The euphoria that greeted the victory of Anthony Olufemi Olaseni Joshua over Wladimir Klitschko in the world heavyweight title fight at Wembley Stadium, England continued yesterday in Sagamu, his Ogun State ancestral home.
Large banners adorned the house of his great-grandfather, Prince Daniel Adebambo Joshua, at Ijoku in the heart of the city. There is a big picture of the boxer. Besides it are the British flag and the green-white-green Nigerian flag.
There were banners also at the Ita Oba Park where a viewing centre, which had over 2000 fans, was put up for the Saturday night fight. Some residents, who saw one of our reporters taking photographs of the banner, were excited.
They shouted: “World champion!”. Anthony’s uncle, Adebambo Joshua, who spoke on behalf of the family at the Baba Josh Memorial Hall, said he was a bit nervous before the fight started because victory could have gone either way.
He said: “My heart was in my mouth throughout the fight, especially when he suffered a knock down in the sixth round. I was afraid he would not recover and we all prayed for his victory and when he eventually won, we were all excited.”
Adebambo recalled how the family and the fans at the viewing centre went wild in jubilation and partied all-night because a “son of the soil” had achieved a great feat.
“It was celebration galore after Anthony’s victory. We were in front of the king’s palace and celebrated the hard-earned victory over a worthy opponent, who had been a famous face in the world of boxing,” he said.
Victory, as they say, has many fathers, which may account for many trying to identify with the pugilist. However, Adebambo noted that they were not just identifying with the champion but have been backing him since he started his career as an amateur rank.
Adebambo said: “We have been supporting him and we will continue to do that. We have prepared for the fight and that is why the youth in conjunction with Yinka Mafe, a member of the Ogun State House Assembly put up the viewing centre.
To the Elepe of Epe, Oba Adewale Osiberu, who is superintending over Sagamu since the demise of the Akarigbo of Remo, Oba Michael Sonariwo, the victory is for all. He called on youths to emulate the feat.
“He is young and we pray that he will stay on top for a long time,” he said.
Oba Osiberu, who is related to Anthony’s mum, Yeta (Yetunde), promised that a facility would be converted into a gym where youths could practise the sport.
The Federal Government plans to invite Joshua to Nigeria. Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed in a statement, said the government had congratulated the British professional boxer of Nigerian descent, for defeating Ukranian Wladimir Klitschko to become the unified World Heavyweight Champion.
Mohammed said Nigeria was proud to be associated with the champion. “My heart is in Nigeria, my heart is in Britain. I am a Nigerian man by blood, yes,” the minister quoted Joshua as saying in a recent interview.
He added that the boxer, in the interview, also listed the secret of his success as pounded yam, eba and egusi – all Nigerian cuisines.
The minister hailed Joshua for his humility, despite his success. He also extolled his “undying spirit, coming off the canvas after he was knocked down by Klitschko in the sixth round to win by a technical knockout in the 11th round of their pulsating fight”.
Joshua, who made his professional debut in 2013, was born in Watford to a Nigerian mother and a British father of Nigerian and Irish descent.
Some of the early years of the 27-year-old champion were spent in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, before he returned to the UK halfway through year seven to join Kings Langley Secondary School.
Growing up on the Meriden Estate in Garston, Hertfordshire, Anthony was called ‘Femi’ by his friends and former teachers.