Anthony Joshua has confirmed he will not take the knee in the ring before he defends his world heavyweight titles against Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night. He stressed the importance of the gesture but said he is “trying to do more tangible things” by setting up an initiative to support black British culture.
Six months ago, in his home town of Watford, Joshua spoke powerfully at a Black Lives Matter protest against racism. “The virus has been declared a pandemic,” he said in June. “This is out of control. And I’m not talking about Covid-19. The virus I’m talking about is called racism. We stand united against a virus which has been instrumental in taking lives of the young, old, rich, poor; a virus which is unapologetic and spreads across all sectors.”
When asked if he would take the knee before the opening bell against Pulev, Joshua said: “Good question. No, I won’t take the knee. I’m trying to do more tangible things. What we’re trying to do is create a union to support British culture. That’s important – to showcase people from the Afro-Caribbean community as valuable members of British society. I think that’s more important. That’s what we’re working on at the minute. Different athletes, different people, different places. So taking a knee is important – 100%. But, personally, I’m doing something different.”
Joshua said work had already begun. “I’ve employed someone who is actually working on it. It’s a difficult task but hopefully it comes to fruition and it’s really only to do positive things in the Great British environment. There’re sometimes issues with stigma and stereotypes. So it’s to showcase NHS workers, architects, athletes and be positive for everyone in the community. We’ve created a deck, a website, and we’re doing foundational things with grassroots charities.
“I can talk to you about boxing but not about certain issues in the world, I’m not a full-time activist so I’m more than likely to slip up here and there. So what I would like to do is to team up with charities who deal with these things day in and day out and support their causes.”
The IBF, WBA and WBO world champion is aware of the stand taken against racism by black British athletes, led by Lewis Hamilton, and he promised to talk more about his plans to help combat racism through positive action after his fight against Pulev.