Written By Eric Gomes: Super-Heavyweight gold medal winner Tony Yoka now set to make his pro debut on June 2nd. The fight takes place at the Palais des Sports in Paris. Earlier this year it was announced that Yoka had signed to Richard Schaefer’s newly formed Ringstar Sports. He quickly teamed up with trainer Virgil Hunter, famed trainer of Andre Ward.
Although Ringstar Sports is a fairly new company, Schaefer himself is no stranger to business, especially the boxing business. Schaefer was the long time head of Golden Boy Promotions before resigning in 2014. A non-compete clause kept Schaefer from immediately reentering the boxing realm until 2016. The contractual limitation was up last year; Schaefer quickly formed Ringstar Sports. Since then Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports has already put together some big cards including: Jesus Cuellar vs. Abner Mares with co-feature Jermall Charlo vs. Julian “J-Rock” Williams last December, and the much-anticipated rematch between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz this past January.
Schaefer has picked up a few Olympians including French Olympian Tony Yoka and U.S. Olympian Carlos Balderas. In addition, Schaefer announced a joint venture with Heavyweight David Haye. This project will extend the promotional company to U.K. territories called “Hayemaker Ringstar”.
“This is truly a momentous occasion to have the 2016 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist making his pro debut in front of his hometown fans.” Schaefer said. “Tony Yoka’s outstanding performance in Rio was just the start of what I know will be a spectacular career. Tony is training with the renowned Virgil Hunter, and along with his swagger and personality outside of the ring, he is putting all the pieces in place with an eye toward becoming a huge star in this sport. I’m excited to help Tony reach his full potential and elevate the French boxing scene to the next level.”
“I’ve been improving every day in the gym with Virgil Hunter, and I can’t wait to show everybody what I’ve got,” Yoka said. “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, scheduled to face little-known but unbeaten Travis Clark (12-0, 8 KOs) out of Morristown, Ohio. Clark is 38 years old and last fought this past March when he stopped Branden Lee Hinkle via TKO. This is customary for pro fighters to turn pro against relatively unknowns or journeyman type fighters, so they can properly adjust to the professional system. Given his amateur and Olympic pedigree, I don’t believe it’ll be long before we see Yoka face upper echelon foes. It should be notated that Tony Yoka did defeat current WBO Heavyweight Champion Joseph Parker in the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics. Parker became a champion defeating Andy Ruiz Jr. via Majority-Decision last December 2016. Parker most recently defended that title in May in a lackluster performance vs. Răzvan Cojanu.
Yoka who competed and won gold at the “Super Heavyweight” division in the Olympics stands 6’7″ tall. This is the same height as Deontay Wilder. With a now exciting Heavyweight division, full of action, personalities, and momentum shifts, it will be exciting to see how Yoka fits in. As a Bay Area native myself, I know some people who have seen Yoka train and vouch for his abilities. The source told me that Yoka “Can Box” and moves incredibly well for his size, but also takes offensive stands. It seems this new era of Heavyweights are much larger than ever with athletic abilities, thanks to modern sports science & medicine. All I know is that I’m excited that the Heavyweight division is back with a very strong pulse.
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