It’s all the way back to the drawing board for Tony Yoka.
A second straight defeat was dealt to the 2016 Olympic Gold medalist, who was outworked by 42-year-old Carlos Takam over ten rounds. The judges did their best to deny the upset, as Yoka won 96-94 on one card. It was overruled by still too-close scores of 96-94 from the other two judges to provide Takam with a split decision victory in their ESPN+/Canal+/Sky Sports televised heavyweight bout Saturday evening at Zenith de Paris-La Villette in Paris, France.
Yoka entered the ring for the first time since his ten-round points loss to Martin Bakole last May 14 also in Paris. The towering Frenchman was cautious in his first round of action in ten months, as Takam powered forward completely unbothered by Yoka’s jab and peek-a-boo defense.
Takam—a former title challenger who now trains in Las Vegas—landed overhand rights around the high guard of Yoka in round two. Yoka covered up and braced for the impact before returning fire later in the round as he targeted the body and head of the former title challenger.
Yoka connected with a clean right hand early in round three, easily his best punch of the fight to that point. Both boxers threw power jabs as the pace was intensified by a considerable margin. Takam closed the round with right hands to the body.
Takam continued to target Yoka’s midsection in round four. Yoka was effective on the inside, timing Takam’s looping punches with uppercuts to the body and jabs upstairs. Takam plowed ahead, determined to break the spirit of a seemingly disinterested Yoka who struggled to get his offense untracked.
Yoka paid the price for leaving out his jab in round five. Takam would immediately respond with power shots and force Yoka into an uncomfortably aggressive pace.
Takam was warned twice during the middle rounds for leading with his head, moments which provided Yoka with a much-needed breather. Takam acknowledged the referee’s ruling and adjusted his approach to avoid further discipline. Mixed chants of “Tony” and “Takam” filled the venue, though only inspiring Takam to continue his attack.
A complete lack of urgency was in Yoka’s corner after round seven. Head trainer Virgil Hunter urged his charge to win the final three rounds, perhaps confident that a decision was still on the table. The complacency carried over into the ring, as Yoka limited his offense to one punch at a time. Takam remained in stalker mode throughout round eight, winging wide right hands at a reluctant Yoka who almost never had a response.
Yoka was instructed to take the final two rounds big. He instead slowly circled the ring, more interested in avoiding the power shots of Takam than to make his middle-aged opponent pay. Neither landed much of significance but it was Takam who carried the action as Yoka played defense on the outside.
It was clear that Yoka needed a knockout to win but it was Takam who came storming out for the tenth and final round. Hunter begged Yoka—who had a cut over his left eye—prior to the start of the round to back up his foe but the advice didn’t come close to carrying over into the ring. Takam finally slowed down but was still the far busier of the two. Most of his power shots missed the mark but it was still in full control of the action.
The strange—and, quite frankly, awful—scoring indicated that Takam was fortunate that Yoka never found a second gear. Nevertheless, the Cameroonian ring veteran improved to 40-7-1 (28KOs) with the win, which snapped a two-fight losing streak.
Yoka fell to 11-2 (9KOs), with his future now unclear.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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