2016 Olympic Gold Medallist Tony Yoka’s immediate heavyweight world title ambitions went up in smoke at the Accord Hotels Arena in Paris, as Martin Bakole turned in a dominant performance, eventually having to settle for a majority decision win over ten rounds.
Yoka had built an 11-0 record prior to this contest, complied mainly of victories over gatekeeper types, including wins over Alexander Dimitrenko, Johann Duhaupas and Christian Hammer, and he was last out in September last year, stopping Peter Milas in seven rounds. Scotland based Congolese Bakole had only been defeated once, halted in ten by Michael Hunter back October 2018, but he had won six straight since. Yoka had to turn down an IBF title eliminator against Filip Hrgovic in favour of this assignment, of which he was contractually obliged, and it had been postponed earlier in the year due to COVID restrictions in France.
Yoka began this one off a stiff jab, but was clipped by a left hand by Bakole, who stalked the Frenchman and landed with some impressive work in the opening frame, including a right hook that momentarily wobbled the home favourite. That was a sign of things to come, as a chopping right hand on the top of the head again had Yoka in trouble, and he was forced to take refuge on the canvas. He beat the count, and Bakole poured the pressure on, but time ran out to finish the job.
Tony Yoka "Aujourd'hui Martin était le plus fort sur le ring…Il est de temps de retourner travailler" #YokaBakole – La Conquête 💥💪🥊
— CANAL+ Sport (@CanalplusSport) May 15, 2022
— CANAL+ Sport (@CanalplusSport) May 14, 2022
Bakole continued to apply pressure in round two, caught again and wobbled early on in the round, but he did rally, pumping his jab and using good footwork to negate his opponent. Yoka’s nose was bloodied and his eye cut in the third, and Bakole was full of confidence as he was breaking down his man with stinging shots. It was turning into a gruelling nights’ work for the Parisian, as Bakole continued to walk him down, and the fifth saw Yoka counted again, rolling his ankle when caught by a shot, although the knockdown looked a slightly unfair one. It already looked as though the home fighter needed a knockout to win as early as the sixth, and he continued to come under fire, but he showed tremendous bravery, firing back in the seventh, and having to trade close up, and he was implored to win the last three rounds by his trainer, Virgil Hunter, although it looked like a lost cause. Bakole was in full control, and not worried about anything coming back, as he largely coasted to the finish line as the bout went to the cards, even showboating and goading his decorated foe in the final round. Yoka elected to circle the ring in the final frame, somehow believing he had won, but surely the scorecards would tell him otherwise.
Bakole more than deservedly took victory by scores of 96-92 and 95-93, thankfully overruling a 94-94 tally.
2016 Olympic Silver Medallist Sofiane Oumiha moved to 2-0 as a professional, taking an eight round lop-sided decision win over Mevy Boufoudi, who was unbeaten going into the bout. Boufoudi was deducted two points for losing his mouth guard, and Oumiha took the win by an 80-70 score.
Christ Esabe made it a dozen fights unbeaten, but although the lightweight took all eight rounds on all three judges cards, he was given a decent argument by Sander Diaz.
Tony Yoka’s younger brother Victor Yoka made his professional bow on the bill, and wasted little time in stopping Gurami Kurtanidze inside a round of their scheduled six rounder at super welterweight.