Tony Yoka leaves his latest fight as a perfect ten.
The 2016 Olympic Gold medalist and rising heavyweight contender delivered perhaps his most complete performance to date, breaking down a durable Joey Tambwe Djeko en route to a 12th round stoppage for his tenth pro victory. No knockdowns were scored in the bout, though Yoka had Djeko hurt in the final round with a stiff jab closing his opponent’s eye in forcing the stoppage with just more than a minute to go in their main event Friday evening at H Arena in Nantes, France.
The battle of big heavyweights—Yoka at 6’7, Djeko at 6’6” though only recently moving up from cruiserweight—saw both come out to a deliberate start. Yoka worked his jab while Djeko searched for counterpunching opportunities.
Yoka connected with a right hand upstairs and another to the body early in round two. Djeko was still reluctant to let his hands go, allowing Yoka to work his way inside which forced the Belgian to the ropes on several occasions. Djeko dropped his guard long enough to catch a right hand to the chin, followed by a left hook and straight right which prompted the 31-year old to clinch.
The same pattern held true in the ensuing rounds. Yoka pushed Djeko around the ring with his jab, cornering the visiting underdog and unloading with a five-punch combination in round four. Djeko had brief moments of success in the frame, though not enough to turn the tide.
Djeko made a better show of it at the start of round five, committing to his jab and following with a right hand. Yoka wisely played defense before responding with a jab and left hook, followed by a straight right hand to snap back the head of Djeko.
Yoka continued to control the tempo as the bout progressed into the second half. Djeko’s moments were few and far between, scoring with an occasional right hand but otherwise getting picked apart by the more polished local favorite.
Djeko reached a point of survival mode as Yoka continued to force the action. Yoka had a response for every right hand from Djeko, often catching him with combinations and always ending with a stiff jab.
Action slowed in the latter rounds, though still with Yoka well in full control. The 28-year old Frenchman pushed his jab and threw long right hands behind it, immediately covering up whenever Djeko attempted to counter.
Yoka worked the body of Djeko in round eleven. Djeko’s energy level rapidly decreased, while Yoka fought at a steady pace. An overhand right from the national favorite had Djeko briefly stunned, with another right hand long the ropes drawing a rise out of the socially distanced crowd on hand.
The 12th and final round saw Yoka unload and ultimately close the show. Djeko’s right eye was beginning to close as the result of Yoka’s telephone pole-like jab. Yoka trapped Djeko in a corner, launching seven unanswered punches including an uppercut to snap back the head of Djeko.
A single right hand from Djeko was enough to avoid a stoppage, although a stiff jab from Yoka was enough to end the fight. The impact of the shot caused Djeko to turn away, leaving the referee no choice but to halt the contest.
Djeko falls to 17-3-1 (8KOs) with the loss, snapping an eight-fight win streak in the process.
Following the bout, Yoka called out (in French) several of his divisional peers including his continued pursuit of former amateur rival Joe Joyce. Yoka outpointed the unbeaten Brit to win Olympic Gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Yoka improves to a perfect 10-0 (8KOs) with the win, picking up his first title as a pro. The win nets the EBU heavyweight crown, while also winning his third fight in a span of less than six months.
The bout aired live on ESPN+ in the United States and Canal+ in France.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox