Joshua reflects on roots, dreams a night in Nigeria
Anthony Joshua is the hottest heavyweight boxer in the world right now. Every heavyweight fighter wants to fight with him, every heavyweight dreads entering the ring with him. Many want him to fail, but lovers of the division, which has not had a rallying point since Mike Tyson lost to Evander Holyfield, want the young Nigerian-born British fighter to succeed.
In him they see the fighter that could bring back the glamour to a sport once graced by such icons as Lucky Marciano, Joe Bugner, Archie Moore, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Mohammed Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Henry Cooper, Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes, Bonecrusher Smith and of course Mike Tyson, among others.
Joshua’s bout with Wladmir Klitchsko in April is seen as key to the beginning of a new era in the heavyweight boxing division because a win for the London 2012 Olympics gold medallist could bring back the glamour to the sport.
Reflecting on his roots and connection to Nigeria in an interview published by boxingscene.com yesterday, Joshua reveals that he was nearly lost to a boarding school in his home country.
Born Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, the boxer, whom Britain regards as its highest profile fighter, joined his Nigerian mother Yeta for six months at the age of 11 and attended a school he expected to remain in.
According to the report, after a period that he believes taught him discipline, Joshua and his family returned to the United Kingdom, and he resumed the path that led to him being discovered as a promising amateur fighter who has since been groomed for exceptional success.
“I thought I was going there (Nigeria) on holiday,” said the 27-year-old who also has an Irish-Nigerian father, Robert. “I wasn’t prepared for it. It was a boarding school as well.
“At the time you think ‘Why?’ but as you get older you think it was good that you experienced it. It was good for me. “I think my mum was trying to do some business there; maybe she had it in her mind. You don’t just randomly decide to move there. She might have been thinking about it, but didn’t inform us because we were kids. We stayed out there, not long, only six months.
“It was a change and I thought I was going to go for the full course: 5.30am in the morning, up fetch your water, put like an iron in your water to warm it up. Your clothes had to be washed and ironed.
“It wasn’t an issue but I wasn’t prepared. It was a good discipline. “We got beaten. That’s my culture: beating. The government raises your kids now; parents aren’t allowed to raise their kids, because there is so much control about what you do or what you say. In the (Nigerian) culture it’s family, outside support; everyone has a role in raising the kids.”
Joshua, who last visited Nigeria – where he still has family in Lagos – 13 years ago, is expected to fight the 41-year-old Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley, the biggest boxing crowd in the UK since the Second World War.
On his return to England, Joshua said, “I thought I was in heaven (when I returned to England),” adding that he may one day fight in Nigeria.
“When you are in sport you become a representation of people. I’ve got it (an outline of Nigeria) tattooed on my arm, so people can relate to me. I don’t know if (a fight there) will happen.”
It may yet happen. Recently, a group of Nigerians have muted the idea of getting the Lagos State government to help in sponsoring Joshua’s title defence in Lagos if he won his April 29 bout with Klitchsko.
That is a fight many want him to win because the heavyweight division depends so much on his victory.