TONY YOKA aims to continue his progression up the heavyweight ladder when he takes on Joel Tambwe Djeko at the H Arena in Nantes, France this Friday (March 5). AllStar Boxing promote, while ESPN+ televise.

After winning gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games, Yoka made his professional debut in June 2017. The 6ft 7in Frenchman has won all nine of his pro bouts so far, with seven of these victories coming inside time. His list of victims includes some familiar names, such as Dave Allen, Alexander Dimitrenko, Michael Wallisch, Johann Duhaupas and Christian Hammer. Of these five, only Hammer was able to avoid a stoppage defeat, with the Parisian shutting him out on all three scorecards three months ago.

The well-travelled Djeko is a former cruiserweight who scaled just shy of 220lbs when he KO’d the outgunned John Cortez in a little over two minutes in January last year. Yoka usually weighs around the 240lb mark, so it is likely that he will have a significant size advantage over Djeko, even though he is only an inch taller than the Belgian.

In May 2016 down at cruiser, Djeko decked local man Craig Kennedy twice on away turf in Cardiff, but the judges favoured Kennedy on a split decision. Strapping and athletic, the Ilford-based 31-year-old has boxed as a pro since July 2011, amassing a 17-2-1 (8) record. His long, ramrod jab is a useful weapon, yet he can be rather wild when on the attack.

Yoka, who served a one-year suspension from mid-2018 to mid-2019 for missing three drug tests, will be looking to make a statement to the world’s top heavyweights. The Virgil Hunter-trained 28-year-old varies his shots smartly to head and body, with stiff jabs being supplemented by powerful uppercuts, straights and hooks. Djeko has proved his toughness in the past, but he is not expected to make it through the full 12 rounds against the heavy-handed Yoka.

Also in action on the bill is Yoka’s wife, Estelle Yoka-Mossely, 8-0 (1). A 2016 Olympic and World gold medal-winner for France, the Bagnolet lightweight can outpoint the 14-1 (6) Verena Kaiser, of Cologne, Germany, over 10-twos.

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