It's not yet the one he's dreaming of, but French heavyweight Tony Yoka still has the opportunity to afford his first professional belt against Belgian Joel Tambwe Djeko for the vacant European Union title. , Friday in Nantes.
A meeting that promises to be "an explosive fight", to use the words of Jérôme Abitboul, promoter of Yoka.
Already, Thursday afternoon, during the weigh-in, the two men almost came to blows and were separated by their team.
The Belgian, now living in England, had indeed delivered a little slap to the Olympic champion who promised him "that we would settle that tomorrow in the ring".
In fact, it looks like Big Joe, as he calls himself, unwittingly stepped on the foot of the Frenchman who approached him until he touched him before the slap.
The passing of arms continued during the press conference.
Tony Yoka preferred to dodge the question about the incident: "Nothing happened," he said, adding: "Today I saw someone who knows his boxing, spectacular, and another still in the show and aggression. It makes me want to win even more, "he said, promising" a great victory "on Friday.
- Yoka, unknown in England?
Joël Tambwe Djeko, questioned about what was being said about his opponent in England, chambered him: "I'm going to be frank, when I said around me that I was going to meet Tony Yoka, I who have English coaches, they did not know. I had to tell them that it was the Olympic champion ".
The Belgian hid his game well, weighing 104.500 kg.
"I did not want to give any clue to my opponent in his preparation", while Tony Yoka accused on the scale 111 kg as against the German Christian Hammer, on November 27 in Nantes.
While waiting to be invited to the table of the very big and to have a world chance, the 2016 Olympic champion (28 years old) tries to continue his rise in the international rankings.
After a long break imposed by the health crisis, the Parisian has worked hard and makes appearances in the ring: the fight against Djeko (31 years old, 17 wins including 8 before the limit, 2 defeats, 1 draw) will be his third since September.
Unbeaten in nine outings, the French hopes to give a new dimension to his career in 2021 and continue his quest for respectability after having been greatly mocked for the poor quality of his first opponents.
A victory against Djeko, even for a minor belt, should help him.
If successful, he could join the World Top 10 and compete against more prestigious boxers.
The formidable Englishman Joe Joyce, European champion Yoka dominated in the Olympic final in Rio, could be the first of them.
- Badass -
But before thinking of Joyce and a possible stepping stone to a world title, the Frenchman should not underestimate Djeko, who has won his last eight duels and whose ultimate setback dates back to May 2016.
Nicknamed "Big Joe" for his large size (1.98 m) and never beaten before the limit, the Belgian, originally from Molenbeek, is a tough guy who frequented the gangs of this red light district on the outskirts of Brussels from a young age.
He even served three weeks in prison in the United States for a scuffle just before a fight.
A dented course, unlike that of Yoka, whose destiny was taken in hand by Canal + from his coronation at the Olympics.
As usual, the Frenchman has prepared for a long time in San Francisco under the leadership of his American coach Virgil Hunter.
For six weeks, he notably worked on the physique before rubbing shoulders with Djeko, who came from the light heavyweights and known for his speed.
In the United States, Yoka was accompanied by his wife Estelle Mossely, who will also be on the program of the Nantes meeting.
The 2016 Olympic champion (28 years old, 8 wins in 8 fights) will defend her IBO lightweight belt against the German Verena Kaiser (28 years old, 14 wins, including 6 before the limit, 1 loss).
© 2021 AFP