Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Tony Yoka was compared to Anthony Joshua after Olympics but is now forgotten heavyweight
Last Updated: 13/07/20 8:17pm
"I don't want to take four years like Anthony Joshua," said Tony Yoka. "That's too much time."
Joshua took four years after winning an Olympic gold medal to add a world heavyweight title, remarkable speed that France's Yoka insisted he could improve upon.
That time is already up for the reigning Olympic super-heavyweight gold medallist, a talent once compared to Joshua who has become today's forgotten heavyweight.
"Lomachenko did it after two fights," Yoka said. "Everybody has his own way. I'm not Lomachenko and I'm not Joshua. I think I'm like between them.
"I don't want to waste my time fighting guys I know I'm going to beat. I need a challenge. I'm not saying I'm going to fight the champion now or tomorrow, but I need to challenge myself. I need to fight for something and move up in the rankings."
The excitement around Yoka was understandable when he made these bold proclamations in 2018 but, since then, he has been left behind by peers of his own generation.
The athletic Frenchman was a feel-good story of Rio 2016, aside from controversially beating Britain's Joe Joyce in the gold medal fight.
He and his wife Estelle Mossely each picked up boxing gold medals. Their firstborn is named Ali, naturally, already gifted with the perfect genetics to make his own impact in a couple of decades' time.
Yoka had a one-year suspension imposed by the French Anti-Doping Agency from summer 2018 to 2019 for missing three drug tests. He maintained his innocence but, since quietly returning to the ring, has been unable to drum up the same hype that his potential once warranted.
He had impressed in a fifth pro victory, a 10th-round and one-sided beating of popular Brit Dave Allen. Allen had previously been beaten by Dillian Whyte and Luis Ortiz so Yoka, by doing such a clinical job, had reason to believe that he belonged in esteemed company.
Yoka had dived into the deep end of the heavyweight pool immediately, much like his Olympic rival Joyce did. On his pro debut Yoka beat Travis Clark who was unbeaten in 12. His seven opponents so far have a combined record of 116-22-7 - he has, at least, lived up to his promise not to "waste my time fighting guys I know I'm going to beat".
But the year on the sidelines has had an impact.
The man whose similarities to Joshua saw him hired as a sparring partner for Joseph Parker when he took on Britain's world heavyweight champion is now fighting for attention.
A new era of heavyweight forces has emerged, of which Yoka is part of, but the likes of Joyce, Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic are progressing faster.
Yoka beat Hrgovic and Joyce at the 2016 Olympics (he has also lost to both in amateur bouts).
Joyce and Dubois will clash in an exciting battle of unbeaten up-and-comers this year but first will face two opponents that Yoka has history with.
Joyce's next foe Michael Wallisch was beaten by Yoka in three rounds last year. Dubois' next opponent Erik Pfeifer has beaten Yoka in the amateurs.
The Frenchman who is trained in California by Virgil Hunter, formerly Amir Khan and Andre Ward's trainer, tweeted on May 31 that he planned three fights in 2020. That seems overly optimistic given that one, planned for March 14 on a Top Rank card as his US debut and his first outside of France, was cancelled.
But it shows that fire remains in his belly - his seven-fight record is far better than average for a young prospect finding his feet.
The forgotten heavyweight once compared to Joshua was named by Tyson Fury recently on a nine-man list of potential future foes. There is a serious contender in Yoka still waiting to burst through.