Anthony Joshua has hit back at critics claiming he’s ‘racist’ following the speech he made at a Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday.
Wearing a black hoodie with the movement’s name on the front, the WBA, WBO and IBF world champion joined hundreds of others on the peaceful protest in his home town of Watford, while pictured on crutches and sporting a leg brace.
The unified heavyweight champion was then filmed at a park gathering, where he read a speech from a piece of paper and spoke out in the fight against racism.
The 30-year-old Sagamu Nigeria-born boxer read a speech from a friend Reece Campbell, who wasn’t present at the protests.
A brief snippet of the speech was taken out of context and uploaded to social media on Saturday, which showed Joshua speaking about racism as a ‘virus’, saying: ‘We need to be united in non-violent demonstration, show them where it hurts.
“Abstain from spending your money in their shops and economies, and invest in black-owned businesses.”
In a longer clip, Joshua had spoken of a need for ‘unity’ in communities and how the issues were “not black vs white, black vs Asian, black vs Indian” and thanked those ‘not from the heritage’ for coming together to support the Black Lives Matter cause.
Following backlash on social media, Joshua responded on Sunday evening with an image, that read: ‘If you think I’m a racist, go f*** yourself!
‘If you watch the full video, the speech was passed around for someone to read and I took the lead.
“I personally spoke from the heart about the Watford community, ideas of us personally investing seven figures to create unity and opportunities and adding change to the African/Caribbean community.
“Shops aren’t the issue here. Before you talk s***, you better boycott racism.”
In an earlier statement, Joshua addressed other criticisms of appearing to disobey social distancing rules while attending the protests.
He said: “I understand the concerns in regards to social distancing.
“However I hope those who are complaining about social distancing have the same energy about those gathering for a day at the beach (and) those going to the park for a picnic.”
Joshua attended the BLM protests following the death of African American George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, United States.
Police officer Derek Chauvin has since been charged with second degree murder after a video emerged showing him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while he laid on the floor in handcuffs.
His death has sparked a series of sometimes violent protests across the United States and demonstrations around the world.
Joshua went on to explain that the death of Floyd was the catalyst for the protests.
“But I know I’ve taken my street knowledge and put it into the corporate world and I’ve gained a lot of respect in that sense. So anyway, gang culture is done.
“So, where was I. We have to engage with the youth and put an end to black youth gang culture. This postcode war – how many houses do we own on that postcode that we’re fighting for?
“Let’s inject the vaccine. Every life matters – 100 per cent I agree with that. But that does include black lives and that’s why we’re here today.
“George Floyd – we’re all aware of his name – was the catalyst in a list that is already way, way, way too long.”
Joshua’s appearance on crutches also saw fans fear that the heavyweight boxer sustained a serious injury.
However, spokesperson for the 30-year-old confirmed to Sportsmail that his injury is not serious, saying: ‘Anthony felt a slight twinge in his knee whilst training.
“The brace Is a precautionary measure on the advice of physios. It will be further checked by his doctors but there is no immediate concern.”