Anthony Joshua’s incredible link to aristocracy unearthed: ‘Always son of THIS house’

Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk hold a press conference ahead of their rematch

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Anthony Joshua is currently preparing for yet another blockbuster night in his boxing career, as he takes on Ukrainian heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia. The 32-year-old is aiming to reclaim the titles he lost to Usyk in London last September, when the Watford-based bruiser was beaten comfortably by his rival on points. That night he lost the WBO, WBA (Super) and IBF heavyweight titles, and he now faces the “biggest” bout of his 26-fight professional career.

According to the BBC, he added: “I’ve got to take this one the most seriously.”

What awaits the winner of Saturday night’s fight is a potentially mouthwatering showdown against heavyweight, and unbeaten, champion Tyson Fury.

Some commentators and pundits have claimed Joshua’s career could be ended by a heavy defeat to Usyk, but what he does after hanging up his gloves remains to be seen.

Much is known about Joshua’s rise to stardom, from his days on an estate to brushes with the law as a youth.

However, less known about is Joshua’s ties to Nigeria’s aristocratic class.

A 2018 report from The Daily Telegraph detailed the impact Joshua has had on Nigeria, and his relationship with the country his parents Yeta and Robert Joshua hail from.

His background can be specifically linked to the Yoruba people, a West African ethnic group that populates mainly areas within Nigeria, Benin and Togo.

Reports suggest that Joshua is among an aristocratic rank within the group through his grandparents, and other relatives.

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The Telegraph noted that he was also a “descendant of Sagamite aristocracy”, and Baba Josh, who has the Baba Josh Memorial Hall named after him in Nigeria.

His heritage has often been something that other fighters have targeted when trash talk has been handed out, including by Fury.

Fury, the Morecambe-based heavyweight, claimed in the build-up to Joshua’s title defence against Alexander Povetkin, that he was “the plastic Nigerian” and that he was “more Nigerian than you”.

He added in a tweet: “I’ll fly the flag for Nigeria when we fight.”

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But Joshua’s roots in the country are clear, particularly when reports show that he attended a boarding school in Nigeria at the age of 11.

The Telegraph noted that Yeta decided her “feral child needed to learn discipline, to grasp what it meant to fetch water at 5.30am, iron his clothes, and receive beating for errant behaviour”, which led him to Nigeria.

Baba Josh, or as he was also known Omo-Oba Daniel Adebambo Joshua, was Joshua’s great-grandfather, and described by the Telegraph’s chief sports writer Oliver Brown as “a figure of rarest distinction” in his hometown region.

He “achieved his own renown by taking advantage of Sagamu’s strategic location, on the trade routes between the ports of the Niger Delta and the Yoruba mainland”, Mr Brown noted.

He added: “His influence in the city remains ever present, from the church and school he founded to the properties he bequeathed to each of his 25 wives.

“Indeed, there is an argument for depicting Anthony’s boxing feats less as reflected glory for the Joshua clan than as an extension of the empire that the omo-oba (Yoruba for prince) helped create.”

Joshua has previously spoken about his Nigeria heritage, and at one stage nearly ended up fighting for the African nation, as opposed to the UK, where he was born.

ESPN recalled in 2017, that Joshua’s connection with Nigeria made him wish to fight for them at the 2008 Olympics, but he was turned down by the nation’s coaches.

Obisia Nwankpa, a former Commonwealth champion, world title contender, was chief coach of the Nigerian boxing team, and said: “He reached out to us, asking to be part of our Olympic team, so we invited him to come down and take part in trials.

“Unfortunately, he did not appear when we asked him to and came down only when we had finished our trials, finalised our team and were about to travel for a training tour. Maybe other coaches would have accepted it, but I could not.

“It’s a pity he did not get his chance at that time, but the two boxers we selected then, Durodola Olanrewaju and Onorede Ohwarieme, were outstanding and experienced and there was no way I was going to drop them for somebody I had not even seen.”

While some have questioned his Nigerian roots, fans in the country have clearly taken him as one of their own, with venues filling out en masse to watch the fighter.

Raymond Ajakaiye, one of Joshua’s cousins, told the Telegraph four years ago that the fight would be viewed in Baba Josh Hall, which would become “like a stadium”.

He added: “You can’t even park on the street. We have to bring in another 500 seats for the crowd outside.

“I’m very close to him, as we share the same grandmother. He eats Nigerian food and we, his cousins, all speak Yoruba to him. He might not understand it fluently, but he is aware of the culture.

“Everyone wants to identify with their past, and this is Anthony’s ancestral home.”

Chief Adelaja Joshua, who is head of the family and a former boxer himself, added: “He is a son of this house. This place will forever be a part of him.”

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