Ever since winning Gold at the 2016 Olympics, after pipping Joe Joyce in Rio, Heavyweight contender Tony Yoka has been touted as a future world champion.
Yoka (10-0, 8 KOs) took another step towards that goal with a 12th round stoppage over Joel Tambe Djeko in Nantes on Friday night to claim the EBU European Union title, the secondary EBU belt to that which Joyce stakes claim to.
The Parisian native, who topped the bill with his wife Estelle Yoka Mossely retaining her IBO Lightweight title on the undercard, registered his tenth straight professional victory and eighth knockout with a dominant victory over his Belgian foe, who proved a more than worthy opponent, in only his second fight since moving up from Cruiserweight.
Djeko (17-3-1, 8 KOs) had to survive a flurry of Yoka attacks, shipping punishment throughout the contest, but displayed his grit and toughness all the way up to the 12th round where with his left eye closing up and with the combinations flying in, the 31-year-old turned his back on the action after a final, precise jab.
At 28-years-old, Yoka is entering his prime years and whilst there would appear not be any real rush to accelerate him faster than need be, such is his potential there is clamour from the public to see a step-up in class.
‘La Conquette’ is ranked at #7 by the IBF in pursuit of unified world Heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua who is on course for a two-fight unification with WBC titlist, Tyson Fury in the summer, however should he go down the IBF route, the Top Rank fighter is potentially just a few victories away from securing a mandatory position.
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Here are some of the options available to Yoka:
Seemingly the most logical fight to make, considering Agit Kabayel is also with Top Rank and rated just above Yoka at #6 with the IBF.
Kabayel, (20-0, 13 KOs) a former European champion and current WBA International holder has a standout win over Derek Chisora on his resume and is undefeated in 20 fights, having last fought in July.
The German has been relatively inactive and saw a proposed December showdown with Fury fail to materialise, however he would undoubtedly represent a leap-up in level for Yoka, in a bout that could feasibly be sanctioned as a world title eliminator.
Yoka could target a highly-anticipated, all-French clash with Carlos Takam.
The pair used to train together when Yoka was an amateur and a meeting would generate considerable interest in France, between arguably the two best Heavyweights in the country.
“Yes, why not? That’s exciting to fight with that guy who trained him, that’s crazy, why not?” Takam told Pro Boxing Fans on a fight with Yoka in January.
“I know people in France dream for that fight, Carlos Takam-Tony Yoka, I know that.”
Takam, (39-5-1, 28 KOs) who defeated Jerry Forrest in July went 10 rounds with Anthony Joshua in a bid for the unified Heavyweight world championship in 2017, with a valiant attempt on just 12 days notice, after he replaced the injured Kubrat Pulev.
The 40-year-old, like Kabayel was also shortlisted to face Fury in December and is still considered a threat to the top Heavyweights, despite not getting any younger.
Takam, also aligned with Top Rank would have the clear edge in experience nonetheless and would be a stern acid test for Yoka to see whether he has the credentials to perform at world level, which many believe he has.
Another Top Rank stablemate, Efe Ajagba would be another intriguing opponent for Yoka.
The Nigerian is undefeated in 14 professional fights, although he somewhat flattered to deceive in his last outing against Jonathan Rice in September, where he secured a unanimous decision after injuring his hand.
Ajagba (14-0, 11 KOs) was an impressive amateur, claiming a Bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and has displayed power and skill in his professional career thus far.
Unlike the other Heavyweights mentioned, the 26-year-old matches up to Yoka well with just an inch height disadvantage, but significantly he holds a reach advantage which could serve to his benefit.
Ajagba is ranked at #11 by the WBC, but is unlikely to receive an opportunity against his rivals above him any time soon, with the majority including Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce, Andy Ruiz Jr and Oleksandr Usyk all with fights in the pipeline.
It’s a bout that could be made with little trouble again, with the pair fighting under the same promotional team and network, but there could be hesitation to pair two top prospects together at such an early stage.
Undefeated Heavyweight, Frank Sanchez is making some noise and is another rising contender in the division.
‘The Cuban Flash’ made it 17 straight wins with a seventh round stoppage over Julian Fernandez on the undercard of stablemate, Canelo Alvarez’s dominant victory over Callum Smith in December.
The hard-hitting 28-year-old is eager to face the biggest names possible and like Yoka, is seemingly closing on a world title opportunity himself with a ranking of #6 with the WBO, although an immediate shot appears unlikely.
Sanchez (17-0, 13 KOs) would also appear to lack a major test and a victory over Yoka would cement his position further.
A stumbling block would be his promotional situation with the Cuban tied with Premier Boxing Champions, making him the most unlikely option, although he did fight on DAZN in December, giving some hope to a potential meeting with Yoka.
Let us know below who you would like to see Yoka face next: