Tony Yoka, the Frenchman who won the gold medal at super heavyweight at the 2016 Summer Olympics, will make his pro debut in Paris on June 2, according to a report at ESPN.com.
The 26-year-old Yoka is promoted by Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports, a deal that was announced in January. He’s training with Virgil Hunter in California, and has high hopes for a big pro career:
"I can't wait to step into the ring for the first time as a professional in front of all my fans in Paris. This is a dream come true, but it's also just the first step. ... I've been improving every day in the gym with Virgil Hunter, and I can't wait to show everybody what I've got. I know that my team is going to put me into the positions that I want, so it's up to me to deliver in the ring."
Yoka, who stands 6’7” with an 82-inch reach, will be facing unbeaten Travis Clark (12-0, 8 KO) of Ohio, at least for now. Clark has built his record fighting in the clubs of West Virginia.
Since the inception of the super heavyweight division at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the gold medal slot has produced mixed results for pros. Lennox Lewis (1988), Wladimir Klitschko (1996) and Anthony Joshua (2012) have gone on to win recognized world titles, while Alexander Povetkin (2004) has been a top contender and did win the WBA’s “world” title, which was secondary to the “super world” title held by Klitschko at the same time.
But others weren’t quite as successful. Tyrell Biggs (1984) struggled with addiction and is probably best known for his 1987 loss to Mike Tyson. Audley Harrison (2000) is one of boxing’s great recent flameouts, a likable fighter who just didn’t have it at the top levels as a professional. Cuba’s Roberto Balado (1992) and Italy’s Roberto Cammarelle (2008) never turned professional. Balado, who was small for the division but had great speed and skill, died in an automobile-train accident in 1994.
Will Yoka have the success of a Lewis or Klitschko? Time will tell, and time begins on June 2.