Anthony Joshua lost his world titles in devastating fashion on June 1st of 2019. The defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. was a firm reality check for the Olympic gold medalist.
Dusting himself, AJ regained his position months later. But in between, he would make the decision to visit his homeland in Nigeria.
Joshua chose the moment he was no longer a title-holder for the first time in three years as the time to go back after leaving as a child.
During an interview on Apple’s ‘Songs for Life’ recently, the 30-year-old explained why.
“When I went to Nigeria the first time in maybe 17 years, I went there as a non-champion. And it was fine to go back, but people say, “Why did you come back as a non-champion?” I say, “Because you respect me as a person whether I have the belts or not. Don’t ever judge me for that. You respect me first,” said Joshua.
“So that was my message as well and it was just the right time. When you’re winning, everyone wants a piece of you. When I had lost, I had more time to do what I wanted to do.
“So it was just a time to go back and see family or friends.
Previously, Anthony Joshua had visited Nigeria for six months when he was just eleven.
“So what happened I think where parents find it difficult is that let’s say you’re earning a thousand pounds a month in the UK. But rather than just getting the best things here in the UK and establishing yourself, there’ll be a situation where they’re still trying to build back home.
“So there was going back and forth. So my mum wanted to go back and do some business there. So what I thought was a holiday was actually me going to school.
“So that’s just the way it is in a lot of these communities where it’s home to my mum, but for me, I remember just crying, walking down this long stretch of about 300 meters into boarding school. A complete culture shock.
“And when I say culture shock is because of the way of the Nigerians. When you land at Nigerian Airport, you know you’re in Nigeria. You know you’re on your own. No police can save you. I mean, you got to make sure you’ve got your people, you know who you’re dealing with, someone’s coming to pick you up, that type of vibe.
“So when I got there, it was just a massive culture shock that this isn’t a territory I’m familiar with. So I just had to pick it up quickly and I settled in quick.
“And before I know it, I was back in the UK because my mum’s business didn’t go to plan. And here we are, again, we’re back to the estate with my friends.
“I’ve just got a bit more of a Nigerian accent behind me now. Yeah, it was a good experience. And that was the last time I went since last year and this time I went back as a champion.
“So it was important. I took my belts out there, connected with the people. So yeah, it means a lot that we went there. My cousin went there. My son went there for the first time, stuff like that. So it was good.”
On how much his family has supported him over the years, Joshua added: “Yeah, dad’s more the inspiration as such. Mum’s more loving, nurturing, son can do no wrong.
“So when I was getting in trouble, remember people, my aunties might call my mom, “You need to speak to your son. He’s doing this. He’s doing that.”
“But mum would always have my back.
“Dad was more the inspiration, the motorbikes, chain, Rasta, Big Josh. They called him Big Josh in the area. So he was more the inspirational figure,” concluded the four-belt ruler.
Songs For Life with Anthony Joshua aired on Apple Music and is available on demand at apple.co/_SongsForLife