Editor's note: Barely two weeks after British boxer Anthony Joshua lost his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles to Mexican-American challenger Ruiz, Legit.ng's contributor Arinze Esomnofu pens an op-ed, as he charges Joshua to make amends after his defeat and reclaim his belts.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Legit.ng.
Don't cry for me dear fans, I am Anthony Joshua, AJ - your champion reminding you that to be human is to fall. To be human, it seems, is to fall and wonder what went wrong? But a champion in defeat, is humble and, planning to rise again, taps into heights of his or her skill that was previously unattainable - dear fans, to be a champion, one must not let success get to the head and mustn't let defeat get to the heart.
After my fight with Andy Ruiz Jr., I saw the jokes - the jokes about visiting Nigerian government officials being bad omen; the jokes about my friend, the rapper Drake (the now infamous Drake curse); the jokes about my boxing skills being overrated, the jokes about the match being fixed, the jokes about Ruiz’s body size, jokes everywhere! They came with the speed of light, each of them reminding me of the need for a break away from the online space. But before I did that, I had to publicize the goodwill I had towards Ruiz. I hailed his victory, I hailed his determination. Now I turn towards you, the viewers, the fans, the jokers.
Don't cry for me dear fans, like all my fights that I do come out victorious, I entered that ring in Madison Square Garden in high spirits. And yes I took the Naija vibe or you can call it the Naija survival instinct with me as Burna Boy’s Ye, played on as I made the walk to the center of the ring. Even before the imposing baritone of the Nigerian artiste hit its height, in my head, I pictured the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, whose revolution is one to inspire for many generations. Amidst the cheers and razzmatazz, I had just one aim: to defeat Ruiz. Why then, didn’t I? Why did I lose in such a way? Honestly, I don't know, but I will tell you what I do know.
Perhaps it's over confidence in my own ability and failure to study carefully my opponent's ability - his strength, his weakness. Was it placing too much confidence in fufu meal and okro soup and forgetting there is a meal called 'Tacos' in Mexico that can give our Eba and fufu every run for it's money.
Perhaps it's fight I had tagged a walkover in my mind, something I shouldn't have. Well, you all saw the outcome.
But I tell you what, there is a Ruiz jnr in all of our lives. There is always that one task we feel it's the easiest of them all and we often do procrastinate on getting it done, and then it comes to hurt us, maybe like mine did in the seventh round.
Don't cry for me dear fans, contrary to popular belief, Ruiz wasn’t there to make up the numbers, (fighters who have fallen to the strike of my fists). He was there to conquer, and the spirits of the game favored his dedication over mine. And at Madison garden, the now famous Mexican showed he wanted the fame and glamour of heavyweight boxing more than I did, for he fought, as a Twitter user said, “as if he needed to win to get out of a Mexican dr*g cartel”.
Once again, I will applaud him. For in his victory, Ruiz, although lightheartedly, started an important conversation about the body. Wasn’t I Anthony Joshua, the good looking man who ladies begged for selfies whenever I took a walk around London? Wasn’t I Anthony Joshua who the members of the menfolk wanted to look like? Wasn’t I Anthony Joshua who had posed for a picture with my friend, the football great Cristiano Ronaldo, and people conjectured that I appeared fitter than him. Yet, Ruiz, whose belly looked as that of Mr. Ibu, a quite funny actor from Nigeria, had defeated me. It went further to show that the body is more than just flesh, it is the physical compartment of the soul. Whereas nourishing the body physically was good, it was great even to know that when you put your heart and soul in the right frame, your body will agree with. Many sportsmen have been, pardon the word, overweight. But not in a long time. Ruiz sparked up a conversation and even though it wasn’t intentional, he should be applauded.
To be black is to be excellent, to come from usually an inept place, and rise. I have sat at the feet of the greats. I have listened to their own words. I have dined with them, have smiled as words worth more than diamonds slipped through their mouths filled with food. So, I know. I know what to do to get myself back in the game, to the top. Maybe this temporary fall was what I needed to tap into greater powers of my skill – it surely is.
Once, the great Muhammad Ali was asked why he wanted immortality so bad. In the gingerly inflection of his voice, the man spoke. He replied simply: “because I want to live forever” After that fight, I have found myself often saying, me too. Me too. I want to live forever, and that can only be achieved by getting up stronger after a fall. It would undoubtedly be harder when it is your first fall. But there’s no doubt in my heart, not the tiniest, that I’m up to the task.
A rematch in the UK in November and I’m one hundred percent positive that I’ll deliver and get the IBF, WBA and WBO titles back and once again be the powerful AJ that you all love.
Arinze Esomnofu is a Nigerian media professional, content editor and a freelance journalist.
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