Anthony Joshua’s emergence as world undisputable heavyweight boxing champion after knocking down Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th roundon Saturday in London has pitted Nigeria against Britain over the identity of the boxer.
The 27-year-old former Olympic champion was unbeaten in 19 fights when he stepped into Wembley ring in front of 90,000 British fans and millions of Nigerians watching on television around the world. Born in Watford, England to a Nigerian mother and a British father of Nigerian and Irish heritage, Joshua spent some time in Nigeria before he returned to Britain at the age of seven.
Joshua had credited eba and egusi soup as the secret of his boxing success.
Asked in the same interview if he considered himself a Nigerian or British, he said, “I’m a Nigerian man by blood. I have Nigerian blood in me.”
A former Nigerian boxing champion, Jeremiah Okorodudu, told the UK Sun that Joshua came to Nigeria in 2007 to explore the possibility of representing Nigeria at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“He wanted a chance to compete for trials ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics qualifiers, but he was denied and not given a chance,” Okorodudu recalled. “Disappointed, he went back to England to represent Great Britain. He went on to win a gold that could have been a first for Nigeria at the Olympics.”
Okorodudu’s story was collaborated by another Nigerian coach, Adegboyega Adeniji-Adele who remembered the incident this way: “Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua is his name and his family comes from Ogun State in Nigeria,” he said. “When he visited, his intention was to represent Nigeria at the Olympics but he was denied in the trials. He had no other option than to go to Britain.”
Since his knockout of Wladimir Klitschko, Nigerians have been making claims to him. Senator Ben Murray-Bruce representing Bayelsa East in the Nigerian senate in a tweet suggested that Anthony Joshua should be given a hero’s welcome and invited to Nigeria’s seat of power, Aso Rock, and be made a brand ambassador for Nigeria
Notwithstanding the criticism that followed Senator Ben Murray-Bruce’s tweet, Nigeria’s minister for Information, Lai Mohammed, in his congratulatory message to Anthony Joshua said that the Buhari administration would be interested in hosting the heavyweight champion. The minister specifically hinged his outreach to Joshua on the champion’s pledge to give back to Nigeria.
Surprisingly, Nigerians blasted the senator for making such a suggestion. They accused the senator of trying to reap where he did not sow.
“Had the same kid stayed on Naija,” writes 100%Naija, “we would have had to set up a GoFundMe account to ensure he makes it to boxing matches.”
In a picture after his victory, Anthony Joshua was holding high the Union Jack and then writes: “This photo is to remind you whom Anthony Joshua is an ambassador for. Nigeria should have paid him attention when it had the chance to.”