Tony Yoka isn’t just anxious for the exposure to American boxing fans he’ll be afforded Friday.
The undefeated French heavyweight prospect cannot wait to fight in the United States, either. The 28-year-old Yoka hopes a victory over Joel Djeko on Friday night in Nantes, France, leads to his U.S. debut in his following fight.
“It’s a big dream,” Yoka told BoxingScene.com. “When I was turning pro, I wanted to fight in the USA because for me it’s the country of boxing. You cannot say you’re the best in the world and you have seen everything in boxing, and you don’t fight in the United States. I want to fight in Vegas, in big fights. I think this is the dream of every fighter. This is why I wanna start fighting in the USA this year.”
Yoka, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, was supposed to fight for the first time in the U.S. last March 14 in New York, on the Shakur Stevenson-Miguel Marriaga undercard at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. That card was canceled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 6-feet-7, 240-pound Yoka (9-0, 7 KOs) has fought twice in France since that cancelation.
He knocked out fellow Frenchman Johann Duhaupas (38-6, 25 KOs) in the first round of their scheduled 12-rounder September 25 in Nanterre, France. Two months later, Yoka dominated Germany’s Christian Hammer (25-7, 15 KOs) on his way to winning a 10-round unanimous decision November 27 in Nantes.
Yoka, a Paris native, has fought exclusively in France since making his pro debut in June 2017.
In Belgium’s Djeko (17-2-1, 8 KOs), Yoka will encounter a former cruiserweight who has dealt two lesser prospects than Yoka their first defeats since May 2018.
“I expect him to be faster than other opponents I’ve fought until now,” Yoka said. “And he’s got good skills for a heavyweight. I expect a good fight on Friday.”
ESPN+ will stream Yoka-Djeko as the main event of a four-fight card scheduled to start at 2:40 p.m. EST. Yoka’s wife, Estelle Yoka Mossely (8-0, 1 KO), is set to square off against Germany’s Verena Kaiser (14-1, 6 KOs) in a 12-round, 135-pound bout for the IBO women’s lightweight title on the undercard.
“I hope they’re gonna see me being the next guy who could disturb the big three,” Tony Yoka said in reference to Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. “I’m a heavyweight prospect, but I wanna be done with it. I don’t wanna be a prospect anymore. I wanna be a contender. I wanna be someone like, ‘OK, we can count on him.’ This is gonna be a very, very big year, 2021. I think by the end of this year I will be on the right track to have a world title.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.