Tony Yoka knew this was the toughest fight of his career. Saturday, May 14, in the grounds of the Palais omnisports de Paris-Bercy, renamed Accor Arena, the French boxer suffered his first defeat among professionals against the Congolese Martin Bakole.

Unlike his previous appearances in the ring, the Parisian, 15th in the world, was not the big favorite of the evening since he was opposed for the first time to an opponent better ranked than him (13th). And he couldn’t do anything. “Today, Martin was stronger, I think everyone could see it”, recognized the heavyweight in the ring, under a few whistles from the spectators of Bercy.

The 2016 Olympic champion now has eleven wins for one defeat since his move to the pros in 2017.

Widely down on points mid-fight

From the first exchanges, Martin Bakole – who is 18 wins in 19 fights – made his power speak: at the end of the first round, Tony Yoka even knelt down. The Frenchman was counted out, shook his head, then got up.

The debates were somewhat balanced thereafter, but the Parisian always seemed in difficulty. He was largely trailing in points at the halfway mark.

The Congolese, more massive but less mobile than the French, would he go the distance? If he seemed to show some signs of fatigue, especially in the 8th round, it was Tony Yoka who seemed completely exhausted in the last round.

Under the eyes of the 9,000 spectators at the Accor Arena, he was unable to rest on his technical palette against the more aggressive Congolese, and lost on points, by split decision of the judges (96-92, 95-93, 94-94).

“It’s time to get back to work”

With this first defeat, the French suffered a serious setback in his “conquest” of the heights of world boxing and will now have to fight to find opponents allowing him to approach a world belt, his obsession from the start. of her career. “It’s time to go back to work, maybe to change some things”, analyzed the interested party, amateur world champion in 2015.

At 28, Martin Bakole, the privileged sparring partner of the big names in the queen category, from the British Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury to the Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, can knock on the door of the world’s gratin and quickly aim for the top 10 of the rankings global.