Boxing: third consecutive defeat for Tony Yoka

Tony Yoka definitely can't do it

Boxing: third consecutive defeat for Tony Yoka

Tony Yoka definitely can't do it. After two initial disappointments among professionals, the 2016 Olympic champion lost for the third time in a row against a seemingly affordable opponent, the Belgian Ryad Merhy, on Saturday, December 9, at Roland-Garros.

This new setback marks a halt, perhaps definitively, in the professional career of the French boxer, who fails to raise his level in difficulty. Overtaken in all sectors, Yoka lost on points (2 judges at 1, 96-94, 94-96, 96-94) and now has 11 victories for three defeats among professionals.

What is there to think about retiring after such disappointments? “That’s not the question to ask now,” he evaded. Tony Yoka hoped to relaunch after two first consecutive losses, which had put a damper on his dreams of “conquest” of world boxing. In March, he fell on points to Frenchman Carlos Takam, overwhelmed by the power of the 42-year-old veteran. And in May 2022, he experienced his first setback among professionals, soundly beaten by the Congolese Martin Bakole, also winner on points.

Unable to change pace

This time, the chosen opponent seemed within his reach. Coming without complexes with a great colony of supporters, the Belgian was offensive, taking advantage of the slightest opening to cause pain. Much smaller than Yoka (2.01 m compared to 1.81 m), Mehry rushed into every gap left by the leaky guard of the Rio Olympic champion.

The Parisian suffered several devastating sequences, notably in the third and fourth rounds, well carried by the Brussels resident with enormous arms. “I felt that he had doubts, that he was a little unwell, and little by little I gained confidence in my shots and my ability to move forward,” Merhy explained after the match. He was unable to exploit his size advantage against an opponent who was only competing in his third heavyweight fight after a successful career in the lower category.

Since the defeat against Takam, the 31-year-old boxer had changed everything: he left the United States to be closer to his family and is now training in the United Kingdom, in north London. He now plays under the orders of Don Charles, the coach of Daniel Dubois, who recently put world champion Oleksandr Usyk in difficulty.

“There has been so much change, we were aiming for victory, even if it was not a big victory, to move forward,” he declared after the meeting at the microphone of Canal. But as against Takam, he seemed timid, unable to change pace to gain the upper hand over his opponent, who had control of the ring for most of the ten rounds.

Under the eyes of 2000 Olympic mid-flyweight champion Brahim Asloum and French rugby internationals Cameron Woki and Gaël Fickou, he had a difficult start to the match, overwhelmed by the vivacity of his rival. He then rebalanced the debates but never managed to accelerate.