Anthony Joshua walkout song / ring walk: 'Fight to Win' by Femi Kuti
To say, "boxing is a tough sport," is more than a bit of an understatement.
There's a reason why prizefighters get handsomely compensated for the work they do both in and out of the ring. It's not only grueling physically, but the "Sweet Science" can be mentally scarring as well. It takes a very special individual indeed to put oneself through the physical and mental rigors of training camp; all in preparation for the looming dangers of a professional fight in front of thousands of critical and unforgiving spectators, who pay their hard-earned money to see someone get hurt...all in the name of entertainment.
On June 1st, 2019, Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua not only suffered his first professional defeat; He was humiliated in front of a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden...the venue most commonly known as the "Mecca of Boxing".
It was supposed to be Joshua's "special night". It was the 29-year-old champion's "coming out" party in America. But in the theater of the unexpected that is the professional sport of boxing, AJ was not only beaten by an unlikely adversary; he was beaten up by an interim fighter named Andy Ruiz Jr.
So what did this humbled prizefighter do to celebrate his 30th birthday? He started another grueling training camp in preparation for another meeting with the man who knocked him out as the entire boxing world watched.
Suffice it to say, Anthony Joshua had much "soul searching" to do before entering the ring once again.
"When I went to Nigeria, I met Femi Kuti," AJ humbly stated during the post-fight press conference for Joshua/Ruiz 2. "
"And more so than his music, the conversation he gave me...He sat me down and he spoke to me about the good things in Nigeria, about some of the issues in Nigeria, and when I went back (to Britain) I listened to some of his music."
"That song 'Fight to Win' really has deep meaning."
Indeed. The thoughtful anthem talks about the struggles many face on a daily basis in Nigeria, which go unnoticed or without the kind of compensation that Joshua has grown accustomed to receiving for his efforts. So to say the heartfelt tune inspired Anthony Joshua during his preparation for battle is another massive understatement.
"No matter how many years it will take
No matter how many (Come on, come on) years it will take
(Fight to win)
No matter how many years it will take
(Fight to win)
We will fight to win"
- 'Fight to Win' by Femi Kuti, 2001
The song became a battle cry for the seemingly broken former champion during camp. So much so that he decided to have it played over the Diriyah Arena's PA while he made his slow march to the ring on December 7th.
The fighter of Nigerian descent talks about the decision to play Femi Kuti's battle hymn while marching to the ring for Joshua vs Ruiz 2.
"When I was sparring...I'm one of those guys that just puts a song on repeat. It's quite annoying for everyone else, but I'm a simple kind of guy so I was just repeating that song on a loop."
"And so what I wanted to do was just re-create that same environment that I had in training so that I'm comfortable going into the ring and it's not new to me."
The song obviously placed AJ in a positive frame of mind, because the end result was a boxing masterclass and a decisive victory over Andy Ruiz Jr. Although Joshua has put forth many impressive performances in the ring, his second effort against the man who stopped him just six months prior may have been his finest.
One could say that the British born fighter exorcised his boxing demons with the victory.
We'll see how the now two-time world champion handles adversity both in and out of the ring from this point forward.