Due to Anthony Joshua's successes, everyone in Sagamu, his parents' hometown identifies with him.
John F. Kennedy once said “victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan,” a maxim that has become very popular.
It made more sense to me after I watched thousands of Sagamu watch with keen interest the fight between Anthony Joshua and Carlos Takam on Saturday, October 28.
Pulse Sports were in Sagamu back in April just immediately after Joshua’s famous win against Wladimir Klitschko. Videos and photos of Sagamu indigenes watching the match and celebrating Joshua’s win went viral on social media.
So we headed to Sagamu to explore Joshua’s Nigerian roots for a documentary which you can watch at the end of this article.
For the documentary, we interviewed several members of his extended family, his great-grand uncles, cousins, a traditional ruler and anyone we could find with a connection to the Joshua family in Sagamu.
Six months later, we returned to Sagamu on the day of his fight against Carlos Takam to find out that Joshua's family has grown exponentially to include everyone in the town. Go to Sagamu, every random person walking the streets, have a personal Anthony Joshua relationship. You could almost draw a family tree, from Anthony Joshua, and it would include a newborn baby, born today.
For the fight against Klitschko in April, not less than a hundred people watched the bout at a viewing party organised by the Sagamu Youth Association.
But six months later, the Anthony Joshua bug had caught almost everyone in Sagamu. With his parents being from the Ogun State town, a Joshua fight day has become a big event in the town, everyone was rapt by the boxer.
Huge projectors were set up at a memorial hall (Babajosh Memorial Hall) built in honour of his great-grandfather, Adebambo Joshua.
At our hotel in Sagamu, the receptionist was inqusitive. As we filled our forms, and took our keys, he asked us: “What are you guys in Sagamu for?”
We responded with the magical name: “Anthony Joshua.”
That was our ticket to first class treatment, and 20 minutes of another Anthony Joshua-family-relationship story.
Hours before the fight, Sagamu indigenes gathered in their hundreds were entertained by dancers, music and free drinks supplied by a beer brand.
For the fight proper, the crowd grew from over a hundred to more than 2000 people. It was madness.
The chock-full hall was sealed off and a crowd twice as big as the one inside converged to watch on a screen outside.
They all impatiently watched the undercard fights, waiting for their own man, Joshua.
All of his appearances even before his fight was greeted with huge cheers. When he made his entrance to the ring with Wizkid’s Ojuelegba, they all lost it.
It was a surreal sight.
Every punch, dodge and point won by Joshua was cheered very loudly by the exuberant crowd. Even a very important Super Eagles match could not have drawn this kind of reaction from the people of Sagamu.
They shouted, cheered and cried tears of joy when he won, but why is Anthony Joshua so loved in Sagamu?
Everyone we interviewed from street hawkers to Okada riders to taxi men were all related to Joshua.
Teenagers, youths, adults and septuagenarians, everyone had a connection to the world heavyweight champion. During the acknowledgement speech, the youth president of Sagamu was called on stage to share some words of wisdom. Much of what he said was in Yoruba and everyone looked on excitedly, until he got to the close-up.
With one hand in the air he shouted: “Anthony Joshua is our youth!”
“Yes!” the crowd screamed!
“Anthony Joshua is our son!” Another round of “Yes!” greeted him.
“He is our brother, our family and a proud indigene of Sagamu!”
The 'Yes' that followed could be heard from every corner of Sagamu. Anthony Joshua was everything to everybody. Son, father, mother, sibling, ancestor, and boyfriend too.
That’s success, and so John F. Kennedy was right. It has 100 fathers and like we found out in Sagamu, even 100 families too.