony attended. Afterward, we both discussed it and decided that we should do this together, to inspire each other, to inspire others, especially after coming back the way we did to be in the positions that we are. This, for me, what Anthony and I have, is absolutely like a brotherhood, a fraternity between two guys who happen to be in the same tough sport as boxing.
"What we have set out to accomplish is bigger than boxing, bigger than me or him. This is for the world; to be an inspiration for people to give them hope. That's what it's about, just helping to lead the way to give people hope."