Eight months after his last appearance, the French heavyweight Tony Yoka returns to the ring on Saturday at Bercy to face the Congolese Martin Bakole and his 125.6 kg, the toughest challenge of his career so far.
“Frankly, he is strong”, warns Yoka, who displays sixteen kilos less on the scale on the eve of the fight (109.6 kg). “He is an opponent who will give me a hard time and we will have to be wary of him until the end.”
Long mocked for the weak pedigree of his opponents, the Parisian is rising in rank and is preparing this time for a tougher duel against a solid and powerful boxer, who has only known defeat once in 18 fights for 72 % of wins before the limit and aims like Yoka to quickly climb into the top 10 of the world rankings.
At 28, the little brother of WBC light-heavyweight world champion Ilunga Makabu is also the favorite sparring partner of the stars of the premier category; Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk have called on his services.
“I really think it’s going to be my toughest fight, at least in terms of opponent, since the start,” said Yoka, undefeated in eleven professional outings (9 successes before the limit).
“But I think it’s also going to be the one where I feel the best (…) We did a very big preparation”, he assures.
– “Do my job” –
At 30, the 2016 Olympic champion is still looking for an opportunity to fight for a world belt, his obsession since his professional debut in 2017.
He would have had the opportunity to get closer after agreeing to challenge Croatian Filip Hrgovic in an IBF World Semi-Final. But being already contractually linked to Bakole, the Frenchman was forced to fight the Congolese.
“Tony is not serious,” Bakole said. “He didn’t call me or my team. We were surprised that he accepted Hrgovic’s proposal. We shouldn’t change like that. He has to honor his contract.”
Yoka assures his side to have digested this episode. “The fight that happened to me is things that I no longer think about. We have to stay focused on (Saturday)”, he explains.
“Whatever happens, the higher you go in the rankings, the more opportunities will come. (…) I know things will continue to present themselves to me if I continue to do my job.”
Failing to aim for a belt and while waiting to rub shoulders with the world’s gratin, Yoka, ranked 15th in the world in the queen category by the reference site “boxrec”, will face Bakole the opportunity to compete against an opponent who is ahead of him by two places in the standings.
– “Explosivity” –
A high level challenge for the Parisian, who has not fought since September 10 (a victory against the Croatian Peter Milas by KO in the 7th round).
“Whatever happens” Saturday, he considers himself a “turning point” in his rise to the heights of world boxing.
“Bakole is in the top 15 in the world. We said we were aiming for the top 10, we are getting closer,” says Yoka, who prepared this fight on the side of Las Vegas, the temple of world boxing. , under the orders of Virgil Hunter.
“On a different scale, we are at about the same time in our career. Like me, our place is a little higher in the rankings. We are going to have our hearts set on proving it on Saturday,” he says.
For Billy Nelson, the Scottish coach of Bakole, “whoever wins (Saturday) will take a big step in his career”.
Yoka believes, however, hold the keys to put the Congolese in difficulty. Faced with his 98 meter, Yoka (2.01 m) is “faster” and “more technical”. To be demonstrated on Saturday around 10:30 p.m.