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Anthony Joshua: I turned down £50,000 offer because I didn’t take up boxing for money but to win medals

By Haruna Abubakar 

Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua’s is an enthralling, inspirational story, a story of overcoming daunting challenges in and outside the ring.

Anthony Joshua
Anthony Joshua

He was born in Watford, Hertfordshire. His mother is a Nigerian and his father, an English with Nigerian and Irish ancestry. Joshua spent some of his early years in Nigeria as a boarding school student at Mayflower School, Ikenne and probably then developed the love for his own culture. Following his parents’ divorce when he was 12, he returned to the UK to continue secondary school.

Growing up, he excelled at football and athletics and broke his school’s Year Nine 100-metre record with a time of 11.6 seconds. Joshua was a late starter in boxing. He only began boxing in 2007 at the age of 18, at the prompting of his cousin. He instantly showed great promise in the sport and, in only his 18th bout, was offered £50,000 to turn professional. He turned down the offer.

“Turning down that £50,000 was easy. I didn’t take up the sport for money, I want to win medals,” he later recalled.

Joshua represented England at the 2011 World Championships as an amateur in the super-heavyweight division, winning a silver medal; he also represented Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics, winning gold. In 2014, a year after turning professional, he was named Prospect of the Year by The Ring magazine. In 2017, his victorious fight against Wladimir Klitschko was named Fight of the Year by The Ring and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Joshua is the second British boxer, after James DeGale, to win both a gold medal at the Olympics and a world title by a major professional sanctioning body, as well as being the first British heavyweight to do so.

He is currently a unified world heavyweight champion, holding three of the four major championships in boxing: the IBF title since 2016, the WBA (Super) title since 2017, and the WBO title since 2018. He has also held the IBO title since 2017, and at the regional level he held the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles from 2014 to 2016.

Best active

As of September 2018, Joshua was ranked as the world’s best active heavyweight by The Ring, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB), and BoxRec. Known for his exceptional punching power, he has finished all but one of his fights to date by knockout.

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to boxing. Such is an inspirational story anywhere.

But Joshua is a Nigerian and he made a ringing announcement of that identity with the Globacom TVC. The champion, who always enters the ring proudly holding a Nigerian flag, sees the “Nigerian fighting spirit” in his winning mentality. He says about that inner strength:

“Inner strength?   Yeah that comes from the heart…And we Nigerians, we know all about that.   We don’t stay down.   We get up and fight.   It’s sure about speed, technique, quality of the punches, reach.   But the real fight?   It’s myself.”

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A sequel to the TVC has now captured the reactions of Nigerians to the inspirational message in the iconic commercial.

The sequel begins with a University of Lagos female student watching the Anthony Joshua commercial. A teenage boy is then seen also watching the TVC in his father’s sitting room. The TVC morphs to fishermen throwing their net for a haul in Lagos. The commercial then morphs to a struggling tailor in Aba drawing inspiration from Anthony Joshua’s message.

Next is a group of female basketball players in Port Harcourt watching Joshua’s message on an ipad on the court, closely followed by a classroom setting in Sokoto where students gathered to watch Joshua’s message on a laptop. A young boxer also took tutorials from the world champion and he later won his bout while a lady executive in Abuja was also shown watching the message on her phone. They all glowed with pride from the message.

The Joshua message

The spread of the cities in the commercial not only shows how widely the Joshua message is embraced in Nigeria, but it also underscores the nationwide coverage of the Glo 4G which, like the Heavyweight Champion, is Number 1 in the country with its spread and coverage. You don’t miss the news when you have Glo data!

Even the best boxer needs a great team in his corner. Joshua knows this so well and has found one in a kindred spirit, a company which like him fights in the heavyweight division of its own industry and is not scared by obstacles.

Joshua says in the commercial: “But I can’t carry this heavyweight title by myself.   It’s always got to be someone in my corner.   And that’s why I believe in Glo.   We have that same tenacity, that Nigerian fighting spirit that makes us game changers.   You have to dig deep to be a world champion.   Yeah, we Nigerians, yeah we know all about that.   Glo, I hail oooo!!!”

The Glo story is fairly familiar to Nigerians. The founder, Mike Adenuga, was among the first to bid for the GSM licence in Nigeria. But the first licence offered him was withdrawn over an administrative dispute. So, like Anthony Joshua, Globacom made a delayed entrance into the field in 2003 as an underdog and a late-starter. Already entrenched were continental giants who arrived with years of industry experience and quickly seized the Nigerian telecoms market.

Undeterred by the odds, Globacom hit the ground thinking and running. It introduced the pay-per-second billing and it proved a masterstroke and a game-changer. Glo Mobile also introduced lower tariffs and alongside other value-added services. The giants had said all these were impracticable in Nigeria. But they quickly jumped onto the track at the sight of the newcomer closing the gap and threatening to sprint ahead with the strategic initiatives.

Although Glo Mobile was the fourth GSM operator to launch in Nigeria, within seven years of operation, its subscriber grew to over 25 million. In the first year, it had one million subscribers in over 87 towns in Nigeria. The subscriber base in Nigeria stood at over 45 million by December 2018. Glo Mobile is effectively Nigeria’s second largest Mobile Network Operator and has now spread to Ghana. It is one of the most popular Nigerian brands across the world.

The bricklayer turned World Heavyweight Champion in the TVC revealed the attribute he shares with Glo. These include the never-say-die, unlimited, can-do spirit, which undergirds and constitutes the philosophy of the telecommunications giant.

The Champ quips in the TVC: “You need strength?” and then followed up with the substantiation: “Yeah, that comes from the hard knocks that life throws at us. And we are Nigerians, we know all about that”.

He went on to compare life challenges with boxing, saying “You don’t stay down, you’ve got to fight. You have to dig deep to be a world champion.” He was speaking about himself and Glo.

Celebrating his Nigerianess, Joshua says: “There is always been a big piece of my heart as a Nigerian and I do believe that it is that piece that sets me apart. It always says to me, ‘never give up, dream big! We come from a nation of warriors and that is why I believe in Glo.”

Continuing on the parallel between him and the telecom company, he says:

“We have that same tenacity, that Nigerian fighting spirit that makes us game changers! We are relentless. We don’t just face our challenges, we step into the ring to win again and again and again. If you believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Yeah, I used to be a bricklayer in England but now I am heavyweight champion of the world!”

Anthony Joshua knows every boxer needs a helper in his corner, to dry his sweats with towels and offer him tips on how to contain and defeat his opponent.

That is exactly what Glo has been doing for Nigerians since 2003.   Its network reaches across the country and has since found bases in Ghana and too. Its 4G also solves all data-related communication challenges by allowing subscribers to breathe easy with data, which is now widely regarded as oxygen.


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