Olympic champion Yoka to be trained by Charles alongside Dubois

Tony Yoka is relocating to London to train under Don Charles.

The Olympic gold medallist is attempting to rebuild his career following successive defeats by Martin Bakole and Carlos Takam, and he has identified the experienced Charles as the trainer he requires after separating from Virgil Hunter. 

Charles built his reputation by leading Derek Chisora into two world heavyweight title fights and more recently was appointed to guide the promising Daniel Dubois. Yoka, 31 and who was awarded a controversial decision over Joe Joyce in the super-heavyweight final of the Rio Olympics, has struggled to fulfil his potential, and after a troubling period in his personal life that has included divorcing from fellow 2016 Olympic champion Estelle Mossely is determined to be based closer to his Paris home.

“He’s one with multiple distance [issues], because he’s got kids, and it’s also come through – [his] public divorce,” Charles told ProBox TV. “They’ve split, and there’s children involved, so he’s very torn. [When] he’s in America he can’t see his children. 

“They [Yoka and the San Francisco-based Hunter] haven’t fallen out – they’re on good terms. Virgil Hunter trained the great Andre Ward, so they didn’t part because he’s lost – the distance was just getting to Tony. He needed to be nearer to home, so we’re gonna work together. We did trials here; we did three weeks in Spain; he joined us during Daniel Dubois’ camp [in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, ahead of the fight with Oleksandr Usyk].

“He moved over this week; he’s got an apartment ten minutes from here [Charles’ gym, PUG, is in Finchley], so we’re going full-time training. Every other weekend he’ll jump on the Eurostar to go and see his kids, and come back. 

“Irrespective of his last two fights, I believe I can do something to help him get back to where he should be. Look at Joe Joyce, who he beat – he’s now looking at Joe’s position in world boxing. He’s on the verge of, if he succeeds against Zhilei Zhang, a position to fight for one of the belts. So we’ve got a lot of ground to make up, and I believe I can help him.

“I believe I know what his boxing issues are; personal issues. It’s mental. He’s gone through a lot of stress, which added to him losing those fights he shouldn’t have lost. 

“The first meeting we had, I said to him, ‘Do you want to go down in history as an Olympic super-heavyweight gold medallist who never went on to win a version of a world title? [Like] Tyrell Biggs; Audley Harrison?’. He said, ‘No’. I said, ‘Well, let’s go and make sure that doesn’t happen’.

“From an onlooker, it’s almost like, ‘This guy doesn’t want it anymore’. Even from me as an observer, I thought, ‘Hang on – how can you let a 42-year-old [Takam] outwork you and beat you?’ I know my observations, which I’m going to work on. I have a vested interest in watching heavyweights. He’s far from shot – he’s young; only 31 years old; fresh. He’s not been banged about.”

Yoka was given a one-year ban from boxing by the French Anti-Doping Agency in July 2018 after he missed three drugs tests within a 12-month period.

“I pulled him up on that when we had the first meeting,” Charles continued. “One of the things he said to me was he was absent from where he said he was going to be, and they couldn’t get hold of him, so he automatically – apparently – failed. He wasn’t actually physically tested. His absence is his fault – that’s negligence. So, the first time, I’m not sure, but the second time, purely because they couldn’t get [hold of] him.

“He’s a genuine young man – sometimes complacency can overtake us. He’s also admitted to me that he’s no exception to hype. All the hype that was around him – he’s a human being – he’s no exception. He admitted that he bought some of that hype and maybe lost focus a little bit. Neglecting what you are supposed to be doing to be that top athlete, and he is aware of it. 

“He’s gone through some of the personal matters [including related to his divorce] that he’s had to deal with, which has affected his training. He’s made the sacrifices – he’s gone to America trying to resurrect his career, then he’s come to England. 

“He’s not fighting like a heavyweight as a pro; as an amateur you can get away with certain things. You’re scoring points, but as a heavyweight you have to make that transition of not just trying to score points – you need to hurt people. We’re working on the mindset. We need to find that hunger. The ability is there.”