Boxing is a sport that hasn’t reached its highest level of popularity in France, as many sports enthusiasts in the country prefer to follow MMA and football. Nevertheless, according to the French Casino site, jouerenlignefr.org, betting on boxing remains quite popular, particularly during significant fights. Despite not having a large number of current-era world champions, France has seen its fair share of boxing legends throughout history who have left a lasting impact on the sport in their home country.
Marcel Cerdan is probably the most famous French boxer of all time. The boxer is widely regarded as the best to ever come from France and quickly made a name for himself around the world after learning his craft in Africa. Cerdan won the French welterweight title early in his career, before moving, landing the European welterweight title a few years later. He would later make the decision to move up to middleweight, and he landed the vacant European title with a stunning first-round finish against Leon Fouquet.
He would retain the gold with stunning victories over Giovanni Manca and Jean Walzach, before suffering just a third professional defeat against Cyrille Delannoit in May 1948. Cerdan would later right that wrong to regain the title, before winning the NBA, NYSACAC, and The Ring middleweight titles in his first fight in the United States against Tony Zale. He would later lose the title to Jake LaMotta in June 1949, before tragically dying in a plane crash later in the year.
There are few more rounded stars in French history than Georges Carpentier. The boxer made a name for himself during the First World War, as he fought for his country as a pilot. However, sports fans will be more familiar with his skills inside the boxing ring. Despite standing at just under six feet, his speed around the ring and punching power made him one of the most formidable boxers throughout his career. In total, he stepped inside the ring on 112 occasions and recorded a sensational 89 victories.
He was an excellent competitor in the heavyweight division throughout the 1920s, as he won the world title against Battling Levinsky in New Jersey in 1920, before retaining the light heavyweight title in 1922. He later became a two-time heavyweight champion in 1923, as he scored a stunning first-round KO victory against Joe Beckett in London. Carpentier retired from the sport in September 1926 after landing a 57th KO victory of his career against Rocco Stramaglia.
France hasn’t been blessed with many modern-day stars in the world of boxing, but one that stands out from the crowd is Tony Yoka. The 31-year-old made headlines in his homeland in 2016, as he became the first Frenchman to ever win the Olympic gold in the super heavyweight division. During his amateur career, he beat some of the biggest current stars, including a win over future WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker in 2010, while his Olympic win was secured against current heavyweight world title contender Joe Joyce. During his amateur career, he recorded 60 wins and was beaten on just 12 occasions.
Following the Olympics in 2016, Yoka turned professional and quickly gained a huge reputation after registering eleven straight wins. During that win sequence, he landed victories over Christian Hammer and won the European heavyweight title with a knockout finish against Joel Tambwe Djeko. However, his winning sequence was brought to an end in May 2022, as he suffered a majority decision loss against Martin Bakole. He was unable to bounce back from that defeat on his return to the ring, as he was beaten by a split decision by former world heavyweight title contender Carlos Takam. However, there remains huge excitement around France, as Yoka is set to return to the ring later this year.
Although boxing’s popularity in France lags behind that of other major sports, there is hope for growth in the coming years. With the country hosting the 2018 Olympic Games, the attention will be on the sport, allowing for new talent to emerge and maybe producing a future French world champion in various weight categories. It remains to be seen whether a new star will emerge to join France’s historic list of prior world winners.