It should have been Nigeria and not the United Kingdom that is celebrating the IBF world title won by Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua had his zeal to compete for Team Nigeria at the 2008 Beijing Olympics not been frustrated.
THISDAY can authoritatively report that Joshua who stopped Charles Martin in two rounds at London’s O2 Arena at the weekend to claim the IBF heavyweight title in only his 16th professional fight did everything to compete for Nigeria eight years ago but got frustrated by the national coaches at the time. He won gold for England at the London 2012 Olympic Games before winning the IBF title.
Los Angeles 1984 Olympian, Jeremiah Okorodudu, revealed to THISDAY wednesday that Joshua who was born in Watford to a Nigerian mother (Obafemi Martins) and a father of Nigerian and Irish descent (James McClean) would have become the first Nigerian boxer to win an Olympic gold medal had he not been allegedly frustrated by Obisia Nwankpa and Samson Aransiola. Nigeria’s quest for an Olympic gold medal remains a mirage.
“Joshua really wanted to represent Nigeria at the 2008 Olympics but Obisia Nwankpa and Samson Aransiola deprived him of the opportunity. But now Britain is enjoying what Nigeria should be celebrating,” Okorodudu observed yesterday.
Okorodudu said he was not surprised when Joshua said he valued his Olympic medal more than his IBF world title belt.
“Of course, he (Joshua) must appreciate the Olympic gold more than the world title belt considering the shabby way he was treated by Nigeria. Moreover, it is the dream of every boxer to win an Olympic gold before forging a professional career,” stressed Okorodudu.
But in a swift reaction to Okorodudu’s claim, Nwankpa insisted that he did not frustrate Joshua in his quest to represent Nigeria at the 2008 Olympics.
“His (Joshua) case is not the first. We’ve had similar cases like that before. Most of our athletes that live or were born abroad, anytime they want to represent Nigeria they do not go about it in the right way.
“Moreover, most of them have the belief that by virtue of living abroad they could just walk into the team without going through the normal selection trials. That is not acceptable,” stressed Nwankpa on why procedure must be followed in selecting athletes to represent Nigeria.
Joshua grew up for much of his early years in Nigeria and returned to the UK to join Kings Langley Secondary School.
Growing up on the Meriden Estate in Garston, Hertfordshire, Joshua was called ‘Femi’ by his friends and former teachers, due to his middle name ‘Oluwafemi’.
He excelled at football and athletics and broke the Year Nine 100m record with a time of 11.6 seconds.