By Alan Baldwin
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 21 : France hailed a golden couple after Tony Yoka saw off Britain’s Joe Joyce today to add the men’s Olympic super-heavyweight title to the women’s lightweight gold won by girlfriend Estelle Mossely.
With Mossely cheering and crying in equal measure, Yoka boxed clever against a relentless opponent to win the battle of the big men on a 2-1 split decision and become the first Frenchman to win gold in the heaviest division.
Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic and Kazakhstan’s Ivan Dychko took the bronze medals as losing semi-finalists.
Yoka, the world champion who fought with pain in an ankle that he had twisted in the semi-finals, summed up his emotions simply afterwards: “Magnifique”.
His partner, who won her gold on Friday, had more to say: “I knew he was hurt but he held on… I’m on a cloud. I cried for him, he showed his qualities. We are both Olympic champions, you can’t get any higher.
“Now we are going to party. We won’t be sleeping for a long time,” added France’s first female champion.
Yoka’s gold was the last of the boxing tournament and the Parisian provided a triumphant end for France, whose team leaves Rio with six medals from the ring – two of each colour.
Joyce had hoped he would be the one going home with the gold to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Anthony Joshua, the winner in 2012 who was present as a television pundit and rooting for him.
“I thought I’d be in a different mood coming into here,” Joyce told reporters. “It’s just disappointing. I gave it my all, I thought I landed my shots and was penetrating his guard.
“He fought a good fight, countering me and that, but I thought I’d be walking in here loud and proud.
“I’m not sure what they were scoring but I thought I landed a lot more shots,” he added. “I’ll watch it back and see where I went wrong.” The scoring was split in the opening round, 2-1, with Yoka working the jab and getting raucous support from the crowd. All three judges gave the second to him despite Joyce pounding in body shots.
The third round was again split, this time with Joyce getting the nod from two of the officials. One judge gave all three rounds to the Frenchman, which seemed generous.