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Tony Yoka continues boxing family affair on Friday, faces Joel Djeko for EU heavyweight title

Photo from Yoka's Twitter
03
Mar

Boxing took a significant downturn in France over a decade ago when premium television channel Canal+ stopped broadcasting the sport.

However, when rising heavyweight Tony Yoka and his now wife, lightweight Estelle Yoka Mossely, both won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the sport once again became in vogue.

“People started watching boxing again,” Yoka (9-0, 7 knockouts) told The Ring. “As pros, we are the two faces of French boxing.”

This unique power-couple will look to continue their progression when they share the same card for the third consecutive time on Friday. Yoka will face Joel Djeko, while Yoka Mossely will meet Varena Kaiser at the H Arena in Nantes, France.



The show will be broadcast on ESPN+ at 2:40 p.m. ET/ 11:40 a.m. PT.

Yoka is bidding to win his first title in the paid ranks when he fights for the European Union belt. [Editor’s Note: This title is secondary to the (EBU) European title.]

“I was a little bit surprised when they announced the fight,” admitted Yoka. “There was no choice; we are both [European Union] co-challengers. I expect a very good fight. I know he wants this belt, too. It’s going to be really interesting.”

The 28-year-old Yoka says that Djeko is likely to provide a new test for him in the pro ranks.

“He’s coming from cruiserweight, so he’s going to be faster than my other opponents, he’s going to be more technically skilled,” said the former Olympic champion. “Normally, I am the fastest one in the ring, and I have more skill than the other heavyweights, but now it’s going to be different.”

Although it is not rare to see siblings or family members share the same card, it is very unusual to see husband and wife.

“It was a big dream for us to fight on the same card as professionals,” Yoka explained. “Now we can do it. First of all, with the stress of fighting after her, we were a little bit afraid, but I’m trusting her. I let her do her job, and it’s a big win for our family because our kids are coming to the fight, too.”

The couple spent two months in Hayward, California, training under the watchful eye of Virgil Hunter. Hunter is currently awaiting his second vaccine and was unable to travel, so his assistant, Edward Jackson, will take the lead role.

“It’s very good for me to have her in camp,” said Yoka. “I train with her; the same coaches, we do the same sessions. We share the whole preparation together.”

Yoka, who is ranked in the top 15 by two of the sanctioning bodies, has been active during the pandemic and hopes to kick on this year and position himself for even greater glory.

“I fought in September, I fought in November; this is going to be my third fight since Covid,” Yoka said. “I know a lot of boxers are not able to do the same. I’m just happy to be where I am. I know my time is coming, I know I’m not that far [away from my goals].

“After I have fought Djeko, I will have the belt, and I might be the challenger for the European title. I want to fight (Olympic final opponent) Joe Joyce this year, I want to do a big fight. The winner is going to be on a good track to [fight for a] world title. I want four fights this year so that I will have a chance for the world title in 2022.”

Djeko turned professional in 2011. He has fought largely at home in Belgium as a cruiserweight. He holds wins over a faded Fulgencio Zuniga (KO 1), the previously unbeaten Mariano Gudino (UD 10) and Ricardo Snijders (UD 10).

In his most recent outing, Djeko tested the waters at heavyweight and knocked out the unheralded John Cortez in one round.

The 31-year-old sports a record of 17-2-1 (8 KOs) and has never been stopped.

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright

 

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