Tony Yoka could make a statement at the expense of Martin Bakole and send a message to the other fighters in the heavyweight division.
Yoka will face Bakole later today at the Accord Hotels Arena in his hometown of Paris, France. The 10-round bout will stream live on ESPN+ (3 p.m. ET/ 12 p.m. PT) and also throughout France on Canal+.
In his last bout on September 10, Yoka stopped Petar Milas of Croatia in a clash of unbeaten prospects. The fight took place at the famed Roland Garros, home of the French Open Tournament.
Yoka (11-0, 9 knockouts) was originally scheduled to fight Bakole on January 15, but the fight was postponed due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Yoka then accepted an IBF world title eliminator against unbeaten Filip Hrgovic, but Bakole’s team protested to the IBF, which ruled in their favor.
The 30-year-old, who recently signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank, has defeated modest opposition since turning pro after winning the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Top Rank wonders how his performance tonight will lead to who he will face next.
“(Tonight is an) extremely competitive fight going in,” Carl Moretti, Vice President of Boxing Operations at Top Rank, told BoxingScene Thursday night. “Winning and how he wins will determine what the next steps are for sure.”
Bakole (17-1, 13 KOs), who is originally from Kananga, Democratic Republic of the Congo and now resides in Airdrie, Scotland, stopped Haruna Osumanu in the opening round of his last bout on September 18.
The 28-year-old has won his last six fights, five by knockout, since suffering the only loss of his career at the hands of contender Michael Hunter in October 2018.
Two-time Olympian and 2016 silver medalist Sofiane Oumiha (1-0, 1 KO) will square off against Mevy Boufoudi (8-0, 3 KOs) in a clash of unbeaten lightweights.
Lightweight prospect Christ Esabe (11-0, 3 KOs) will face Sander Diaz (13-8-1, 9 KOs) of Venezuela in an eight-round bout.
Victor Yoka, an amateur standout and the younger brother of Tony Yoka, will make his pro debut against Gurami Kurtanidze (4-14-5, 1 KO) in a six-round lightweight bout.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing
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