Tony Yoka before his fight at Roland-Garros: “We want to change the habits of boxing in France”

Tony Yoka will face Petar Milas on Friday on the center court at Roland Garros. The opportunity for him to continue his conquest towards the summits and perhaps take off towards the United States afterwards.

Marcel Cerdan, Jean-Claude Bouttier and now Tony Yoka. Almost 50 years later, a boxing gala will be organized at Porte d’Auteuil where the little yellow ball is used to it. The opportunity for the French heavyweight, opposed to the Croatian Petar Milas, and undefeated in 10 fights (10 wins), to defend his European belt and confirm his rise to the top.

Petar Milas, your opponent, has not fought since 2019, is that an advantage for you?

It’s true that Petar hasn’t fought since 2019 and that’s unfortunate for him. I was lucky enough to be able to do it thanks to the support of Canal +. Now, this is not a won fight. He prepared very well and has 15 successes in as many fights.

Boxing in the USA can be a rocker for my career

He has an atypical profile. Is it complicated to prepare?

It is a profile that I had never boxed (it is ambidextrous). It’s complex because psychologically, it requires a lot of thought. I shouldn’t throw myself in because he can counterattack and he’s very fast. It will be the fight that will be the most tactically demanding.

Is fighting at Roland Garros exciting?

After more than a year of boxing without an audience and almost 50 years of absence from boxing at Roland Garros, it is inevitably a highly anticipated gala. And in addition I will rebox for the first time alongside Souleymane (Cissokho) and Mathieu Bauderlique (bronze medalist in Rio). This return of Team Solide is exciting!

And all this in front of more than 8,000 spectators …

Whether for or against me, the presence of the public has always transcended me. Fighting behind closed doors is painful. And there is the desire to honor as best we can the invitation from the tennis world to receive us at Roland-Garros. We will be keen to show that noble art has its place in this prestigious place.

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How did the idea to fight at Roland Garros come about?

We have been thinking of investing in mythical places for a long time. Roland-Garros returned to the table each time. And with the Olympics taking place there in 2024, that was a nice blink of an eye. The Parc des Princes, the Stade de France also make me dream, I have never done Bercy… We want to change the habits of boxing in France.

Is the history of your sport something that interests you?

Completely. I have always been a big fan of Mohamed Ali for his boxing but also for everything he represented. He took boxing to another world. In the show. And then, he has this Nelson Mandela aura. It’s a whole. But for the rest obviously that the history of boxing interests me and our country too. Marcel Cerdan, Jean-Claude Bouttier who are the only ones to have fought at Roland-Garros elsewhere. I was able to see images of Bouttier’s fight against Monzon elsewhere.

Are you planning to return to the Olympics in 2024 where boxing will be at Roland Garros?

I have these Games in the back of my mind, that’s for sure. If by then I did not manage to become world champion, it is true that it would not sound a bit like a step backwards. But if by then I have a belt, that would be a good goal.

In the next objectives, your promoter mentioned a fight in New York in December …

It is under discussion. Boxing in the United States can represent a shift in my career. This is also why I signed with Top Rank. Boxing is not a martial art it is a show. And the Americans know it.

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