CONSCIOUS: Boxer Anthony Joshua is proud of his African roots
IT’S GONNA BE a good year. Remember that Crucial Robbie track from back in the day, ‘Proud To Be Black’? What a great tune that is.
Remember how Robbie, in the verses, went through a litany of the people who make him ‘proud to be black’? “Muhammad Ali makes me proud to be black...” etc.
Well, Robbie needs to do an updated version of that tune and throw in “Anthony Joshua makes me proud to be black,” because for my money, nobody, absolutely nobody, makes you more proud to be black at the moment than Anthony Joshua.
To say that he has put the ‘pride’ back into ‘black’ would be appropriate. He’s not the only one. We have to give a big shout out to the NFL player Colin Kaepernick. He made us proud to be black by putting ‘black lives matter’ at the very centre of American football.
I suppose Anthony Joshua makes us proud to be black AND British. Look at the way he has conducted himself since repping Team GB in the London 2012 Olympics. And he’s conscious. Every minute, every hour and every punch.
He has been a credit to the nation in everything he does and says. In the way he carries himself. In the hard work that he endures to get himself into peak fitness, in order to do his job – which is to defeat his opponents or, if possible, knock their blocks off.
As every schoolboy knows, nobody lets you just sneak up on them and knock their block off. You can’t just walk into your classroom and knock the school bully’s head off. Believe me, I tried, and I’ve got a scar to prove it because the next man isn’t going to just stand there and let you disrespect him in front of hundreds of school mates in that way.
Especially if they are the same size as you and in the same class as you and all your other classmates are chanting ‘fight, fight, fight’ in the school playground and you can’t get out of it.
Especially as your opponent’s supporters are chanting “Ali-boom-bye-ay” or the English equivalent “Come on, man, knock Dotun’s block off”.
So AJ has got to be in his peak fitness to knock Wladimir Klitschko’s block off in Wembley Stadium this coming year. Every schoolboy knows that. That’s why he’s in the gym every day buffing himself up and making his six-pack look good.
Why do you think they call it Boxing Day? I bet AJ was back in that gym on December 26 after a 24-hour break to chill and hail up the mandem that he hasn’t linked up with in 364 due to all the hard work he’s been putting in, in order to knock his opponent’s block off before a fight goes the distance.
And, oh my, doesn’t that six-pack look good, ladies? It makes his opponents look like pub fighters.
But it’s not a beauty contest, it’s a gladiatorial contest. As are our lives every day. We go into the arena at school, at work and everywhere else and we have to engage in combat to the death with lions and sometimes our fellow gladiators in order to achieve a thumbs up. You gotta be fit, because in that arena only the fittest of the fittest of the fittest will survive and what Anthony Joshua is showing us is how to survive – with hard work and a certain dignity.
And let’s not forget consciousness. Who feels it knows it. Some of us will grudge his millions and feel like we should be earning that, too.
And maybe we should. Maybe we all should. But which one of us is prepared to put in the hard work. Which one of us is prepared to go through the hundreds of sparring round he goes through? And those 10- mile runs at five in the morning. Which one of us? We don’t have to be professional boxers to earn millions, but we do have to be prepared to do what Anthony Joshua does on a daily basis.
It’s not easy, but if you’re conscious, it’s easier. Being conscious adds an extra 10 per cent to your life. It adds a 10 per cent dividend to your willingness to strive for your ambitions. When you know who you are and where you’re coming from. When you understand that it’s not just you and that no man is an island but we are more than the sand on the seashore and that we’re more than numbers...
When you start being conscious in all these ways, there’s a certain spring in your step which wasn’t there before, and a certain eloquence of your intellect that seems to come out of nowhere and lifts you above the crowd. You stand out when you’re conscious. Whether you’re a rasta queen sporting a huge turban or you are a hip hop head giving it the old ‘as salaam alaikun’.
It is this consciousness that lifts Anthony Joshua and Lutalo Muhammad, the Team GB taekwando silver medal- list, a cut above their counterparts who think they don’t have to toast a libation to the ancestors for making them who they are. People like that will always fall short of greatness.
How can I be sure that Anthony Joshua is conscious? You only have to look at the tattoo on his huge bicep to see that he remembers where he comes from. It’s a map of the African continent. And more specifically, within that map of the African continent is, if I’m not mistaken, outlined the map of Nigeria.
Now, I know what you’re gonna say... there goes Dotun bigging up Nigeria again, when everybody knows that Anthony Joshua’s roots are in the Caribbean.
Well, yes, his direct roots may be in the Caribbean, but his heart is in Africa – that’s where he is really coming from. That’s where we’re ALL coming from. How refreshing it is to see the world heavyweight champion acknowledge that on his arm for everybody to see. Africa is where his power comes from. It’s where he gets his strength. That’s why his tattoo is where it is. And he’s sending out a message to every yute that, as Peter Tosh sang: “Don’t care where you come from, as long as you’re a black man, you’re an African.”
“The belt doesn’t represent me. It’s how you conduct yourself,” says AJ. That is what makes him special: he is not vainglorious. But his tattoo does represent him. It represents us all. And if he does manage to ‘wrestle’ the belts that the Ukrainian Klitschko has and unify the world title, it will be a phenomenal achievement that will put Africa back at the heart of boxing where it belongs.