Pulse took a trip to Sagamu, hometown of Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua to explore his Nigerian roots.
Sagamu, a town founded in the mid-19th century, is located in Ogun State, south-western Nigeria.
In the 19th century, Sagamu controlled the trade routes between the ports in the Niger Delta and the Yoruba mainland due to its position.
One of the first men to take advantage of the trade routes was Omo-Oba Daniel Adebambo Joshua.
Born in 1882, Adebambo Joshua was one of the first to trade with Europeans in the early 19th century. The title 'Omo-Oba' literally translates to 'Prince'.
He worked for UAC Company who later supported him when he quit to start his own business. As one of the most educated and wealthiest men in the city, his influence in Sagamu is vast, with his houses, lands, church, school, properties scattered all over the town.
The very wealthy Adebambo Joshua had 12 wives and numerous offspring from which many great-grandchildren came from. One of them, the new face of boxing Anthony Joshua.
Nigerians have been laying claim to Anthony Joshua even before his 11th round win over Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko to become the new WBA and IBF world heavyweight champion the world.
That bout which happened on Saturday, April 29, 2017, was a huge event in Sagamu as the Youth Association organised a viewing party which was attended by hundreds of Sagamu indigenes.
Anthony Joshua might be a British citizen, but for ‘Sagamites’ he remains one of their own.
"This family, we belong to the royal family, my father, which the great-grandfather of Anthony Joshua. Olasheni Joshua is the direct son of Amoba Adebambo Joshua and Olasheni Joshua is the father of Jonathan and Jonathan is the father of Anthony,” Adedamola Joshua, Anthony Joshua’s great-grand uncle explained.
According to Anthony Joshua’s uncle, fighting has been in the Joshua family line long before he delivered his first punch as a boxer.
"The grandfather was a great boxer. Even the sister to the father, Adewunmi Joshua, a lady used to beat men in this town. She was that tough," Adedamola Joshua added.
"Some men in England when his dad married an English lady, they accosted him on the way, ah you, black man with white woman, they thought they can take advantage of him, he gave them bloody noses, beat them up three of them. So he got it flowing in the gene, I think."
The Joshua name commands huge respect in Sagamu, stemming from the exploits of their great grandfather, Omo-Oba Daniel Adebambo Joshua.
Wildly loved in the region for his generosity, Adebambo Joshua’s school and church still exist today in the city.
His school built in 1947 still provides free education for primary school pupils.
Fondly called Baba Josh, he donated lands to the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church and even a mosque. The Joshua Hall at the Sagamu Mosque is the only hall within a Muslim complex carrying a Christian name.
He is was a member of Anglican Church in Sagamu who frowned on his polygamous lifestyle and refused to confer the title of an elder to him. He quit the church and started his own, Christ African Church which still exists to this very day.
For the people of Sagamu, Anthony Joshua's new victory, fame and wealth are nothing new, it’s just a protraction of the empire his great-grandfather had built.
That is why they all agree with the recent suggestion to have the Sagamu International Stadium and the popular Cinema Road renamed after him.
The cinema from which the popular road gets its name was built by Anthony Joshua’s late great grandfather, Adebambo Joshua.
Anthony Joshua truly embraces his Nigerian roots, always making it known the influence Nigerian culture has on him. He even speaks a little Yoruba.
"My heart is with Nigeria, my heart is with Britain, I’m a Nigerian man by blood," he said in an 2016interview with Nigerian journalist Oma Akatugba.
"Let me not give away my secret but that is the pounded yam, Eba and Egusi soup," he added when asked if he is familiar with any Nigerian dish.
ALSO READ: Anthony Joshua enjoys Eba and Okro Soup
Several times, the 27-year-old boxing champ recalled spending six months at a boarding school in Nigeria. An experience which he said taught him discipline that has taken him this far in his boxing career.
“I thought I was going there (Nigeria) on holiday. I wasn’t prepared for it. It was a boarding school as well. At the time you think ‘Why?’, but as you get older you think it was good that you experienced it. It was good for me,” AJ said in a new BBC documentary.
“It was a change and I thought I was going to go for the full course: 5.30am in the morning, up fetch your water, put like an iron in your water to warm it up. Your clothes had to be washed and ironed. It wasn't an issue but I wasn't prepared. It was a good discipline,” she told Daily Mail in another interview.
We paid a visit to the school, Mayflower School Ikenne.
We learnt that Anthony Joshua’s grandmother –the Irish mother of his father Jonathan, was once a grand patron of the school.
We, however, discovered that Mayflower had no knowledge of Anthony Joshua’s time at the school.
“I only heard about him on radio, I have not seen him before, I don’t know anything about him and I can’t say I met him in this school. He must have come a long time ago, so for us to actually trace, he must be able to tell us the year the student number and the name he was bearing then,” the Vice Principal Academics of the school, B.O Lawal told Pulse.
Anthony Joshua’s cousin Raymond Uwa Ajakaiye spent time with Anthony Joshua during the boxer's early days in Watford and they are still close friends.
He spoke to him just a day after his huge win against Klitschko.
“Everyone calls him Anthony, yes, he is Anthony but to me he is Femi. He grew up beside me, I’m very proud of him,” Uwa said.
“Uncle Uwa, that’s what he calls me till date, very respectful boy, very humble, very hardworking, very dedicated to whatever he is doing.
“So we are very happy, he has made us proud, he has made the family proud, the country in general and the world.
How much of Nigeria does Anthony Joshua know? Uwa said “a little bit.”
“For someone who has lived I the UK, he eats Nigerian food, he speaks a little bit of Yoruba, he dresses Nigerian, he listens to Nigerian music,” Uwa added.
He might be a British citizen, but Anthony Joushua’s ties with Nigeria and Sagamu remain strong as ever.
His dad Jonathan who was born to a Nigerian father from Sagamu and an Irish mother, returned to Sagamu to marry Yetunde, Anthony Joshua’s mother.
Anthony Joshua is Sagamu, through and through, he might not breathe it, but it runs in him.
Oba Adewale Osiberu, the Elepe of Epe and the Acting President of Traditional Rulers in Remo-of which Sagamu is part of, believes the boxing champ also embodies the spirit of a true Sagamu son.
“Joshua family is a very popular family here and they occupy a very big area in the community. If you come into Sagamu and you say you are going to the Joshua family house, they will get you right there,” Oba Osiberu told Pulse.
“The mum actually grew up in Sagamu here, the great-grand mother’s home is actually on this street, so nobody can doubt that he is from Sagamu.
“The fact that he grew up in the UK does not erode the fact that he is a Nigerian.”
With Floyd Mayweather now retired, Anthony Joshua has now become the face of boxing, having revived the Heavyweight category which gave us icons like Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.
Only 27, Anthony Joshua is on his way to becoming a boxing icon himself.
On the side of his right arm, just below his shoulder, he has a tattoo of the African map with Nigeria highlighted.
Despite the colours of the flag he represents, that’s who he is.