Anthony Joshua Aims at Title Defence in Nigeria

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Femi Solaja with agency reports

With his affinity to Nigeria still very strong, World Heavyweight boxing champion, Anthony Joshua, has confirmed his desire to defend his title in the country if possible.

The IBF, WBO and WBA champion recovered from a devastating upset in his first fight against the Mexican-American to reclaim the belts via a wide unanimous decision in Saudi Arabia.

Joshua, who hails from Sagamu, Ogun State and even visited the country two months before the celebrated rematch against Andy Ruiz Jnr last Saturday in Saudi Arabia is keen to bring the first world heavyweight title fight to the continent since the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in 1974 in Zaire now Congo Democratic Republic.

It was at the bout in the East Central nation that legendary Mohammed Ali reclaimed his world title belt of George Foreman after a round nine knockout.

Promoter Eddie Hearn, has received numerous offers to stage Joshua’s next fight. However, with the Briton likely to be forced to face his mandatory challenger with the IBF, Kubrat Pulev, a London homecoming fight remains a more immediate probability.

“People had been telling me I should go back for ages. It was crazy because they don’t have 24-hour electricity but they still know me and support me,” Joshua said.

“I went to the ghettos of the ghettos where it’s not all about egos and beef, it’s about people who are hungry to survive.

“It was one of the best things I’ve done. Africa’s rooting for me for sure, so I would definitely love to fight out there.”

Joshua’s parents are both of Nigerian descent and he actually attempted to represent the country at the 2008 Olympics.

But in the meantime, he insisted he’s not taking his eyes off the present after the lessons learned in his first fight against Ruiz.

“Five months from now, the belts go in the air and I have to defend them again,” Joshua said.

“I am only the champion for months again, so I can’t get too caught up in the moment and have to stay focused on the task at hand, which is not staying undefeated any more, but staying champion for as long as possible.”

Meanwhile, the two-time World Boxing Heavyweight champion, Joshua has been given a 180 day ultimatum to defend one of the four titles he regained after his defeat of Andy Ruiz Jr on Saturday night.

The titles he regained are WBO, IBF, WBA, and IBO. The WBO president, Paco Valcárcel was quick to tweet that mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk must receive a title shot within 180 days.

Oleksandr Usyk, Ukrainian pound-for-pound star watched from ringside at the Diriyah Arena and Joshua welcomed a showdown with him.

Usyk has joined the top division after becoming undisputed cruiserweight champion.

But the immediate reaction of Joshua is: “In 180 days? Let’s rock and roll mate.”

“No problem,” he added. But another possible fight is IBF mandatory title defences with Deontay Wilder.

On the other hand, Ruiz Jr called for a third fight, but promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed Joshua will fulfil his title obligations, with the IBF also likely to order a title defence against their mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.

“We’ll have to speak to the governing bodies, see who goes first, and then deal with that. Anthony will have a nice Christmas and a holiday. We’ll work behind the scenes.”

Usyk could be made to wait for his guaranteed WBO title fight as the IBF have suggested their mandatory must come first for Joshua and Britain’s Derek Chisora who has been holding talks over a fight with the Olympic gold medallist.