Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua has successfully transformed ‘Crucify Him’ into ‘Hosannah.’ Such is the life of the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and golden boy of Nigeria (oops, sorry, British) Boxing.
Today, Anthony Joshua is celebrated for unifying four world heavyweight boxing titles with great victories achieved. AJ, as he is often called, has unified the WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight world titles with a gruelling point victory over the dogged Joseph Parker on 31st March 2018. Every boxing fan and even their nan now loves AJ for a good number of reasons. First, he came to prominence by winning an Olympic gold for Great Britain, and since then the British public has really taken to AJ and can’t stop having more of him.
In addition to his boxing talent, he is seen as someone that is incredibly humble, likeable and grounded with enviable manners.
AJ is so popular today that every TV and talk show hosts now wants to have AJ on their platform. Teachers want him to meet and motivate their students, politicians want him to help them win elections, and parents want him to meet their daughters. Everyone shouts ‘Hosannah’ when they come across AJ. But, a few years ago, it was a different cry; ‘Crucify Him!’
In 2009, no one gave AJ a chance when he was put on remand in Reading Prison for what he described as ‘fighting and other crazy stuff.’ He was made to wear an electronic tag on his ankle when he was released. Then the media described him as a Nigerian. But today, he is known as a Brit. AJ does not doubt his roots, probably that’s why he has a tattoo of the map of Africa on his arm, with Nigeria boldly highlighted.
Although AJ was born in Watford to Nigerian parents in 1989, he spent some of his early years in Nigeria before returning to Watford halfway through Year 7 and attended Kings Langley Secondary School. At that time, he was often called ‘Femi’ by his friends and former teachers, due to his middle name ‘Oluwafemi.’ AJ excelled marvellously at football and athletics, running the 100m in just 11.6 seconds when he was in Year 9. After leaving school, he became a bricklayer before taking up boxing full-time. He began boxing in 2007, aged 18.
During his troubled past, it seems like the young Nigerian was destined for a lengthy prison sentence. In March 2011, AJ was pulled over by the police for speeding in Colindale, North London. He was found with 8 ounces of herbal cannabis hidden in a sports bag right in his car. Not only was he rightfully charged with possession of hard drugs, but he was also wrongfully accused of the intent to supply a class B drug, an offence that carries a maximum 14-year sentence. As a result, AJ was suspended from British boxing squad and was sentenced to a 12-month community order and 100 hours’ unpaid work at the crown court.
This month as people all over the world celebrate Easter with shouts of ‘Hosannah.’ Remember, many years ago, people shouted ‘Crucify Him.’ Maybe you can identify with that. AJ certainly can.
When asked by Bear Grylls during an ITV show, where his spirit came from, Joshua said: “Definitely my dad. They called him ‘Big Josh’, ‘Big guy’. He supported all the family. And even when it’s tough you keep going, keep going.”
“Mum [and] dad split up. Dad is in Nigeria now so in a sense, mum did a lot of the groundwork [in bringing me up].”
Despite his successes in the ring, the boxer still lives with his mum Yeta Odusanya in north London.
His ongoing triumph was the culmination of an incredible journey from being remanded in custody to fighting in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium. From being described by the media as the troubled Nigerian teenager, to the most loveable British young man of the decade. If the path of life can take such a positive turn for AJ, it can certainly happen for you as well. We should never say never as long as we exist on Earth. If the world shouts ‘Crucify Him’ at you today, don’t worry. Stay positive, for tomorrow, they will praise you with a resounding ‘Hosannah!’