CELEBRATING JOSHUA: Four ‘Foreign’ Nigerian-Born World Heavyweight Boxing Champions

CELEBRATING JOSHUA: Four ‘Foreign’ Nigerian-Born World Heavyweight Boxing Champions

Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua on Saturday, April 9, won his 16th professional fight and became the International Boxing Federation world heavyweight champion with a second round knocout of defending champion Charles Martin.

This followed Joshua’s exploits at the 2012 Olympics in London under the flag of Britain.

Joshua is not the only Nigerian-born world heavyweight boxing champion to have represented another country or taken up nationality of another nation.

Completesportsnigeria.com’s presents the other Nigerian boxers who also won world titles under other countrries’ flags…

Adopted Country: England
Date of Birth: 12 October 1965

Boxing Record
Total Fights: 55
Wins: 50
Wins by KO: 30
Losses: 4
Draws: 1

Henry Akinwande was born of Nigerian parents in London, England and started his career as an Amateur boxer. He represented Great Britain in the heavyweight division at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

Akinwande made his professional debut in 1989 against Carlton Headley in London and impressively claimed victory in his first 18 bouts.

In 1996 the boxer faced American Jeremy Williams for the WBO World Heavyweight title which had been vacated by Riddick Bowe, a fight which Akinwande won via a 3rd round stoppage. Akinwande went on to defend the belt twice, with victories over Russian Alexander Zolkin by TKO and Briton Scott Welch.

The WBO belt was then vacated so that Akinwande could pursue a challenge to WBC champion Lennox Lewis in 1997. Akinwande however lost the fight.

A proposed challenge to Evander Holyfield for the WBA belt in 1998 was later abandoned after Akinwande tested positive for hepatitis B. This meant a lengthy spell of recovery for him but he was finally cleared to return to the ring in 1999.

Akinwande won his next eight fights against Orlin Norris and Maurice Harris, as well as Peter McNeeley, Kenny Craven,Russel Chasteen, Reynaldo Minus, Chris Sirengoand Najee Shaheed.

In 2001 Henry Akinwande faced Oliver McCall in a much publicised fight but after a promising start, the Nigerian-born boxer eventually lost.

Akinwande recovered from this to win his next nine bouts, including notable victories against Timo Hoffman, Ed Mahone, Cisse Salif and Anton Nel, all for the IBF Intercontinental Title, as well as Curt Paige, Sam Ubokane, Raman Sukhaterin, Alexander Vasiliev and Tipton Walker.

Akinwande, never hiding his Nigerian heritage, brought one of his title fights to Calabar in 2004, defeating South Africa’s Anton Nel via a 10th round technical knockout at the UJ Esuene stadium.

In late 2006 he dropped a split decision to Oleg Platov, a bout in which Akinwande received a point deduction in eighth round for holding, and Platov received a point deduction in 9th for head butt.

After that fight he won another fight against Andriy Oleinyk in 2007 before losing to top prospect Ondřej Pála from the Czech Republic by unanimous decision on 4 July 2008, which turned out to be his last fight.

Adopted Country: England
Date of Birth: 15 October 1989

Boxing Record
Total fights:16
Wins by KO:16
Losses: 0

Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua has Nigerian parents but fights under the British flag.

The boxer could well have become a footballer or an athlete but a suggestion by his cousin to take up boxing as a career was all that changed his destiny.

Joshua only on April 9, 2016 defeated Charles Martin to win the IBF World Heavyweight title, his first professional world title with a knockout in the second round.

Joshua thus becomes the current IBF heavyweight champion, and also holds the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles.

The Anglo-Nigerian won a gold medal in the Super Heavyweight division at the 2012 Olympics for Britain and was one of the recipients of the Member of British Empire (MBE) awards for service to boxing in early 2013.

Joshua’s immense boxing skills did not go unnoticed at the Amateur Boxing Championship in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2011 where he qualified for the 2012 Olympics, picking up a silver medal.

The boxer reportedly had even turned down £50,000 to become a professional boxer.

Joshua defeated Italian boxer Emanuelue Leo on his debut on 5 October, 2013 via a technical knockout in the first round of the main event of a card featuring Scott Quigg’s successful WBA super-bantamweight title defence against Yoandris Salinas.

On 12 September 2015, Joshua won the vacant Commonwealth Heavyweight title by stopping Gary Cornish in the first round at the O2 Arena. Cornish had been unbeaten in his previous 21 fights.

Joshua fought Dillian Whyte for the vacant British heavyweight title on 12 December 2015, whilst also defending his Commonwealth heavyweight title for the first time.

The two had previously fought within the amateur ranks in 2009 where Whyte had won. After surviving the first scare of his career in the second round, Joshua won the fight after initially shaking Whyte with a right hook.

Joshua is now the second British boxer, after James DeGale, to win both a gold medal at the Olympics and a world title by a major professional sanctioning body, as well as being the first British heavyweight to do so.

He is also only the second boxer in history, after Joe Frazier, to win a professional world heavyweight title while still reigning as the Olympic champion at the top weight.

The 26-year-old is immensely proud of his Nigerian heritage, proudly displaying the country’s map within the African map in the one big tattoo on his right arm.

Sports stars are almost always involved in one supposed vice or the other and Joshua has had his fair share of unwanted publicity.

In March 2011, Joshua was found with 8ozs of herbal cannabis hidden in a sports bag in his Mercedes Benz when police in London stopped him for a routine search. He was charged with possession with intent to supply a class B drug, an offence that carries a maximum 14-year sentence.

Joshua was suspended from GB boxing squad and was sentenced to a 12-month community order and 100 hours’ unpaid work after pleading guilty at crown court.

Date of Birth: 2 Febraury 1973
Adopted Country: United States of America

Boxing Record
Total fights: 20
Wins by KO:15
Losses: 0

Charles Ikemefula Ibeabuchi was clearly one of the best boxers with Nigeria heritage but his career has been enmeshed with crime and controversy.

Perhaps Ibeabuchi nicknamed ‘The President’ would have been better off as a military officer in the Nigerian army, a career he wanted to take up until he watched a heavyweight fight between James ‘Busta’ Douglas and Mike Tyson which the former won by a knockout in 1990.

That fight was the inspiration he needed to launch a career in the rings first as an amateur fighter before the leap to professional boxing.

Of note was his victory at amateur category over fellow Nigeria’s Duncan Dokiwari who won bronze at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Ibeabuchi emigrated to United States and moved to the Dallas area with his mother in 1993 and made his professional debut at heavyweight with a second round knockout of Ismael Garcia on October 13, 1994.

After winning 16 straight fights from the start of his career, he made a big jump in competition and fought undefeated prospect David Tua for the WBC International Heavyweight title on June 7, 1997. Tua was 27-0 and considered by many analysts to be ‘the next Mike Tyson’. But Ibeabuchi defeated Tua in one of the fiercest heavyweight bouts in history.

Aside from Tua, Ibeabuchi also defeated Chris Byrd in March 1999. Byrd was a 1992 Olympic silver medalist and who has a record of 26–0.

Ibeabuchi got himself into trouble some months after fighting Tua for abducting the 15-year-old son of his former girlfriend and slamming his car into a concrete pillar on Interstate 35 north of Austin, Texas.

According to the criminal complaint, the boy suffered ‘numerous injuries’ from the accident ‘and will never walk normally again’.

The courts concluded Ibeabuchi was trying to commit suicide, and he was sentenced to 120 days in jail after pleading guilty to false imprisonment. Ibeabuchi also paid a $500,000 civil settlement.

Ibeabuchi was again imprisoned in Las Vegas in July 1999 for sexual assaults.

Lodged at The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the previous year, Ibeabuchi phoned a local escort service and had a woman sent to his room. The 21-year-old woman said later she was there to strip and nothing else. She claimed Ibeabuchi attacked her in the walk-in closet after she demanded to be paid upfront.

The troubled boxer was released on bail and placed under house arrest, able to train and fight again until his trial. He was remanded after two more similar allegations surfaced from Arizona.

While incarcerated, Ibeabuchi earned three college degrees from Western Nevada Community College, in General Studies, Business, and Management. He also earned a paralegal certificate by correspondence from Blackstone Career Institute in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His Las Vegas conviction was overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2007 and he was expected to be released, but the lower courts abandoned the ruling.

In November 2015, he was released from the custody of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after completing his 16-year Nevada state prison sentence.

Ibeabuchi had hoped to fight his first comeback bout in the heavyweight division in the near future, but is currently waiting first to resolve his United States citizen and immigration status with USCIS.

In January this year (2016), his green card and citizenship papers were applied for in good standing and in order.

Sadly on Thursday, 7 April 2016, Ibeabuchi was arrested for allegedly violating conditions of his Arizona lifetime probation for the sexual assault case. The Maricopa County Adult Probation Department says Ibeabuchi failed to begin a treatment programme.

Date of Birth: 27 August 1971
Adopted Country: England

Boxing Record
Total fights :53
Wins: 49
Wins by KO: 43
Losses: 4

Herbie Hide (Herbie coined from the name Herbert) is a former professional boxer who held the WBO heavyweight title twice. He is best known for his victories over Michael Bentt and Tony Tucker.

Hide was born to Nigerian parents in Amauzari, Imo State in Nigeria but he moved to England as a young boy.

Hide has fought for most of his career at heavyweight, but later in his career decided to take a step down to cruiserweight. He is known as The Dancing Destroyer and has had a successful career, rising to domestic success at a very young age for a heavyweight. Hide has twice won the lesser regarded (at the time) WBO heavyweight title.

His career began in 1989 with a second round win and he racked up a total of 25 successive wins, all but one inside the distance. His level of opposition was respectable and included fighters such as Jeff Lampkin and James Pritchard.

At 25-0 (24 kos), Hide challenged Michael Bentt for the WBO heavyweight title in March 1994 at Millwall Football Stadium, Millwall, London.

The inexperienced Bentt had won the title by knocking out the heavily favoured Tommy Morrison in one round. The fight made headlines after the two boxers scuffled and threw punches at a pre-fight meeting, whilst in the bout itself, Hide outboxed and knocked out Bentt in 7 rounds (who was then hospitalised and never fought again).

A year later, Hide defended his title against former undisputed champion Riddick Bowe.

Hide impressed with his courage, repeatedly picking himself off the canvas, before he was knocked out in the sixth round.

After his loss to Bowe, Hide fought twice in 1996, winning both by KO against Michael Murray and Frankie Swindell before earning another shot at the now-vacant WBO title in June 1997 against 38-year-old one-time IBF title holder Tony Tucker, despite Tucker losing three of his previous five fights.

Hide knocked out the overweight Tucker in two rounds. Hide defended his WBO title twice in 1998 with quick stoppages of late replacement cruiserweight clubfighter Damon Reed, and German Willi Fischer.

In June 1999 Hide faced Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, only the second world ranked fighter he had actually faced after Riddick Bowe. Hide, favoured to win at the time, was knocked out in two rounds.

Hide never featured as a main contender at heavyweight again, his only mildly notable wins coming against Joseph Chingangu (who also knocked Hide out in one of Hide’s many comebacks) and Alexander Vasiliev.

In 2006, Hide stepped down a weight division to a more natural weight division at cruiserweight. Since then he has won fourteen successive fights, most of which took place in Germany. Hide defeated Mikhail Nasyrov in December 2007 to win the WBC International cruiserweight title.

In November 2008, when Jonathan Banks dropped out of a WBO cruiserweight title clash at London’sExCel Arena with just four days notice, Hide was announced as a potential opponent for former champion Enzo Maccarinelli, for the vacant title.

This was despite Hide having fought just two weeks earlier, a victory against Lukasz Rusiewicz. He then fought in the Crusierweight Prizefighter tournament.

In the tournament, he defeated Welshman Wayne Brooks by unanimous decision, but was badly cut on the right eye in the process. He pulled out of the tournament to avoid losing his high WBC ranking due to the cut.

In December 2003, Hide was “attacked by a group of men” in a Norwich night club. This resulted in his subsequent arrest and conviction for “possession of an offensive weapon, a 10-inch kitchen knife,” for which he was fined £750.

Hide appeared at Norwich Crown Court, charged with rape, but was found not guilty on 20 July 2011 after “the prosecution offered no evidence.”

On 18 March 2012, a man in his 20s was fatally stabbed at Hide’s home. A suspect was arrested for murder in connection with the incident. Police said they believed Hide was not home at the time of the killing.

On 29 November 2013 Hide was sentenced to 22 months in prison for selling cocaine. He was targeted by the so-called “fake sheikh” also known as Mazher Mahmood, an undercover News of the World reporter.

The reporter ingratiated himself into Hide’s company and began hassling him for cocaine, despite the fact that there had never been any suggestion that Hide had been concerned with the supply of drugs.

A sad end to a promising start in the sport for Hide soon came. After an initial refusal, Herbie Hide eventually gave in and agreed to contact a drug dealer of his acquaintance to procure the drug. When he delivered the drug to the undercover reporter he was arrested and charged to court.


  • Anthony Joshua is certainly not Nigerian born. No?