After suffering a pair of disastrous losses, Olympic gold medalist Tony Yoka will look to right the ship on December 9th against Belgium’s Ryad Merhy.
Though he’s not quite an Audley Harrison-level disaster, Yoka (11-2, 9 KO) was always on borrowed time. Between the strong chance that his win over Joe Joyce in the Rio 2016 finals was rigged and his suspension for dodging drug tests, his back-to-back losses against Martin Bakole and Carlos Takam were far less shocking in retrospect than at the time.
Merhy (31-2, 26 KO) is a softer touch than either of those two. The 30-year-old spent virtually his entire career as a cruiserweight, falling to Arsen Goulamirian in a 2018 bid for interim gold, before losing to Kevin Lerena at bridgerweight last May. Yoka is eight inches taller and figures to have at least 20 pounds on him; even losing a round would be cause to reconsider his career.
Yoka’s still just 31, practically an infant by heavyweight standards, and boasts some impressive physical gifts. It’s not impossible that he could turn things around, but it really seems like he just Doesn’t Have It. It’ll be interesting to see if he contents himself with the Merhys of the world or starts another climb at some point.