Titans in Africa

Few anticipated the waves made by the undersubscribed bout fought in Los Angeles on December 1st. Some did – the inner circles of team Wilder and team Fury, and those who pay attention to be afforded a glimpse of destiny.

The sporting world is now catching up with a drama that has been building for years. Some would say the grand story began after Tyson Fury beat the monopolistic Klitschkos in Germany, returning home to the public apathy to his gallant victory. It was a cold mirror that raised unreconciled pains of recent bereavement and a miscarriage, anesthetised with gallons of alcohol and lines of drugs – jeopardising his license indefinitely.

Others might look further back to the occasion an Olympic champion in waiting was humbled by Fury’s prowess during a sparring session, a day that still leaves Anthony Joshua’s corner wincing. …All the while a third, older, man, Deontay Wilder, was forging his way, toppling challengers in reaching out toward his destiny. A destiny he shares with both Fury and Joshua.

Since Wilder v Fury, many commentators have changed tact and proclaimed Fury’s brilliance. Fury, Wilder, Joshua have been spoken in the same unequivocal breath by those inspired by the recent Los Angeles bout. Stand back and listen, and the names rattle like a game of rock-paper-scissors. Will the rematch happen; who will Joshua fight first; when; where?

We are facing a scenario unprecedented in sporting history. Three undefeated heavyweight ‘world champions’ all approaching their zenith. So why is no-one treating these Titans with the respect they deserve by investing in a proposal worthy of their potential and their destiny?

Destiny is the object that travels in the slipstream of our history. We might catch a glimpse of it like a lead-out rider spots the helmet of the sprinter over his shoulder. We sense it is there – it feels familiar – but we can’t see its face.

We owe our destiny to those who have gone before. Our fathers and our forefathers. Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, an Egba from Ogun State, is a Titan conscious of his roots. He wears his allegiance, and guiding force, on his right sleeve. His triumphs have partly inspired a resurgence in Nigeria’s domestic boxing scene, which had been in the doldrums since the Nation’s independence. Boxing was, at one time, Nigeria’s national sport. Joshua represented Great Britain in the 2012 Olympic games. In the UK he is a media starlet, but only a Nigerian has the eyes to see his stars of destiny; that he will return to Nigeria as its most famous prodigal son. The most pertinent question is, who will he draw with him?

When Deontay Leshun Wilder posted a breakdown of his ethnicity on Twitter last year, it shed light on the great cloaks and masks he wears for his ring walks. Wilder is descended from the former Kingdom of Benin, which stretched from modern-day Cameroon up to Togo. Born in Alabama, Wilder’s spirit remains connected to the lands of his ancestors – he has a reputation for reminding the world of the unhealed struggles and humiliation of a great people. This Oba of Alabama was given the name Deontay, Dios of Zeus; Zeus god of Thunder.

Tyson Luke Fury was born prematurely weighing 1lb and resuscitated by his father on a day of a mighty thunderstorm. Today he is a man who walks in his faith, proud of the lineage of Irish travellers from which his family come. Throughout his life, the self-styled Gypsy King has always represented what it means to win against the odds. If Tyson Fury’s way of life seems unplanned, then perhaps we can surmise that his life is unfurling according to a divine plan? His calling was revealed at his first breath, as if an Angel traveled to the precious moment when the tiny son was cradled in the arms of his father, John, and whispered, Tyson. He was named in honour of the most efficacious boxer of the era, one who compressed and channeled anger’s energy – it is an exquisite irony that Tyson Fury’s compassion and heart-led courage is already outshining the former champion, his namesake. Not even the Angel could have foreseen this potential:

FURY v WILDER // 14th September 2019

RAINSTORM IN RIVERS // Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium

WILDER v JOSHUA // 21st September 2019

THUNDER IN J-TOWN // Jos International Stadium

JOSHUA v FURY // 28th September 2019

LIGHTNING IN LAGOS // National Stadium Lagos

In this tripodal format Fury v Wilder v Joshua would inspire the attention of the world. Besides being the greatest in boxing history, the combined revenue of this proposed tripleheader has the potential to equate to half that of the annual UEFA Champions League, or half that generated by the quadrennial Olympics. Besides allowing for any buy-out clauses to be easily settled, what a responsibility this unprecedented purse would bestow upon these Titans.

At a recent press conference, Fury suggested that the $50m Joshua allegedly snubbed when offered a fight by Wilder was enough to change the fortunes of a small country. This might have been far-fetched, and even by the standards of Nigeria’s wealth, circa. $2bn represents less than a percent of the outflow experience by Nigeria since the three boxers were born. And yet, if these Titans agreed to distribute to three causes – remediation (Delta), infrastructure (Middle Belt), and housing (Lagos) – it would send a deafening signal to Nigeria’s detractors.

Observers know that capital earmarked for similar allocation in Nigeria does not reach its purpose. For this reason, a tripleheader would require seminal transparency – especially in times of financial instability. Thankfully, we have the means to deliver this by utilising distributed ledgers. If the event’s revenue was directing toward defined and actionable solution-driven projects, it would also offer the Titans a transformational interest even more significant than their sporting career once they step away from fighting – as well as elevating the perceived trust that is currently refraining world-class technology solutions being deployed in the region. Perhaps the Rt. Hon. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike (Governor of Rivers State), Rt. Hon. Simon Lagon (Governor of Plateau State), and Rt. Hon. Akinwunmi Ambode (Governor of Lagos State) would bestow upon the Titans the Freedom of the Cities to mark such a lifetime commitment.

For Nigerians, these days are troubling. The exhaustion of an army facing weaponised warpedness is well known. For at least one election cycle the country has been treading water and still clings to the paused breath observance of oil price – priced in a foreign currency and determined by factors beyond its influence. Meanwhile, there is a vibrant demographic unparalleled in the world. Bursting with innovation and facing communal demoralisation that has led those with means to emigrate, and those without trapped by a daily battle to survive.

In mobilising efforts around an idea, this September, Fury, Wilder, and, especially, Joshua have the opportunity to draw a line in the sand of Nigeria’s plight and international derision. Their combined presence has the potential to galvanize a country, and bottle the transformational power in a three-act rendition of a sport that traces its origin to Sumer.

Rainstorm in Rivers; Thunder in J-Town; Lightning in Lagos – is more than belts. It is more than broadcasting contracts coordinated by the old guard of Warren, Finkle, and Hearns – it is the intrinsic destiny of the Titans. It is the helmet that’s been bobbing in their peripheral vision all their lives. They are warriors, sportsmen, fathers in their own right. Now the world’s eyes are upon them, and it is time for them to raise their sight.

If Joshua and Wilder choose to repatriate their energies to the land of their ancestors, imagine what multitudes of Nigerians who live their best in London, New York, and Guangzhou might recognise a future back in Nigeria. It has become vogue to discuss the repatriation of sacred objects to Edo State, for instance. Even this weekend such a story was published in the Financial Times. In November, for the first time in the noble history of the Benin Royal Family, the Oba of Benin traveled from his palace to receive a foreign visitor in Abuja. Through the lens of time, this stained a low-water mark in Nigeria’s native dignity. It proved that Nigeria will not restore this dignity by prising objects displayed in cabinets for a century, but by showcasing what its culture is capable of, that way rebuilding pride in Nigeria’s citizenry.

Boxing pundits expect sporadic bouts to take place in the sanitised stadia of weekly observances. But now the gauntlet has now been laid at the feet of the Titans to fight in quick succession in Nigeria. The world is watching. They, the Titans, have the power to transcend the antagonism of sponsors, promoters, and broadcasters. They will decide. The world will know. There will be no ambiguity. And maybe, just maybe, they will show a world that’s unraveling to fractionations, a better way. …Nine months is enough time to conceive new life and for it to be delivered. There is nothing important that cannot be delivered within the same length of time.

The Oba, the King, the Star need only look to Muhammad Ali. He is looking down upon them – his successors – fondly. Perhaps he is subtly orchestrating this event? Never has a bout surpassed the lore of the Rumble in the Jungle. Maybe the belt given to the next boxing legend has hung over Africa since that memorable night in Kinshasa. Waiting, in suspense, for forty-four years, for its echo to reach the shores of an auspicious moment, the cusp of a renewed age.

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