"To mark the first stage of the conquest": by defeating by KO the Belgian Joel Tambwe Djeko, brought back to reality, the French heavyweight Tony Yoka offered his first belt among the pros to win the vacant Union title European, Friday evening in Nantes.
"It's nice, it's the first belt in pro, to finally be able to mark the first stage of the conquest. It was long, but that was to be expected. As I said, he was going to play on his qualities , he's fast, he moves well, so obviously he wasn't going to try to do a showdown, ”Yoka said as he stepped out of the ring.
Even if it is a minor belt, the 2016 Olympic champion gives with this title a new dimension to his career.
Yoka, unbeaten in ten outings for the pros now, won by KO in the twelfth and final round after a series of straights and a last uppercut which knocked out the Belgian at 1:30 from the end.
The French Olympic champion dominated this fight from start to finish against a "Big Joe" who cashed well but did not touch him often enough.
In the attack of the 10th round, Yoka had touched Djeko three times more often than the reverse, in particular on precise and effective lines.
The Belgian from Molenbeek finished the fight on the ropes, with a very swollen right eye, and let go after a last uppercut, victim of a knockout carefully prepared throughout the fight.
Yoka, very mobile and very active from start to finish, then stuck out his tongue.
He did not seem really marked by these 12 perfectly managed recoveries, as he has often done since the start of his career with the pros.
After a long break imposed by the health crisis, the Parisian has worked hard and makes appearances in the ring: his fight against Djeko (31 years old, 17 wins including 8 before the limit, now 3 defeats, 1 draw) was his third since September.
"I am not a supermarket vigil!", Likes to remind Djeko, Big Joe or "The General" for his friends, who frequented the gangs of the red light district of Molenbeek near Brussels.
The man is also and above all a provocative finger, as was the case during the weigh-in.
Thursday, Djeko had put his right hand on his face without warning, a joke that Tony Yoka had not liked too much.
"When there is friction between two boxers, between two men, we want to come to blows. We boxed, it's over, it's over. We gave ourselves a max, but we Respect each other (...) Thank you to him for accepting, it was a great challenge. He told me that he was going down in light heavy ", slipped Yoka.
- Big Joe starts hostilities -
Nevertheless, it is Big Joe who during the first round starts the hostilities.
But during the second recovery Yoka brings it back to reality with two straight lines that set the record straight.
Just to demonstrate for the French that he had regained control of operations?
It was even more evident during the fourth round where The General was much less dashing, just like in the fifth.
Especially since the man who is not a partridge of the year knew that his only chance to go at the end of the 12 rounds was not to take any risks, to play the watch, even to back down.
The only unknown was whether Yoka was going to give him the chance.
Joel Tambwe Djeko is an old boxing fox who has never known the pangs of knockout and he likes to remember it.
In front of Yoka, it was his bet, he almost succeeded, except that he lacked a handful of seconds for that: there was a minute and fifteen left before the end of hostilities, when the referee stopped a fight which took on the appearance of correction.
Tony Yoka was then declared the winner by referee stoppage on the 12th round.
After this first pro belt, Yoka would very much like to face the Englishman Joe Joyce, whom he had beaten in the final in Rio, in 2016, for a muscular reunion.
Mission accomplished for the couple formed by Yoka and his wife Estelle Mossely, who followed one another in the ring at the H Arena in Nantes on Friday: the reigning IBO lightweight champion retained her belt by beating the German Verena Kaiser on points. (98-92 - 97-93 - 98-92).
© 2021 AFP