Former Olympians squared off in Paris to determine their respective futures in the ring, one hoping to get back in the win column, the other looking for a late-career shot at glory.
Heavy-handed Carlos Takam of French Cameroon (40-7-1, 28 KOs) dealt European heavyweight champion Tony Yoka of France (11-2, 9 KOs) his second defeat by majority decision. Scores were 96-94 X 2 for Takam and 96-94 for Yoka.
Toss out those scores tainted by extreme home cooking. Even Yoka’s trainer Vergil Hunter told Yoka before the final round he needed a knockout to win. Most media observers scored eight or nine of the ten rounds to Takam.
The stakes were high for Yoka, coming off his first professional loss to Martin Bakole. The 2016 Olympic gold medalist kept pushing back, increasing criticism about his lack of career growth. Did Yoka lack the tools and will necessary to rise to the top of the heavyweight division?
High Work Rate, High Drive By Takam
Takam threw gasoline on the critical fire. He made the criticism stick and turned back time. The 42-year-old training out of Henderson, Nevada, put on a spirited offensive effort, dealing Yoka his second loss to an African-born fighter.
Behind a busier work rate, the veteran Takam showed he’s still got plenty of heart and enough skills to get the job done. He drilled Yoka repeatedly to the body to drain his will and effectively reduce his punching power.
Takam’s impressive conditioning would serve any top heavyweight well. At age 42, Takam’s desire to win might have been his best weapon against Yoka, who continued to fade despite the pleading of Hunter in the corner.
In the second half of the fight, Takam added vicious headshots. His mouthpiece flew out as he whipped hooks from the left and right at Yoka. Before the eighth round, Hunter told Yoka, “We need these two rounds. Sit on him and hurt him with some stuff.” Takam gave Yoka no opportunity to gain any steam with the unrelenting body assault.
Trainer Dewey Cooper told Takam, “Congratulations, you won this!” after the final bell. Yoka raised his hand, and as he saluted the crowd before the decision, plenty of boos were heard among the cheers.
Future for Yoka Unclear
Yoka’s win in the Olympics over “Juggernaut” Joe Joyce has been suspect for years. Watching the career path of the two men only reinforces the argument Joyce should have won the gold medal, not Yoka. It’s ironic to see Yoka’s failure to adjust from the amateur to the professional style be his Achilles heel.
Takam has faced considerable talent in the heavyweight division since he turned professional in 2005: Joyce, Povetkin, Chisora, Parker, Povetkin, Joshua. He’ll be offered plenty of opportunities against men who want to test themselves. Takam should choose wisely. He may not have too many fights left, though he shows no signs of slowing down.
Yoka is a rough spot. He’s dug a big hole, and he needs to decide whether he cares to dig himself out.
Azeez Remains Undefeated
In the co-main event, ‘Super’ Dan Azeez of Great Britain (19-0, 13 KOs) won a vacant EBU European Light-Heavyweight Championship with a stoppage win in the final round over a determined but outgunned former European light-heavyweight champion and former French national champion Thomas Faure (21-5-1, 2 KOs).
“Really really, pleased, that was a tough fight. Thomas is a competitor. He kept on coming, he represented France really well,” said Azeez.
Faure was riding an eight-fight undefeated streak heading into the bout and didn’t want to let it go. He put his heart into the fight, but Azeez had too many offensive weapons to overcome. At the start of round 12, Azeez caught the fatigued Faure with a hard right hand. Faure wobbled badly, with the referee swooping in to save him from any unnecessary punishment for the finish.
Gold Medalist Lauren Price Prevails
Olympic gold medalist Lauren Price MBE (3-0, 1 KO) easily won her third professional bout, scoring a unanimous decision shutout against Germany’s Naomi Mannes (6-2, 4 KOs).
Undefeated super middleweight Farrhad ‘The Professor’ Saad of France (8-0-1) fought to a narrow majority decision over Macaulay McGowan of England (17-4-2, 3 KOs) and Both men started slowly but gained steam as the victory seemed within reach. It was Saad who took the energy of the hometown crowd and put in the effort to win. McGowan will rue the result and need to learn and regroup.