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Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua: His Nigerian connection

By Gowon Akpodonor
01 May 2017   |   4:26 am
Not until the build up to Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, many Nigerian boxing fans did not know anything about Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua, the rave of the moment, who on Saturday...

Britain’s Anthony Joshua (L) looks for an opening against Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko during the third round of their IBF, IBO and WBA, world Heavyweight title fight at Wembley Stadium in north west London on April 29, 2017. PHOTO: Ben STANSALL / AFP

Not until the build up to Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, many Nigerian boxing fans did not know anything about Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua, the rave of the moment, who on Saturday night, floored Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round at the Wembley Stadium, London to retained his IBF world title and added the WBC ‘super’ belt title.

After he failed bid to make the Great British team to Beijing 2008 and his moves to join Team Nigeria was ‘blocked,’ Anthony decided to move on with challenges of life.

Joshua was born in Watford to a Nigerian mother and a British father of Nigerian and Irish descent in 1989. His cousin is fellow unbeaten professional boxer Ben lleyemi. The pair made their professional debuts together in 2013.

Joshua grew up in his early years in Nigeria and returned to the UK halfway through ‘Year Seven’ to join Kings Langley Secondary School.

Growing up on the Meriden Estate in Garston, Hertfordshire, Joshua was called ‘Femi’ by his friends and former teachers, due to his middle name ‘Oluwafemi’.

He excelled in football and athletics and broke the Year Nine 100m record with a time of 11.6 seconds.

His Amateur career
Joshua was a late starter in the sport. He only began boxing in 2007, aged 18, when his cousin suggested he take it up. His club, Finchley ABC in Barnet, North London, is also home to professional heavyweight Dereck Chisora.

Joshua won the 2009 and 2010 Haringey Box Cup. He also won the senior ABA Championships in 2010, in only his 18th bout, and later turned down £50,000 to turn professional.

“Turning down that £50,000 was easy. I didn’t take up the sport for money, I want to win medals.” He said. He also went on to win the same tournament the following year.

In 2010, Joshua’s domestic success earned him a place on the Great Britain’s Boxing team and later the same year he became British amateur champion at the GB Amateur Boxing Championships after defeating Amin Isa.

In June 2011 at that year’s European Amateur Boxing Championships he beat Eric Berechlin and Cathal McMonagle but was stopped by aggressive Romanian southpaw Mihai Nistor after receiving several standing counts.

In October 2011 he was named Amateur Boxer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Club of Great Britain.
Joshua had an amateur record of 40-3.

2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships
During the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, Joshua marked his sudden arrival on the world scene when he beat Italian reigning World and Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle, and went on to stop Erik Pfeifer of Germany in the semis before losing by a single point to local boxer, Magomedrasul Majidov winning a silver medal.

En route to the final, Joshua secured his place at the 2012 Olympic Games in the 91 kg+ division as a relative new-comer to the elite level of the sport.

Britain’s Anthony Joshua celebrates in the ring after his victory over Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko in the eleventh round of their IBF, IBO and WBA, world Heavyweight title fight at Wembley Stadium in north west London on April 29, 2017. AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL

London 2012 Olympic Games
After missing the opportunity of appearing at Beijing 2008 Olympics Games in the colour of Nigeria, Joshua fought his way in Team GB boxing squad, and went into the 2012 London Olympics as a novice on the international scene, despite being a world silver medalist.

According to Nigeria national boxing coach Tony Konyegwachi, Joshua’s closest to the Nigerian boxing team was when he and his other Great Britain teammates sparred with their Nigerian counterparts in build up to London 2012 Olympics Games.

“For the records, Joshua only sparred with my boxers in London, he was already in the Great Britain team,” Konyegwachi stated, while clearing the controversies surrounding Joshua’s exclusion from Team Nigeria ahead the London Games.

“Since we were all together in the same camp, we just decided to conduct a sparring session which Joshua was involved in. So, for me, this talk about him not given him the opportunity to represent Nigeria is nonsense, some people are just being mischievous,” Konyegwachi said.

At London 2012 Olympics, Joshua received a tough draw in the last 16 of the super heavyweight event, in Cuban Erislandy Savón, ranked No. 4 in the world by AIBA and nephew of the three time Olympic champion, Félix Savón.

Joshua won by 15:11 guaranteeing at least a bronze medal. In the semi-final Joshua met Kazakhstan boxer, Ivan Dychko, but despite Joshua’s height disadvantage he won by 13:11 victory gaining a place in the Olympic final. Joshua met 32-year-old reigning Olympic Champion and former twice World Champion, Roberto Cammarelle of Italy in the closing bout. After conceding the first two rounds (6:5 and 13:10) to Cammarelle, an adversary he had already beaten the previous year, Joshua grew into the fight and fought back to level the scores after the third round (18:18), Joshua was announced winner via count-back and the new Olympic champion. The final decision was criticized by some boxing experts, who felt Joshua won on “home advantage.”

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to boxing.

Professional career
On 11 July 2013 it was confirmed that Joshua had turned professional under the Matchroom Sport promotional banner. Joshua made his professional debut on 5 October 2013 at the O2 Arena in London in the Main-Event of a card featuring Scott Quigg’s successful WBA super-bantamweight title defence against Yoandris Salinas, beating Italian Emanuelue Leo by a TKO in the first round.

Joshua’s second professional fight was against English Heavyweight Paul Butlin at the Motorpoint Arena Sheffield on 26 October 2013. The bout was stopped in the 2nd round when the referee decided Butlin was taking too much punishment and declared Joshua the winner by TKO.

Joshua’s third professional fight was on the Prizefighter Series card against Croatian Hrvoje Kisciek on 14 November 2013. Joshua got a TKO victory in the second round, achieving his third knockout victory in a row.

In February 2014, Joshua scored a 2nd round TKO victory over Dorian Darch to take his record to 4-0. The following month, on the undercard of Ricky Burns against Terence Crawford, Joshua defeated Hector Alfredo Avila with a 1st-round KO, in Glasgow, Scotland. In May that year, Joshua knocked out Matt Legg in one round on the undercard of Carl Froch against George Groves in Wembley Stadium. In Joshua’s seventh professional fight, on 12 July 2014, in the Echo Arena, Liverpool, he defeated Englishman Matt Skelton via 2nd round stoppage.

In Anthony Joshua’s eighth professional fight, on 13 September 2014, against German Heavyweight Konstantin Airich, Joshua took his undefeated record to 8-0 with a 3rd round stoppage victory, in the Manchester Arena.

Joshua was in the Main-Event of a Matchroom Sport card for the second time in his career, in his 9th professional appearance for the vacant WBC International Heavyweight title against former champion looking to win the title for a second time Denis Bakhtov on 11 October 2014 at The O2 Arena in London.

Joshua won the fight by knockout in the second round taking his record to 9-0 and then winning the WBC International Heavyweight Title aged just 24.

In his 10th professional bout, Joshua defeated Michael Sprott within the 1st round to extend his record to 10 wins all by stoppage. Going into this bout as he had 9 bouts all not lasting longer than 3 rounds his total career ring time was just 35 minutes and 10 seconds and after the bout it was just 36 minutes and 36 seconds in 10 bouts as a result of the bout lasting only 1 minute and 26 seconds. He was supposed to face American boxer Kevin Johnson on 31 January 2015 at The O2 Arena in London, but the bout was cancelled after Joshua sustained a back injury.

On 4 April 2015, Joshua beat Jason Gavern as he collected a third-round knockout in his return to the ring in Newcastle. On 9 May 2015, in his 12th professional bout, Joshua defeated Raphael Zumbano Love in a second-round knockout in Birmingham.

On 30 May 2015, Joshua defeated Kevin Johnson inflicting the first stoppage in Johnson’s career. After Johnson was saved by the bell in the first round the fight was stopped by the referee shortly after the beginning of the second round.

British heavyweight champion
On 12 September 2015, Joshua won the vacant Commonwealth Heavyweight title by stopping Gary Cornish in the first round at the O2 Arena. Cornish had been unbeaten in his previous 21 fights.

Joshua vs. Whyte
Joshua fought Dillian Whyte in a grudge match for the vacant British Heavyweight title on 12 December 2015, whilst also defending his Commonwealth
Heavyweight title for the first time.

The two had previously fought within the amateur rankings in 2009 where Whyte had won. After surviving the first scare of his career in the second round, Joshua won the fight after initially shaking Whyte with a right hook to the temple and eventually finishing with a devastating uppercut for the knockout in the seventh round, making it the furthest distance either fighter has gone in a professional fight to date.

IBF heavyweight champion
Joshua vs. Martin
In February 2016, it was announced that Joshua would face IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin on 9 April 2016 at the O2 Arena. Martin was making the first defence of the belt that he won in January after defeating Vyacheslav Glazkov for the vacant title. Joshua set the pace in the first round and kept the southpaw Martin at bay before sending him to the canvas with a straight right hand in the second round.

Martin got to his feet only to be knocked down for a second time by a similar punch just moments later. This time Martin failed to beat the count after taking too long to get up, and the referee waved the fight off, with Joshua winning his first world title.

Joshua vs. Breazeale
Promoter Eddie Hearn announced a 3-man shortlist from IBF’s top ranking 15 boxers for Joshua’s first defence of his title. This included former WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne (25-1-2, 21 KOs) and Eric Molina (25-3, 19 KOs), both of whom were recently beaten by American WBC champion Deontay Wilder, alongside unbeaten upcoming fighter Dominic Breazeale (17-0, 15 KOs).

On 25 April, it was announced that Joshua’s next fight will be against Dominic Breazeale on 25 June 2016 at the O2 Arena in London. Breazeale was ranked 13th by IBF below British pair Derek Chisora and David Haye. Breazeale became only the second boxer, after Dillian Whyte, to take Joshua past 3 rounds. After a dominant performance, Joshua successfully defended his IBF heavyweight title with a magnificent seventh-round knockout win.

Breazeale was dropped heavily by a huge left hand.

After the fight, Eddie Hearn said Joshua could next fight IBF mandatory Joseph Parker, around November. That fight averaged 289,000 viewers on Showtime in the afternoon. The card averaged 227,000 viewers. A week after the fight was announced against Breazeale, Joshua announced a new multi-fight deal with U.S. broadcaster Showtime. The fight screened live in the States by Showtime after they signed up as Joshua’s exclusive U.S. partner.

Joshua vs. Molina
It was announced in August that Joshua would be making a second defence of his IBF title at the Manchester Arena in Manchester on 26 November. This would mark the first time since September 2014 that Joshua would be fighting in the city. Possible names put forward for the fight were top IBF contenders Kubrat Pulev and Joseph Parker.

Former unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko became the frontrunner after his scheduled rematch with Tyson Fury was cancelled a second time.

A deal could not be finalized for Joshua vs. Klitschko, due to the WBA delaying a decision to sanction the fight and Klitschko injuring himself, which put the fight off completely.

On 2 November 2016, the WBA finally agreed to sanction a unification bout between Joshua and Klitschko for the WBA ‘super’ title. The WBA agreement was, if Joshua retained his belt against Molina the fight would take place on 29 April 2017 at Wembley Stadium in London.

On 10 December 2016, Joshua knocked out Molina in the third round and the Joshua vs. It was reported that Joshua would earn in the region of £15 million for the fight. At the weight in, Klitschko weighed in at 240 and a quarter pounds, the lightest he has weighed since 2009. Joshua came in heavier at 250 pounds. On Saturday, the fight took place in which both fighters took heavy shots, Klitschko being knocked down in round 5 before coming back in round 6 and knocking Joshua down for the first time in his professional career.

As the fight dragged on it became an even contest till in the 11th round Joshua knocked Klitschko down twice before the referee stopped the match, maintaining Joshua’s perfect record.