Boxing world champion Anthony Joshua has received backlash for tweeting a picture of himself praying in a mosque after his training in a Dubai.
The IBF heavyweight title holder Joshua, 27, is not a Muslim, and has previously said he doesn’t follow any religion, but rather has an interest in them.
The British fighter tweeted a picture of him and two other men kneeling behind two copies of the Qoran inside a lavish looking Mosque in some rare downtime from training for his superfight with Wladimir Klitschko on April 29 at Wembley.
It was accompanied with the caption: ‘Besides luck, hard work and talent – prayer is a solid foundation.
‘It was nice to join my brother as he led through afternoon prayer.’
The picture was then subjected to vitriolic comments from people who claimed to be fans of the London superstar.
A man identifying as Terry Johnson called on the Prime Minister Theresa May to deport Joshua for his faith in a twisted Tweet, saying: ‘Get out of my country.’
Mark Warren tweeted his disgust at the notion Joshua was a Muslim, declaring he was no longer a supporter or a fan.
Users Lee Wooley and Matt C both said they would be supporting Klitchko, while a man calling himself Right Wing Roy said he would not watch Joshua fight again due to his tweet.
A number of others shared the strange opinion, but many boxing fans stood up for the heavyweight.
Naz Rashid said: ‘To all the people hating.
‘Muhammad Ali was a Muslim and the greatest of all time, do you guys hate him as well?’
In an interview last year ahead of his bought with Dominic Breazeale, Joshua said: ‘Prayer is a method practised from ancient days, so it’s very important for us to maintain a spiritual connection, something that people, gladiators would do years ago, so we’re just maintaining that routine.
‘I’m not going to dig anyone for their beliefs or anything like that, but I definitely feel religion is a big part of life, whether you believe in it or not, in everyone’s day-to-day life religion’s a big part.
‘Prayer and so on, and beliefs, is definitely important to me. I don’t have a preferred religion – I’d have to do research.
‘I was born a Christian but as I’ve grown into my own man I don’t attach myself to a religion – 100 per cent I have faith. Then it’s locking into what suits me.’
The thoughtful Joshua often dedicates time to educating himself through speaking to retired and more experienced fighters, and through watching their fights.
He so far has resisted many of the trappings that have tempted other elite fighters, something that can perhaps be attributed to his determination to build knowledge beyond boxing and to ‘not lose touch’.
‘Prayer is a form of meditation, isn’t it?’ he said. ‘
‘It’s laws of attraction, whatever you put out into the universe is what it receives, it’s just kind of putting your thoughts out into the universe.’