ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Super middleweight contender Sakio Bika has had three world title shots, going 0-2-1 in them. Now he could be on his way to a fourth.
Bika thoroughly outboxed and outfought Nikola Sjekloca to win a unanimous decision in a world title eliminator on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in the co-featured bout on the Adrien Broner-Gavin Rees lightweight title undercard.
With the win, Bika became one of unified champion Andre Ward's mandatory challengers. In 2010, Bika lost a near-shutout decision to Ward but has since won three fights in a row.
But with Ward out of action likely until the fall because of a shoulder injury and Bika not in his plans, a rematch is highly unlikely for now. Bika instead could be headed for a rematch with Montreal star and former titleholder Lucian Bute, who was ringside with his team to watch the fight.
Bika, 33, a native of Cameroon living in Australia, lost a unanimous decision to Bute in Montreal in 2007 in a title eliminator.
Bika (31-5-2, 21 KOs) was never challenged by Sjekloca (25-1, 7 KOs), 34, of Montenegro, who was fighting his first recognizable name. The judges had it for Bika, 120-108, 119-109 and 118-112. ESPN.com also had it 120-108 for Bika.
"I feel really good. I had a great plan, and I had a great training camp," Bika said. "I worked hard and pushed him. But I give him a round of applause. He was undefeated, and he was coming to fight. This was a great opportunity for me. Now I want to fight all the best fighters -- Lucian Bute, Andre Ward, any of them."
Although Sjekloca, who somehow ascended to No. 1 in one of the sanctioning body's rankings, was game, Bika was too physical for him. He landed solid right hands and worked the body well. Sjekloca is going to be sore from all the shots to his flanks.
Bika had a big fourth round, staggering Sjekloca with a right hand on top of the head and following with several punches that had Sjekloca reeling.
Bika, the 2007 winner of "The Contender" reality series, continued to work his jab, doubling it and tripling it in a fight that fell into the same routine round after round -- Bika stalking and landing and Sjekloca having little success with anything.
Besides the loss in a world title fight to Ward, Bika also came away empty-handed in two super middleweight title shots in 2006, losing a decision to Joe Calzaghe and winding up with a fourth-round technical draw with Markus Beyer in a fight that was ended after Beyer suffered a cut from an accidental head-butt and was unable to continue.
Hopkins stops Whittaker
Philadelphia junior middleweight Demetrius Hopkins (33-2-1, 13 KOs), the nephew of Bernard Hopkins, stopped Charles Whittaker (39-14-2, 23 KOs), who quit after the sixth round.
The crowd spent much of the fight booing the lack of action, although in the fourth round, Hopkins suddenly dropped Whittaker with a clean overhand right on the jaw with about 45 seconds left.
Hopkins, 32, was in control and getting to the slower, 39-year-old Whittaker, eventually swelling his left eye. After taking some punishment in the sixth round, Whittaker retired on his stool.
Hopkins was fighting for the third time since ending an 18-month layoff in late 2012. A junior welterweight for most of his career, he fought Saturday as a junior middleweight for the second fight in a row. In September, Whittaker, of the Cayman Islands, was stopped in the 10th round of a junior middleweight world title elimination bout by Gabriel Rosado and bounced back with a win in the Philippines in December before taking on Hopkins.
• Junior lightweight Edner Cherry (31-6-2, 17 KOs), whose nickname is "Cherry Bomb," dropped a bunch of them on Vicente Escobedo (26-4, 15 KOs), knocking him out as the sixth round was ending.
Cherry, a native of the Bahamas living in Miami, was in control throughout the bout. He dropped Escobedo, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, with a short right hand in the closing seconds of the second round and continued to land consistently.
In the sixth round, Cherry, who lost a decision to Timothy Bradley Jr. in a 2008 junior welterweight world title bout, landed a hard right hand on the chin that sent Escobedo to his backside, seemingly in slow motion. Escobedo was up at the count of seven but was in bad shape. He went down to his knees under a hail of punches moments later, just as the bell rang to end the round. Referee Allan Huggins was waving off the fight as Escobedo was falling.
Escobedo has now lost two in a row. He was fighting for the first time since July when Broner knocked him out in the fifth round.
• Cincinnati bantamweight Rau'Shee Warren (3-0, one KO), a three-time U.S. Olympian, laid a beating on hapless Richard Hernandez (0-6) of Wharton, Texas, before stopping him at 2 minutes, 4 seconds of the second round of their scheduled four-round bout.
Warren, with a vast experience and speed advantage, dominated every moment of the fight. Hernandez took a lot of shots in the first round but survived. In the second round, Warren was battering him to the head and body before he dropped him for the first time, with a left hand. Moments later, Warren landed another clean left, and Hernandez went down again. Although Hernandez beat the count, referee Samuel Viruet waved off the fight at the same time that Hernandez's trainer was jumping onto the apron to throw in a white towel.
• Lightweight Robert Easter Jr. (3-0, three KOs) of Toledo, Ohio, cut Puerto Rico's Jose Valderrama (3-4, three KOs) over his eye with a punch in the first round. When the round was over, the fight was stopped on the advice of the ringside doctor, giving Easter the knockout victory.
• Rockville Center, N.Y., lightweight Jamel Herring (2-0, one KO) opened the show by rolling to a third-round knockout against Carlos Lopez (4-3, zero KOs) of Puerto Rico. Herring, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, was in total command before doing damage throughout the third round, during which he was so dominant that it looked like a 10-8 round despite there being no knockdown. Herring hurt Lopez with a body shot early in the round and teed off on him for the rest of the round. He landed numerous clean shots to the head and body, but a weary Lopez survived the round. The fight was called off, though, on the advice of the ringside doctor while Lopez was on his stool after the round.