Anthony Joshua: I want to defend my belts in Nigeria - TELEGRAPH UK
Anthony Joshua has revealed his desire to defend his world heavyweight title belts one day in Nigeria, following his rematch win over Andy Ruiz Jnr in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.
Joshua’s immediate plans are expected to be a return to London – possibly at the home of Tottenham Hotspur – to defend his titles against either the Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev or the Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, but his promoter, Eddie Hearn, has received numerous offers to stage future bouts elsewhere, including Africa.
The 30-year-old Joshua, from Watford, said he began to dream of a fight in Nigeria – which would be the first world championship heavyweight fight on the continent outside South Africa since greats Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fought the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire in 1974 – after a visit to the country this year.
Joshua said: “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.
“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.” He added: “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 the fighter made a bid to represent the country at the 2008 Olympics, only to be turned down by boxing officials. The country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, sent a congratulatory message to Joshua, in which he said: “The downfall of a man is truly not the end of his life.
“There’s always another, and better day. This is a lesson we must all learn from you as a country.”
While a prospective bout in Nigeria remains a long-term ambition, Joshua revealed he had no intention of slackening off his training regime over Christmas.
He is expected to meet Pulev in a mandatory International Boxing Federation title defence in April or May before moving on to take another commitment – possibly against Usyk in a defence of the World Boxing Organisation crown – later in 2020.
Joshua added: “Five months from now, the belts go in the air and I have to defend them again.
“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.”
Hearn told The Daily Telegraph: “The plan is to maintain the belts, so we will have to have conversations this week with the IBF and the WBO to see who goes first.
“It’s our understanding that the IBF mandatory comes first, which is Pulev, so realistically it is Pulev and then Usyk in that order, with Dereck Chisora fighting Usyk in February or March and then AJ [Joshua] fighting the winner.”
Boxing fans are craving a mega-fight to unify the final belt, held by the American Deontay Wilder, who is expected to defend the World Boxing Council crown against another Briton, Tyson Fury, in Las Vegas on Feb 22.
The unification fight for the No 1 position in the division, could take place very late next year.
“Anthony always wants the undisputed fight and obviously that’s the [long-term] plan, but that’s not available in the short term,” added Hearn. “But it’s now onwards and upwards for the AJ journey.”