Martin Bakole went into hostile territory and pulled an upset over Tony Yoka today in Paris, though the judges did their best to make the fight seem a lot more competitive than it really was.
In the end, Bakole won on majority decision scores of 94-94, 95-93, and 96-92. Bad Left Hook had the fight 99-89 for Bakole, giving Yoka only the seventh round, and we really couldn’t see more than three rounds for Yoka even being possible on the cards.
To make extra clear how bad the scores are here, Yoka (11-1, 9 KO) was down in the first round and ruled down in the fifth, which to be fair was probably a bad call from referee Vincent Dupas. But those were a pair of 10-8 rounds for Bakole, meaning that one judge had Yoka winning four rounds, which is bad but not among the worst cards you’ll see; another had him winning five rounds, which is stretching it horribly; and the third had him winning six rounds of this fight, which is absolutely absurd.
The judges were Smail Alitouche, Bertrand Chagnoux, and Ammar Sakraoui, all from France.
Yoka didn’t seem surprised by the outcome, and it didn’t seem the fans in Paris felt it was anything but a win for Bakole (18-1, 13 KO), either. The big heavyweight, born in Kananga and based now in Scotland, was just a wall in there against Yoka; Tony Yoka quite literally hit a wall today, basically. Nothing Yoka did seemed to bother Bakole much, and Bakole was able to push Yoka back pretty consistently.
Yoka, who won very controversial gold at Rio 2016, was being groomed for a run at a world title, and obviously this is quite a snag to hit. No matter what the judges say or the questionable words he got in the corner from trainer Virgil Hunter, he wasn’t really competitive in this one. He may have had his nose broken in the third round, and by the end, Yoka was no longer trying to win. He didn’t even want to engage with Bakole in the 10th round, once Bakole showed that he’d saved some energy for the finale and came out with some aggression.
Yoka, who had looked for openings while rarely finding any, saw that and just stayed away for most of the final round.
Bakole, 28, will now put himself in position for something bigger. He has a loss to Michael Hunter from back in 2018, but I think he’s clearly a better fighter than he was then, and he also suffered a shoulder injury in that fight. He’s won six straight since, with this obviously being the most notable of the group.
Yoka, 30, goes back to the drawing board. There have been questions about his pro potential, some nights where he didn’t exactly impress even if he won clearly, and this is a huge reality check for him in the pro game. Bakole just showed no fear of him, very little respect for what Yoka threw back, and bossed the fight. Yoka showed toughness and heart through much of the fight, and didn’t give up on it until he decided not to engage with Bakole in the final round, but there’s a lot to consider for him, obviously.
Yoka vs Bakole highlights
Undercard results and highlights
- Sofiane Oumiha UD-8 Mevy Boufoudi: Oumiha, 27, goes to 2-0 (1 KO) with the win here. He was an outstanding amateur, winning silver at Rio 2016 and gold at the Worlds in 2017 and 2021, but looking at his performance here, you can reasonably question his pro upside and the transition to this style. He’s a tall lightweight, but his frame may not support him going up too far in weight and being really effective. He has skills — really good skills — but there are some stylistic tweaks he’ll want to make or better pros are going to eat him up down the line. Boufoudi (8-1, 3 KO), to be fair, was very game here, came to fight, even tried to get rough with it, couldn’t really out-box Oumiha but definitely wasn’t some incompetent; he came in with the 8-0 record but it was a club-level 8-0, so he was a question mark. In the end, I think Boufoudi will be able to have at least a career as a prospect checker between 135 and 147. The jury’s still out on Oumiha, to be clear. You can’t take the entire world from these eight rounds, either. So we’ll see. He’s got the pedigree and he’s got skills, but it’s not always easy for even the best amateurs to be successful as pros.
- Christ Esabe UD-8 Sander Diaz: A decent fight, had some spirit, Diaz (13-9-1, 9 KO) didn’t come in to just roll over, and Esabe (12-0, 3 KO) was willing to mix it up. There may be European title glory in the future of Esabe, a 21-year-old featherweight, but that would seem the ceiling, at least to me; I have been wrong before, but that’s the style and skill set he has, if we’re being honest. Scores were a deserved clean sweep for Esabe.
- Victor Yoka KO-1 Gurami Kurtanidze: The walks took significantly longer than the fight. Yoka, the younger brother of Tony and a junior middleweight, was making his pro debut here. It went well! He threw punches at Kurtanidze (4-15-5, 1 KO) until Kurtanidze fell down, and then Kurtanidze stayed there for referee Ammar Sakraoui to make a 10-count. That is the long and short of it. Victor didn’t have Tony’s amateur career by any means, but he might be someone to keep tabs on as he starts his pro career at 23.