Tony Yoka vs. Carlos Takam Card Preview

It's been a minute since I did one of these card previews, and this weekend we have a matchup that intrigues me because I'm interested in the periphery of the heavyweight division — the guys who are not (yet) top-10, but have been there, or have legitimate aspirations to get there. When those cats fight each other, it feels like careers are at stake.

We have one of those in Tony Yoka going up against Carlos Takam in Paris, and it will be broadcast on ESPN+ at 3:45 PM ET. Let's take a look at that night of boxing, starting with the undercard. Odds courtesy of BetUS:

Lauren Price (2-0) vs. Naomi Mannes (6-1), welterweights

Here's a quick primer on women's boxing: they fight 2-minute rounds rather than 3. The boxing commentariat generally hates this, believes there's no reason women can't go 3-minute rounds, and point to MMA as an example, where the men and women both go at it for the same number of minutes per round. I agree, it seems arbitrary and a touch sexist to limit women to 2-minute rounds.

Anyway. Price, from the UK, is the "name" here; she won gold at the Tokyo Olympics in the middleweight division (this scrap is being fought at welterweight), and they are moving her into the deeper waters of the pro ranks.

"Deeper" is a relative term, however. Mannes, by contrast, has one amateur bout to her credit (a loss) and there's nothing in her resume to suggest she might trouble Price.

You know me. I like to take a flyer on underdogs, especially if they have power, and Mannes might (4 KOs). But I have no appetite for taking her at +900, nor Price at -2500, unless I'm sprinkling it on top of a parlay.

Farrhad Saad (8-0-1) vs. Macauley McGowan (17-3-1), super middleweights

Warning: this fight will be incredibly boring, as Saad has 0 KOs and McGowan has 3. Neither has been knocked out. So this will not be a display of power, but of granite chins.

On paper, this fight is fairly even, because while McGowan has three losses and Saad is undefeated, McGowan's level of opponent is superior. Saad has won a number of fights by a whisker on the judge's scorecards, but that may simply mean he'll do it again here, as Saad is the Frenchman against the Brit McGowan.

That said, I first set the line at -300 Saad, then changed my mind and made it -500, then split the difference and landed on -400. At BetUS, Saad is actually a -1000 favorite, while McGowan is +600. So I reckon I'll hold my nose and bet on McGowan.

Dan Azeez (18-0) vs. Thomas Faure (21-4-1) for the vacant EBU European Light Heavyweight Title)

This is the only title fight of the night. I am very, very high on Azeez. His last four fights have been against "names" in the UK boxing scene (3 of them for British titles) and he won them all, including three by KO.

Faure is the home guy here but I would argue this is actually a step down for Azeez, or at least what we call in the biz a "stay busy" fight. I would not take Faure at any price. I have taken Azeez at -350 to win by KO, TKO, or DQ.

Tony Yoka (11-1) vs. Carlos Takam (39-7-1), heavyweights

I implied in the beginning of this piece that the loser of this fight is probably never going to get a title shot. In all honesty, that ship has probably already sailed for Takam, who has 7 losses. But he has nice wins under his belt, including a headlining win over Jerry Forrest on ESPN, when they were broadcasting weekly shows for Top Rank in the Las Vegas "boxing bubble" at the height of the pandemic. He's a gatekeeper, sure, but if you are not up to snuff, he will beat you.

Yoka is the 2016 Olympic gold medalist at super heavyweight and started his pro career with 11 wins, but was derailed by Martin Bakole in his last fight. For reasons I can't quite put my finger on, I've always had my doubts about Yoka, and I felt like Bakole vindicated those doubts.

This all sound like I'm leaning towards Takam, but I can't pull the trigger on him. I think Yoka will be very motivated, and Takam is 42 and coming off two straight losses. Yoka is ranked #16 in the world at heavyweight per Boxrec, and Takam is #43 (they are #1 and #2 among French heavyweights). I think at -600 the value is actually on Yoka.

Enjoy the fights!

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