Anthony Joshua may officially fight out of Watford, England and he is a British Olympic and world heavyweight champion, but Nigeria will always be ‘the motherland’ to him.
Joshua, now 31, is intensely proud of his Nigerian roots and talked about them in an interview with model and actress Jourdan Dunn for UK Vogue.
AJ may have been partly made by Watford, but the nine months he spent as a child at a boarding school in Nigeria clearly left a lasting impression on the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight king.
AJ on school in Nigeria
He revealed: “Tough. No nonsense. You’re woken at five in the morning and if you don’t wake up, the teachers burst through the door. You go and fetch your water, shower, iron your clothes, and then school starts.”
Even now Joshua and his family remain very close to those roots, and he looks back with fondness with the time spent there during his formative years.
“That was really good. I’ve always known Africa as the motherland. Like, out in the world is England, but in my house is Nigeria. My parents are still very attached to their roots. That’s where they were born, that’s where their friends are.
“They’ve always travelled backwards and forwards. When I was 11, my mum set up a business there and we went, too.”
How Mike Tyson inspired AJ
Joshua also explained how and why he took up boxing. Initially it wasn’t with the dream of winning titles – he just didn’t want to be a “skinny kid” any more. And former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson gave him added inspiration.
He said: “When I moved from Watford into London, I started chilling with my cousin, and he was boxing at the time. I was driving, so I’d take him to the gym. I was doing weights, banging up my triceps. Then after a little while, my cousin gave me some shorts and boots and taught me how to wrap my hand.
“Then I discovered Mike Tyson. I saw this kid who had been about 13-years-old getting into a whole heap of trouble, from a bad background, where you’re deemed the worst in society, who became one of the most praised champions that the world has ever seen, all through hard work and discipline.
“I felt like I could do the same thing. So I took boxing a little bit more serious.”
Joshua is currently preparing for his next fight – which is likely to be a defence of his titles against Ukrainian superstar and former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk. That bout may be signed this week and is likely to take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September.