Tony Yoka was looking to make a statement in Nantes in the French Heavyweight’s latest outing, but he was forced to go ten rounds for the first time in his career with an uninspiring points win over perennial gatekeeper, Christian Hammer at the H Arena.
Yoka (9-0, 7 KOs) was last seen in September, blasting out former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas inside a round, and the 2016 Olympic Gold Medallist was expected to do similar with Hammer (25-7, 15 KOs).
The Romanian though had previously been the distance with Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz, but had also been stopped three times in six defeats prior to meeting Yoka.
He was also due to face Dave Allen last month, but the fight fell through when Hammer contracted COVID-19.
The contest itself here was mediocre at best, with Hammer keen to survive the distance with a mixture of veteran tricks of the trade and plenty of holding for good measure.
Yoka did attempt to pierce his opponent’s guard, mainly with right hands, at several intervals, but the 33-year-old, who was stopped by Tyson Fury in 2015, tucked up well on the whole.
Hammer’s right eye sustained a nasty cut in the second as the two heads came together, and his team did well to patch it up between rounds.
From there on, the visitor was intent on spoiling, and his excessive holding was ensuring that Yoka couldn’t get his best shots off, and his success was limited, as a result.
Hammer was belatedly docked a point in the sixth for hitting on the break, and he was resorting to all manor of veteran tactics to keep the 28-year-old at bay.
The Frenchman tried his best to keep his man at range, but was tied up when he got any sort of decent shot away.
He was in complete control though, and in the final two rounds, Hammer looked exhausted, but Yoka couldn’t remove the underdog from battle. And the contest went to the cards.
Inevitably, the three scores read identical at 100-89 as Yoka went the distance for only the second time in his career, moving to 9-0 as a result of a hard nights’ work.
Germany-based Ukrainian, Victor Faust moved to 5-0 (4 KOs), as the Heavyweight outscored the experienced Kamil Sokolowski (10-20-2, 4 KOs) over six.
The Pole was dropped during the fight, as Faust took victory by three scores of 60-53.
Volkan Gokcek (5-0, 2 KOs) also remained undefeated, as he took a split decision win against Aboubeker Bechelaghem (12-12-2) over six.
The result was originally announced incorrectly, but the right man won in the end by scores of 59-55 and 58-56 against one score of 58-56 the other way.
Tony Yoka’s wife, Estelle Yoka-Mossely, who also struck Gold at the 2016 Olympics, notched an easy eight round decision win on the card against Emma Gongora.
Gongora (0-2) came in at just three days notice, but was nowhere near Yoka-Mossely’s (8-0, 1 KOs) level, as scores of 78-74 twice, and 78-75, secured the win for the Frenchwoman.