Tony Yoka (11-2, 9 KO’s) entered the ring as heavy favourite against Carlos Takam (40-7-1, 28 KO’s): younger, taller, rangier and fighting in front of his home crowd. But that crowd also came at a price – the pressure was on Yoka, who needed a big win after being dominated by Martin Bakole in his previous fight.
Still, the prospect of Yoka losing to his 42-year old veteran opponent seemed unlikely on paper.
A dominant Yoka showcase was expected, so the Parisian crowd’s surprise was palpable as the fight turned round by round into the complete opposite of what they had come to see.
The vaunted jab of Olympic medallist Yoka proved entirely ineffective here against Takam, who continually breezed past it and got himself inside to work the body and close-range power shots.
Incredibly, the pace of the fight was dictated by a fighter 12 years older than his opponent. With Yoka’s confidence apparently shot, Takam was able to bring all his experience to bear on making it a bad night for the home fighter.
With Takam given free rein to work inside the range he wanted to, Yoka was bloodied and on the back foot in the final round. He needed a knockout but it was nowhere near coming and Takam was untroubled on his way to the decision victory.
The only sour note for Takam was his anxious wait as the scorecards were read out: two judges had it for him but the other somehow had the fight for Yoka, resulting in a win by split-decision rather than unanimous.
It’s a disastrous result for Yoka, who falls to 0-2 in his last two outings with bad performances in both.
‘Super’ Dan Azeez (19-0, 13 KO’s) is the new European light-heavyweight champion following a final-round stoppage win over former European champion Thomas Faure (21-5-1, 2 KO’s) in Paris.
Azeez is now the only light-heavyweight fighter in history to win the English, British, Commonwealth and European titles in succession. The steady progression has been an open part of Azeez’s plan to ascend to the world championship.
“Step by step I am climbing the ladder. British, Commonwealth, European and now it’s the world [title next,]” said Azeez as he celebrated adding the European light-heavyweight championship to his collection.
Faure rode an eight-fight undefeated streak into the bout and put in a spirited performance but was unable to stop Azeez gradually picking him apart and taking over control of the encounter.
The final-round finish came when Faure – who had been staggered in the previous round and increasingly on the defensive since being bloodied in the seventh – walked onto an overhand right from Azeez which made him stagger.
Gamely returning to the fray, Faure stepped forwards only to walk onto another meaty right hand which he neither saw coming nor was able to respond to.
The referee, who had been taking a close look already, jumped in to wave the fight off and save Faure from what would surely have been an inevitable emphatic finish by Azeez.
Price vs Mannes
Lauren Price MBE (3-0, 1 KO) maintained her perfect professional record as she rose to 3-0 with a dominant decision win over German rival Naomi Mannes (6-2, 4 KO’s), with all three judges giving all eight rounds to Price for a unanimous win.
It was the first time Price fought eight rounds and made for a good workout for her in her third professional outing.
“I felt good in there for eight rounds. I thought I used my jab very well,” said Price, adding that she travelled overseas so early in her professional career because she “just wanted to get out… The first one is out of the way for 2023.”
“Obviously there are still things to work on but she’s a tough girl and I caught her with some good shots. I got more comfortable as the rounds went on. I felt really good in the sixth and seventh. I enjoyed it.”
Price’s combination of speed and southpaw stance makes her a tricky proposition for any orthodox opponent.
Mannes couldn’t get near the lightning-fast Welshwoman, with her only successes coming by way of landing the occasional counter, usually after taking several shots from Price in exchange.
Saad vs McGowan
The televised card opened with a disappointing result for Manchester man Macaulay McGowan (17-3-2, 3 KO’s).
He visibly outboxed home fighter Farrhad ‘The Professor’ Saad (8-0-2) over eight rounds, only for two of the judges to declare the fight a draw and the remaining judge having a scorecard in favour of Saad.
With a Majority Draw being declared, McGowan was left shrugging his shoulders at the type of judging which happens all too often to fighters who find themselves going the distance against a hometown favourite.
“To give it a majority draw? I thought I won it. I think everyone at home thought I won it. I think the crowd thought I won it. It is what it is. What can you do?” he said.
“He wasn’t really landing clean – and if he did, I landed clean back. I boxed the head of him!
Saad’s only truly dominant round was the final round of the fight, where he scored damaging shots which had a clear effect.
Most of the preceding rounds seemed to have gone clearly in McGowan’s favour, with Saad – who also had to be spoken to twice by the referee for use of the head and elbow respectively – seemingly on track to lose his undefeated record before the judges delivered their controversial decision.
Tonight’s four-fight televised card – a landmark co-promotion with French promotion All Star Promotions – aired live and exclusively in the UK and Ireland on Sky Sports, with continental broadcaster Canal+ carrying it to European households.
BOXXER Fight Night: Paris – Official Results
Dan Azeez def. Thomas Faure, TKO (Referee Stoppage), 0:50 R12
EBU European Light-Heavyweight Title Bout (12R)
Carlos Takam def. Tony Yoka, Split-Decision, R10 (96-94, 94-96, 96-94)
Heavyweight Bout (10R)
Lauren Price def. Naomi Mannes, Unanimous Decision, R9 (80-72 x 3)
Welterweight Bout (8R)
Farrhad Saad draws with Macaulay McGowan (Majority Draw, R8)
Middleweight Bout (8R)