He expected the toughest fight of his career, he was served. Tony Yoka knelt down and suffered his first professional defeat against Congolese Martin Bakole on Saturday night at Paris-Bercy.
Facing an opponent better ranked than him in the world hierarchy, the French heavyweight had the opportunity to take a major step in his career but he was stifled by the power of the Congolese. “Today, Martin was stronger, I think everyone could see it,” admitted the Frenchman in the ring, under a few whistles from the spectators at Bercy.
The 2016 Olympic champion now has eleven wins for one defeat since his move to the pros in 2017. As expected, Bakole, who has 18 wins in 19 fights, threw himself into the fight with rage and Yoka suffered his incredible power in the first exchanges. What was not expected, however, is that Yoka kneels at the end of the first round.
The Frenchman was counted out, shook his head and then got up to fight again. The debates were somewhat balanced in the following rounds but Yoka always seemed in difficulty thereafter. The 30-year-old Parisian was largely down to the point mid-fight.
The challenge was to know if the Congolese, more massive but less mobile than the French, was going to go the distance. He seemed to show signs of fatigue, especially in the eighth round, but managed to resist thanks to his 125.6 kg and his 98 meter. On the contrary, it is the Frenchman (109.6 kg, 2.01 m ) who looked completely exhausted in the last round.
“Go back to work”
Unlike his previous appearances in the ring, Yoka, 15th in the world, was not the big favorite of the evening since he was opposed for the first time to an opponent higher ranked than him (13th). He had also warned that he was tackling the toughest challenge of his career.
With this first defeat, he suffered a serious setback in his “conquest” towards the heights of world boxing. He will now have to fight to find opponents allowing him to approach a world belt, his obsession since the start of his career.
Coming to ringside at the start of the evening to see the quick success of his little brother Victor, who was making his professional debut, Yoka lost on points, by split decision of the judges (96-92, 95-93 , 94-94).
Under the eyes of the 9,000 spectators gathered at the Accor Arena, he was unable to rest on his technical palette against the more aggressive Congolese. “It’s time to go back to work, maybe to change some things,” analyzed Yoka, world amateur champion in 2015.
Bakole at the gates of the top 10
At 28, Martin Bakole, the privileged sparring partner of the stars of the queen category, from Anthony Joshua to Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk, can for his part knock on the door of the world’s gratin thanks to his aggressive and powerful boxing and will be able to aim quickly the top 10 of the world rankings.
“I’m really proud. It’s a big fight for me against Tony,” he said. With this solid victory and despite a not very flashy name, he still imposes himself a little more as a serious candidate for a world final.
The evening was also the scene of the second pro fight for Frenchman Sofiane Oumiha, silver medalist at the Rio Olympics, who is also aiming to qualify for the Paris Olympics. Oumiha won on points against another tricolor, Mevy Boufoudi, who was undefeated in eight fights so far in the lightweight category.
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