Tony Yoka suffered a disastrous defeat to Carlos Takam, after the veteran heavyweight manhandled the Olympic star over 10 rounds at Zenith de Paris on Saturday.
Takam only won by a split decision, a far closer score than the action in the ring had suggested.
But this, a second consecutive defeat, was a heavy blow to the Frenchman’s career.
Yoka was a 2016 Olympic super-heavyweight gold medallist and the great star of the sport in France. Selling out the 7,000-seat Zenith de Paris was an indication of his drawing power.
But after suffering a punishing loss in his last fight to Martin Bakole, Yoka was fighting to get his career back on track.
Takam is 42 years old but a veteran of high-level heavyweight competition. He’s fought everyone and anyone from Anthony Joshua and Derek Chisora to Joseph Parker and Joe Joyce.
So even after Yoka’s positive first round, Takam was never disheartened. He ploughed forward, forcing Yoka back and taking the centre of the ring.
Yoka plied his body with jabs and drilled in a right.
Yet Cameroon-born Frenchman Takam fought at a high pace throughout and tested Yoka’s trunk with a double right hook.
A powerful right to the head shook Yoka up and he had to retreat. Takam took up the invitation and continued his attack, bounding after his rival.
He punched in combination and finished the salvo with a right hook to the head.
Sweeping the same punch over he caught Yoka again and heaped further pressure on the star.
Yoka showed flashes of tidy work, catching Takam with a left hook to the head and a shot to the body.
But he wasn’t hitting hard enough to keep his determined opponent off him.
To compound his problems, he finished the fifth round cut from a head clash.
Yoka ducked a left hook deftly and moved off. But Takam poured in a flurry of hooks. He clubbed a right to the head again, giving Yoka yet another torrid round in the sixth.
However, Yoka unearthed a good cross in the next round, landing it with venom. He targeted the body again with jabs, thrown singly but in an effort to slow his opponent down.
But an arching hook from Takam sent the gumshield flying out of the Olympic gold medallist’s mouth.
Takam’s left hook shook him as well and Yoka’s mouth hung open, with a look of concern etched across his face.
He had to move off, to find space and some respite from the onslaught. But it was another round conceded and Yoka appeared to be in desperate trouble as the contest reached its closing stages.
Standing his ground to trade with Takam did nothing to dissuade him and a sizeable portion of the crowd appeared to have switched to cheering on the Cameroon-born Frenchman.
When Yoka held his feet, Takam simply slugged him with hooks, working the body as well as the head.
Takam steamed after him, marching through Yoka’s right cross to cleave his left hook into the body.
Yoka finished the fight on his feet, but boos rang out when he raised his hand.
One judge extraordinarily scored the fight 96-94 to Yoka, but the other two both had it 96-94 the other way.
Takam won a split decision, one that leaves Yoka’s career in a perilous position.