Your story O Anthony, the son of Joshua, is a sermon waiting to be preached, is a movie waiting to be made, is an epic drama, is a parable told to encourage, to motivate our teeming, hopeless youths and to inspire us all into believing that whatever a man puts his mind to and works hard at, is achievable.
Truly, truly, nothing is impossible as Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga, the two Nigerian champions and titans who have conquered the world of business often say.
Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, I hail you, you the all-conquering Caesar walking in the footsteps of the great Cassius Clay who later became Muhammad Ali and tagged himself “The Greatest.” In an uncanny way, there is this striking resemblance of you and Muhammad Ali. Two handsome men. As handsome as Adonis. As beautiful as “The Complete Gentleman” that “beautiful” man women couldn’t resist in Amos Tutuola’s scintillating first novel The Palmwine Drinkards. Tutuola was the first novelist to conquer the world of literature, bringing Nigeria on the world’s literary map. Ironically, he was an unlettered, uneducated man with just Primary Six education, yet wrote a novel in his bizarre, ungrammatical English telling an equally bizarre narrative borrowed from Yoruba folklore. He is my favourite Nigerian writer whose books I compelled all my children to read when they were kids. Nigeria has been breeding champions from time immemorial. Anthony Joshua, you are the latest Nigerian to rule the world.
The world loves winners. Nobody reckons with failure. See how they have placed you high on a pedestal, tributes coming from everywhere. See how advertisers are jostling for you to be the face of their products. See how endorsements are coming from left, right and centre. See how applause is coming from everywhere, from every corner of the globe. In the sweetness of victory, you have everything to gain. In the bitterness of defeat, you hide your head in shame. Success, it is said, has many fathers but failure an orphan. The British are claiming you as the best thing that ever happened to them in boxing. And Nigerians equally want a piece of you as you have Nigerian blood inside you. In your ancestral hometown of Sagamu, historians are trying to dig and connect your roots like a modern-day Kunta Kinte, the Mandinka warrior of Alex Haley’s Roots’ fame. Streets and stadia are already being named after you in your fatherland. In Ogun State where you come from, I hear that a big delegation is about to storm London for your sake, to congratulate you and bring good wishes from Governor Ibikunle Amosun. Among winners in the world today, your name stands out boldly written in gold. You the golden boy and the reigning king of the world.
Between success and failure is a veneer, a line so thin that it can easily switch either way. I am just imagining what could have happened when Wladimir Klitschko’s deadly blow landed you on the canvas for the first time in the sixth round. So heavy was the blow that even the thrower was amazed how you miraculously resurrected from the deadly blow. He thought you were finished but you proved that the mark of a true champion is being able to rise from the canvas and fight back. Like Klistchko, I honestly thought you had run out of gas and that it was just a matter of time before you succumbed. But then, we didn’t know what you knew. You were conserving your energy and saving your best for the last. In the 11th round, the world surprisingly saw a re-energized and transfigured you coming at Klistchko like a devouring lion and tearing him apart. This will be my finest boxing spectacle, my best fight so far, next to when Holyfield first knocked out Mike Tyson. It has everything: drama, suspense, surprises, downfalls and eventual triumph at the eleventh hour. For long, the heavyweight, once the topmost class in boxing, had been eclipsed by the welterweight and other lower weights where the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao held sway and loomed big. Now the heavyweight king of the world has come to reclaim his title and restore the allure, dignity and the attraction of the heavyweight class. Joshua versus Klitschko is a throwback to the glory old days of boxing where stars like Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson were the demigod heavyweight kings ruling the world with their iron fists.
I am so happy that a Nigerian is the one who has restored the glory of the heavyweight class. Just as the British are claiming you, so are we here in Nigeria chanting your oriki, your ancestral praise song and identifying you as our very own.
You see, Nigeria abounds with natural resources and talents that are wasting away like undiscovered flowers in the desert—apology to Thomas Gray in his poem ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.’ If Joshua had been born in Nigeria and remained in Nigeria, chances are he would have just wasted here and nobody would have known he could rule the world with his fist. Everything in Nigeria is just turning out a waste. Not just our rotten tomatoes and rotten fruits that die before they reach the marketplace. Even the talents we have in Nigeria usually get rotten, unable to fulfil their full potentials. Very few Nigerians who are lucky to go outside the country suddenly pop out like genie in a bottle, unleashing their talents to the world to become true champions in their fields. They include all the émigré Nigerian doctors, engineers, scientists, scholars, singers, athletes, basketball players, boxers and the plethora of soccer stars that abound everywhere in the world today carrying the banners of Nigeria through their names.
Even in England, Joshua could have got rotten like a bad apple amidst his criminal peer group. Once or twice, police had to put an electronic tag on him to monitor his criminal activity. And he was compelled to report daily at the police station. But lucky for him, he discovered boxing and his destiny changed from a near dropout to a billionaire that he is going to be after slaying Goliath in a theatre watched by 90,000 people and billions around the world.
The cable-TV and television stations all let us down by not showing this great fight involving a patriot who carried a Nigerian flag into the ring. It’s such a shame. But thanks to my children, I watched it on my laptop. And what a night it was. A night of bravery. A night of warriors with eyes bulging with punches and spilling of blood. A night of poetry. A night of Joshuamania.