Nigeria is a killer of dreams indeed. It is not news to hear of how people who failed to succeed in the country that declares herself as the ‘Giant of Africa’ but perform exceedingly well when they find themselves outside her shores.
Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua had the dream of representing Nigeria at the Olympics some years ago but was turned down by the country’s sports administrators only for him to represent the Great Britain and win a gold medal in his chosen field of boxing.
Success, the age-long cliché goes, has many brothers and sisters but failure is an orphan. When he eventually became the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, trust the hypocritical Nigerian government to publicly identify with him and address him as their ‘son.’
His kinsmen in Sagamu were not left out of the identification craze as they proudly beat their chest and never failed to remind the public that Joshua is an indigene of that sleepy town.
On June 1, Joshua surprisingly lost his title to the Mexican-American, Andy Ruiz Jr, in New York. That was Joshua’s first fight outside the United Kingdom and it came as a rude shock to all as he was the bookmakers’ favourite to win.
He took the defeat in his stride as he had good sportsmanship skills to heartily congratulate his victorious opponent. He dedicated the next six months towards a thorough preparation for the rematch which occurred on December 7, 2019, in Saudi Arabia.
Standing tall at 6 feet 6 inches, Joshua towered four inches above his opponent and made use of the height advantage to dominate the game. According to a newspaper report, ‘After being stunned by the underdog Ruiz in New York on June 1, Joshua risked seeing his career go down the drain with a second defeat. Instead, he served up 36 minutes of movement and well-timed punches to become two-time heavyweight champion of the world.
As soon as the first round began, Joshua drew blood, cutting his Mexican rival above the eye and from that moment never looked back. He kept Ruiz at bay with smart jabs and right hands throughout, to the delight of fans in the Diriyah Arena, in Riyadh. Joshua won 10 of the 12 rounds on two of the judges’ scorecards while the third judge had him winning 11.
Ruiz never looked close to landing a knockdown and the scores of 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109 confirmed that Joshua was in total control throughout.
Not wanting to get into the firefight that caused him to lose his titles in June, Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) made it a point to stay disciplined, fighting on the outside and pumping the jab at will.
Anytime Ruiz tried to get to the inside to try and uncork his power, Joshua used good footwork to slip out of the way and avoid any significant damage.
The CompuBox stats had Joshua connecting on 107 out of 373 punches (29%) with 65 of those shots being jabs. Ruiz landed 60 out of 261 (23%) with 37 of those being power punches.
Joshua now joins boxing legends like Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Floyd Patterson in the league of men who reclaimed the world heavyweight title’.
We commend the sagacity and grit of Joshua in his most recent victory as these are attributes that Nigerian youths need to imbibe instead of running after short cuts.
According to Joshua, he may square up again against Ruiz for a third bout in the nearest future. There is the possibility of his meeting Deontay Wilder who has been a relentless critic of him and even criticised his defeat of Ruiz as he said his punches were not hard enough.
Joshua shows no signs of slowing down as he once revealed that he would hang his canvas when he clocks 50 years of age.
Nigerians from all walks of life including President Muhammadu Buhari have praised him for his victory. It won’t be a bad idea to give him a national honour the next time the honours’ list is drawn up as he is a role model to many. We cannot just keep honouring lesser accomplished folk at the expense of those who have kept their nose to the grind stone in pursuit of the true meaning of success.
Once again, let’s clink the glasses and give it up to our own Anthony Olaseni Joshua who has made the entire black race proud!
By Tony Ademiluyi, wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.