Tony Yoka has a new date with an old dance partner.
Plans are back in play for the 2016 Olympic Gold medalist and current heavyweight contender to face Martin Bakole. Their previously postponed heavyweight clash has been rescheduled for May 14 on Canal+ from Accor Arena in Paris, event promoter AllStar Boxing France confirmed Tuesday.
The event was originally due to take place January 15, only for crowd restrictions imposed by the French government forcing an indefinite postponement. AllStar Boxing France was leery of proceeding with an event at 10% capacity due to the government’s efforts to slow the spread of the Omicron variant in France.
Accor Arena holds a maximum seating capacity of 20,300, with event handlers confident of the show producing a sellout or close to that mark.
The fight comes roughly three weeks after Yoka (11-0, 9KOs) explored the possibility of a fight with former amateur rival Filip Hrgovic (14-0, 12KOs), which would have served as an IBF heavyweight title eliminator. Yoka was one of just two heavyweights to accept the IBF invitation to enter talks with the unbeaten Croatian, only for his efforts to be blocked by Bakole (17-1, 13KOs) and trainer/manager Billy Nelson who successfully petitioned the sanctioning body with proof of an existing contract for a rescheduled fight.
Yoka defeated Hrgovic in the semifinal round prior to winning Olympic Gold in 2016 Rio, having also beaten Hrgrovic in the 2015 World Amateur Heavyweight championships. A meeting in the pro ranks would have been a step up in class for Yoka, though he gets as much with this bout as well.
Bakole (17-1, 13KOs) is currently riding a six-fight win streak since his lone defeat, a tenth-round stoppage to Michael Hunter II in October 2018. The 28-year-old Congolese heavyweight now based out of Scotland—whose brother Ilunga ‘Junior Makabu is the reigning WBC cruiserweight titlist— has stopped five of his last six opponents, the lone distance fight coming in a December 2020 decision win over Sergey Kuzmin in London.
Yoka—who is co-promoted by Top Rank in the United States—has fought four times since the pandemic, having steadily increased his level of competition over that stretch.
The 6’7” heavyweight made a splash with a first-round knockout of countryman and former title challenger Johann Duhaupas in September 2020 in Nanterre, France, followed by a points win over durable Christian Hammer just two months later at H Arena in Nantes, France. The same venue hosted his deepest fight to date, a 12th round stoppage of Joel Djeko last March. In his most recent start, Yoka stopped unbeaten Petar Milas in the seventh round of their September 10 headliner at Stade Roland Garros in Paris.
The fight announcement did not yet reveal a U.S. broadcaster. ESPN+—which has carried Yoka’s last four fights—was to have aired the January 15 show and will likely pick up the international feed for the rescheduled date, although that decision will be made in the near future.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox