Beaten by Martin Bakole by decision on Saturday evening at Bercy, the French heavyweight Tony Yoka suffered the first defeat of his professional career for his twelfth fight. A clear brake on its global “conquest”. How to bounce back? What should the person who announces that he must “perhaps change certain things” change? The RMC Fighter Club debriefs the backhand of the 2016 Olympic champion.
In the ring, his words concluded with a tight throat. The palpable emotion. “Martin was the strongest in the ring, everyone could see that. Congratulations to him. It’s time to go back to work, maybe change some things…” We can think what we want of Tony Yoka but we must recognize one thing: the French boxer did not hide this Saturday evening at Bercy, where he was making his first, when commenting on his first defeat in the professional ranks suffered by decision (mention to the grotesque 94-94 card from one of the judges…) against Martin Bakole.
More powerful, the Congolese who boxed with false airs of George Foreman manhandled the 2016 Olympic champion from the start of the fight, sending him to the mat for the first time in his career in the first round. Haggard, touched, Yoka suffered the lightning that the one who served as sparring partner for Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua or Oleksandr Usyk but will have at least been able not to let go of the case and come back better in the second half of the fight even if the outcome already seemed bent after twisting his ankle and being counted out again by the referee in the fifth round. Faster and more mobile than his opponent, he didn’t know how to take advantage of it when things were going better for him.
Cissokho: ‘He broke his nose during training camp’
“Tony had a small rebound after half the fight, putting more punches, but it’s still tight rounds and Bakole won the fight, we all agree, analyzes Souleymane Cissokho, the French fighter boxing consultant for the RMC Fighter Club podcast and very close to Yoka with whom he shared the Olympic adventure in 2016 and several cards with the pros. But Tony did not let go. Many would have given up. We would have liked him to do more to make a difference at the end, it was possible because Bakole was starting to get tired but it’s a fight where he will learn a lot.”
And that he did not approach 100% of his means, which may explain his difficulties in cashing in (and his nose quickly bleeding). “What we don’t know is that he broke his nose during his training camp, confides Souleymane Cissokho, and putting on gloves was complicated between his bar helmet and the many bleedings. takes a small hit in terms of confidence, it plays on morale. A boxer who is 100% ready does not worry and has no apprehension, he will go for it 100%, while in the unconscious the one who has had an injury will put a little brake. I spoke a lot to his entourage and this is the first fight where they were worried because it was not easy with this broken nose. Given the result, they were right to fear Bakole, the biggest test on their way so far.
Our consultant also mentions things that he “cannot say” but that Tony “may say at the end of his career”, with the implication of a possible physical glitch. We may know more one day. And now? What next for Yoka? If those who criticize him rejoiced in his fall, you have to quickly sweep away the toxic culture of zero – having zero career losses like a Floyd Mayweather – to realize that the rebound is possible. It will be necessary to “go back to work”, as he says, but a setback is not a definitive stop, the proof with this Bakole beaten by the American Michael Hunter in 2018 and who remains on seven victories since. “He has already experienced defeat among amateurs, and even defeat before the limit, recalls Souleymane Cissokho, and we know the end of the story where he became world champion and Olympic champion. For me, it’s the same thing.”
The halt to “conquest” is clear. But it is important not to bury the career of Yoka. Member of the world’s top 20, the boxer will still have other great opportunities. It will probably start with the EBU European Championship against the German Agit Kabayel, already in the pipeline before the fight against Bakole. At this point in his career, just after his first defeat, we would also like to see the man with twelve fights in five and a half years of professionalism fight on Top Rank cards (his American co-promoter) without being too much in the light like this is the case when he boxed in his country.
But his engagement with Canal still runs for three fights and we can’t imagine the encrypted channel easily accepting to see his fights broadcast in the middle of the night. “If it were up to him, he would have boxed for a long time in the United States”, confirms Souleymane Cissokho. As if he found himself a little “stuck”. So what’s left to do? Changing coaches and leaving Virgil Hunter – who said he was disappointed after the fight to not have been with him for his training camp, Yoka training without him in Las Vegas – for another coach who would better develop his power and his ability to manage the clinch, as Sugar Hill Steward knew how to do at Kronk with Tyson Fury after the first fight against Deontay Wilder? Other shortcomings need to be worked on, for example in defence.
But Souleymane Cissokho, also coached by Hunter, adds nuance: “The important thing is not the name. It’s being with someone with whom a strong relationship can be created. There are plenty of coaches But the relationship has to fit together well. His lack of power? He still broke Bakole’s nose! Tony, he’s someone who manages to hurt. But when you get hit like that on the first round, and he was well hit, sometimes you’re not you anymore. You take a blow to your morale and you lose all your abilities. Behind, he was no longer in his legs. I don’t know if Bakole is better than Tony. That was the case that night but I don’t think that’s the case in absolute terms.”
“We bury Tony too quickly”
And our consultant concludes: “We bury Tony a little too quickly. Before that, we said that he had gained power, that he used his hooks better, that he became a real professional boxer. And there, for a defeat, we are reviewing everything about his career. He made a good transition between amateur boxing and professional boxing but there, things came out that we thought in the past, when he could have walked Bakole with his qualities. Olympic champion, able to bring back his fights at Roland-Garros or Bercy, Tony Yoka has done a lot for French boxing in recent years. But now, after this first defeat, he may have to think a little more about his own career. And it could go through change as he launched it himself.
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