On Saturday night in London, Anthony Joshua will enter a boxing ring for the first time in a year when he faces the Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev

As the global Covid-19 pandemic affects sport, only 1000 happy fans be in the SSE Arena to watch Joshua defend his three heavyweight titles

While the arena will be practically empty, millions of fans around the world will be watching the fight on the radio or television, and it’s fair to say it will receive a lot of virtual support from Nigeria

The 31-year-old may have won his Olympic gold for Great Britain, but he’s also an idol in Nigeria, and nowhere more so than in the quiet southwest town of Sagamu, where his family hails

His great-grandfather is Daniel Adebambo Joshua, a wealthy landowner and merchant who is believed to have adopted the surname following his conversion to Christianity

Daniel sent one of his sons Isaac Olaseni Joshua to the UK to study and eventually married an Irish woman who returned with him to Nigeria, where they raised seven children

One of these children, Robert, married Yeta Odusanya, also from Sagamu, and is the father of Anthony and his sister Janet

His middle name is Olaseni in honor of his grandfather. His recent sporting achievements have made the family name very popular not only in the city but across the country and beyond

Joshua is very proud of his Nigerian heritage The most obvious sign is his tattoo of Africa, with Nigeria outlining his right shoulder

The Nigerian flag is always proudly and prominently displayed next to the Union Jack in the ring during his fights

His ring runs in both of his fights against Andy Ruiz Jr with hits from Nigerian music icons such as Burna Boy and Femi Kuti, son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti

His love for Nigerian music is evident in his social media handles when he sings along with pieces from the West African nation

Another of his favorite things to do from Nigeria is cuisine, and again he often displays his culinary skills in relation to the nation’s culinary staples

Joshua’s love for Nigeria has also led him to send food and care packages to families affected by the coronavirus pandemic

More recently, he has been using social media to show solidarity with youths protesting the police brutality in Nigeria

The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is also a fan, the two met in London in January when Joshua presented him with his belt

Having the physique of a mahogany Hercules includes a good-natured, softly spoken person, a smile of 5000 watts and a roaring, infectious laugh to Joshua’s attraction

Then he has a successful fight record in the ring with notable names and spectacular knockout games, meaning that Joshua is considered by many to be the greatest sports star to come out of the country after NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon

All of this has made him very popular with Nigerian fans who have welcomed him like no other heavyweight champion of Nigerian heritage

Henry Akinwande and Samuel Peter have both held the WBO and WBC titles in the past, but neither can eclipse Joshua’s stature and popularity in Nigeria

In fact, Joshua has his own fan club in Sagamu, which was founded in 2017 before his career-defining fight against Wladimir Klitschko

“Joshua put Sagamu on the map,” Azeez Adekunle Okunoren, aka Mr Naira, founder of the Anthony Joshua Supporters Club, told BBC Sport Africa

“In his last fight against Andy Ruiz, we had a public screening of the fight with a big screen and a projector

“Up to 10000 fans came to watch We do a lot of advertising Some traveled all the way from neighboring cities

“We have already received countless calls from people asking if we want to review this fight against Pulev”

TV, radio, web and print of all Nigerian media houses devote a lot of time and column spaces to his struggles and the construction

Many of them come to his hometown to take the pulse of avid fans.For those who cannot watch his bouts on cable TV, fans use social media to follow closely and engage in lively debates

Although Joshua didn’t meet up with his fan club on a trip to Sagamu in February, there are no bad feelings that he decided to briefly meet the traditional ruler of the city and his chiefs before disappearing as silently as he had come

“His father, grandfather and great-grandfather are from here I know he has roots in Watford too, but there is no way we will support him. We still hope that one day he will identify with us and support us.” / p>

“We will continue to pray for his success, but we need his presence here. We want him to build a legacy here by building something here

“It could be a gym, a recreation center, or even a hospital something people will see and remember”

Joshua’s legacy is already wreaking havoc on a number of young people, especially in southwestern Nigeria, particularly in Lagos, the commercial capital

Many of them have watched his rise to prominence and identified with his story as a restless youth who found his way to redemption and wealth through fistfighting

It’s a worn-out theme in the country’s prolific Nollywood film industry as people dream of one day following his footsteps on the world stage and big paydays

This has resulted in an explosion of an amateur boxing track where public schools are used for training after hours and on weekends, as well as all practical open spaces

The 21-year-old is a car mechanic, hence the nickname that was gained due to his endurance, work speed, hard blows and piston-like knocks

In Mowe, just 22 miles from Sagamu, Muibi, a light heavyweight describes Anthony Joshua as one of his idols

“It was Mike Tyson who inspired me to start boxing, but it was Joshua who fired my imagination that I could make it to the top because he’s Nigerian like me,” he told the other BBC Sport Africa

A visit to his Facebook page shows the extent of his imagination and determination. Pictures and videos of Anthony Joshua and other global superstars are scattered all over the place

There are also countless videos of Muibi himself doing shadow boxing, sparring and training with the most rudimentary equipment in a spartan environment

He also spends hour after hour watching Joshua’s YouTube videos to hone his own skills

“I learn a lot from him. He is very powerful but retains his power,” he explains

“I study how accurate he is with his strokes and how he studies and thinks his opponent before throwing. He is very calculating

“My dream is to play with him one day I can learn so much from him

“His footwork is underestimated and I like his new style that he used in the second fight against Ruiz It was very interesting and effective”

While Muibi dreams of getting into a ring with Joshua, the vast majority of his Nigerian fans would be satisfied if he had one of his bouts in Nigeria in the future

Anthony Joshua, Pulev, Joshua v Pulev

World News – UK – Why Nigerians see Joshua as one of their own

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/africa/55259868