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Tony Yoka defeats Jonathan Rice

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By Jim Dower: Making his second fight as a pro, 2016 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist Tony Yoka (2-0, 1 KOs) had to struggle to defeat 30-year-old American Jonathan Rice (7-3-1, 4 KOs) by a 6 round unanimous decision on Saturday night at the Zenith de Paris, in Paris, France.

The judge’s scores were 59-56, 60-54 and 58-56. Boxing News 24 scored it for Yoka by a 58-56 score. Yoka won, but just barely. The judge that scored the fight 6 rounds to 0 in favor of Yoka is from France. Yoka is from France. That 60-54 score was about as bad as the 118-110 score from Adelaide Byrd in the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight. There’s no way that Yoka deserved to win all 6 rounds.

Yoka was staggered with a right hand in round 2 from Rice. Yoka barely stayed on his feet, as the right hand shot from Rice hit him while he was moving along the ropes. The 6’7” Yoka didn’t expect the bunch to reach him, but Rice, 6’5”, was able to lean forward and connect to the jaw of the French fighter.

In round 3, Rice landed several huge right-hand shots to the head of Yoka that caught him cleanly. In each instance, Yoka was moving, so the punches didn’t do as much damage as they would have if he’d been standing flat-footed.

Yoka used his jab and right hand to land some nice shots in round 4. It was close round, as Rice landed several big right hands of his own. Yoka was moving all the time, and not letting Rice get to him. When Rice would try and land his right hand, Yoka would back away from it so that it would miss him.

In round 5, Yoka moved a lot and jabbed. He threw a few right hands, but his offense was mostly just jabs. Yoka’s trainer Virgil Hunter kept barking orders from his corner, telling him not to stand in front of the 6’5”, 277 lb. Rice. Those were good instructions, because Rice was the bigger puncher of the two, and he had already hurt Yoka earlie in the fight.

Yoka mostly spoiled in the 6th round by moving and holding. He was able to land some right hands earlier in the round, but not much else. Rice was exhausted by that point in the fight and unable to chase Yoka down.

Overall, Yoka looked bad. At 25, he’s very raw in terms of his boxing skills. Yoka is going to need to improve a great deal for him to be able to compete with the top heavyweights like Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. Without major improvements, Yoka doesn’t look like he’s going to pan out as a pro. He should have been able to beat Rice with ease, but instead he barely won. Yoka didn’t look good in his pro debut last June in beating Travis Clark by a 2nd round knockout. Yoka looked unskilled with limited boxing ability. Yoka’s size obviously is the main thing that he has going for him, but it’s not going to help him against big guys like the 6’5” Joshua and 6’7” Wilder.

Yoka won a controversial gold medal in the 2016 Olympics in beating Joe Joyce of Great Britain by a decision. Yoka was outworked by Joyce, and well beaten up. Joyce had Yoka looking hurt in the final round.

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