The toughest test in the promising career of Tony Yoka has come at a price.
Paris’ Yoka survived a stiff challenge from Germany’s Christian Hammer to prevail via unanimous decision in an awkward 10-round affair Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France. The ninth win in the career of the 2016 Olympic Gold medalist will be his last of 2020, as the unbeaten heavyweight prospect reportedly suffered a hairline fracture in his hand during the bout.
“It was a tough fight versus a difficult opponent but we grow [from the experience],” Yoka stated on Saturday. “Unfortunately, I will not be able to fight in December because I fractured my hand."
Yoka (9-0, 7KOs) was due to face Croatia’s Petar Milas (15-0, 11KOs) for the vacant EU heavyweight title, with the fight tentatively scheduled for mid-December at a location to be determined in France. The event will have to be postponed as a result of Yoka’s injury, though rescheduled rather than canceled as the EU—unlike other sanctioning bodies who are far too liberal with their whimsical rules—has strict policies in place for boxers committing to their title fights.
The event was to have also included an undercard appearance by Estelle Yoka-Mossely, whom also captured Olympic Gold in 2016 Rio and has appeared on the same show as her husband in each of their past two appearances. Yoka-Mossely scored an eight-round decision over former kickboxer Emma Gongora on the undercard of Friday’s show.
Boxing’s ultimate power couple both also shared a bill this past September in Nanterre, France. Yoka-Mossely (8-0, 1KO) outpointed Aurelie Froment—her third straight win over an unbeaten opponent, and her first fight since giving birth to the couple’s second child in May—while Yoka tore through countryman and former title challenger Johann Duhaupas in 121 seconds in the main event.
The win over Duhaupas was the first ring appearance for Yoka since last September. His knockout win over Germany’s Michael Wallisch took place in this very same venue, marking his second fight in less than three months after having served a year-long suspension for repeatedly failing to comply with random drug tests.
A triumphant return this past September marked hope for a fresh start as the unbeaten 28-year old looked to earn his place among a booming rise of young heavyweights.
Friday’s showing versus Hammer was viewed by the sport’s harshest critics as a step in the wrong direction, although the Hamburg-based Romanian heavyweight is a tough night’s work for anyone in the division. It’s even more so the case when you are forced to fight through a hand injury, which also in turn explains why Yoka’s corner urged him to simply box his way to victory rather than seek to close the show.
The win maintains Yoka’s unbeaten record, even if it cost him style points. Unfortunately, it also cost him one more payday in 2020, as plans to spend more time with his wife and fellow unbeaten prospect will be spent at home for the holidays rather than in a boxing ring.
“We will take time off to take care of this,” vowed Yoka, who is co-promoted by Top Rank and Ringstar-France, with the former angling for a stateside tour for the 6’7” heavyweight sometime in 2021.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox