Wild celebrations erupted at the makeshift open-air viewing centre in Sagamu, Ogun State, after Anthony Joshua knocked Wladimir Klitschko out in the 11th round to win the world heavyweight title fight at Wembley on Saturday, according to ESPN.
One over-enthusiastic fan knocked over the projector from which the game was streaming and the screen went blank.
The Majority Leader of the Ogun State House of Assembly Yinka Mafe could not hold back the emotions as he raised arms pumping in unison with the street urchins who had also gathered to cheer on their son to victory.
Adedamola Joshua, the boxer’s uncle, was almost in tears as he hurriedly made his way out of the venue, almost smothered by congratulatory hugs and handshakes.
“This is a miracle,” the elder Joshua told ESPN. “I was so scared when he (Joshua) went down, I thought it was over. But he showed strength and fought to come back and when he got past that, I knew he would win.”
Kayode Segun-Okeowo, the Sagamu Youth President, whose organisation put the viewing event together, was more confident than most, but had lost his voice by the end. Before the fight he had no doubts who the victory would go to. He said, “Joshua will win. Klitschko cannot withstand him.”
Such was the outpouring of support that almost every punch Joshua threw drew cheers, and every hit he took led to collective wincing and groaning.
Joshua’s father (Robert) is the grandson of one of Sagamu’s greatest men. Their late patriarch Omo-Oba Daniel Adebambo Joshua, who was born in 1882, was one of the first to engage in trade with Europeans in the early 19th century.
He was also a senior member of staff of UAC, and with foresight uncommon at the time, gradually bought up a huge spread of land holdings covering almost half the town, making him not only one of the most educated men in the region at the time, but also one of the wealthiest.
This meant that although he had 12 wives and many children, he could still afford to send his children to school abroad. It was while studying in the United Kingdom that one of his sons met and married an Irish woman.
Adedamola tells a story of how AJ’s grandfather was involved in a scuffle while in the UK with three white men who questioned his right to marry a white woman.
“That was in 1952. They insulted him, telling him he had no right to marry a white woman. He beat all three of them up. I’m sure that’s where Anthony’s fighting skills come from.”
AJ’s father Jonathan is one product of that union. But such are his ties to his roots that he came back home to Sagamu to find a wife, Joshua’s mother Yeta.
Adebambo Joshua’s respect among the people of Sagamu comes not just from the wealth he acquired, but also for his intelligence and generosity. As a Christian and chairman of the Christ African Church, Baba Josh donated some of his plots of land to the Christ African Church, the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church and even a mosque. The Joshua Hall at the Sagamu Mosque is the only such hall within a Muslim complex carrying a Christian name.
Until Saturday, very few people in Sagamu knew that AJ was one of theirs. It was a gap the youth congress felt they needed to close.
On the morning of the fight, they organised a match around the town wearing T-shirts adorned with a picture of AJ. They started from his great grandfather’s house on Cinema Street (where Baba Josh built the first cinema in the region, which still stands) and ended up at the Epele Palace.