Old Students Association


Dick Tiger – Nigerian Boxing Legend

Date: August 18, 2014 Author: busari Categories: Nigeria

Dick Tiger CBE (born Richard Ihetu August 14, 1929 – December 14, 1971) was a boxer from Amaigbo, Nigeria, was a migrant fighter to Liverpool (and later to America). Tiger was a member of the Igbo ethnic group. Tiger was a talented boxer, commercial venturer, and Biafran rebel. His boxing career record was: Fought 81; Won 60; Lost 18; Drew 3.
Tiger developed a portfolio of investments before the outbreak of Nigeria’s civil war. Supporter of the Biafran secession, Tiger’s propaganda and financial support of this cause cost him much. Tiger was appointed CBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but he returned his insignia as a protest for what he perceived as a lack of support by Great Britain to the Biafran cause.


Excerpt from the GUARDIAN-07/ 18/2009
Boxing legend, Richard Dick ‘Tiger’ Ihetu, was perhaps, the greatest boxer Africa has produced. Apart from the titles he won inside the ring, Tiger inspired lots of Nigerians by laying a foundation, which to a large extent, produced great scholars for the country, especially for his home town, Amaigbo, in Nwangele Local Government Area of Imo State.
Before his death on December 14, 1971, Tiger had won several titles, including the World middleweight title and the light heavyweight championship belt. He was also named the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year for 1962 and 1965. But for members of his family, the greatest legacy Dick Tiger left behind was building a secondary school for the people of Amaigbo even at a time when the boxer had not thought of laying the foundation stone of his house in the village.
Born on August 14, 1929, in Amaigbo community in Imo State, the late Dick Tiger fought with everything at his disposal to put Nigeria’s name on the world map. He grew up in the commercial city of Aba, in the present day Abia State. When it became obvious that Tiger’s fighting skills were more than ordinary, he took to boxing and soon established himself as champion of the amateur ranks. As his fame started to spread, so did his confidence.
In 1952, he fought his first major fight, taking a disputed verdict against an equally strong Tommy West. In a 1953 re-match, he lost to West in a Collister Best championship. From that moment, the home turf became too small for Tiger and he left for Liverpool, England. It was the beginning of his journey to stardom.
His first big fight, the one that shot him up the rankings and made him a world title contender, was his victory against Terry Downnes in the sixth round in 1957. He went on to dominate the Commonwealth, winning what was then called the British Empire middleweight boxing title.
In 1962, Dick Tiger won the middleweight title of the world, beating American Gene Fullmer in San Francisco, California, USA. From when Tiger established himself in international boxing to his championship fight with Fullmer, all top American and European boxers were avoiding him. But when he finally got the opportunity, there was no stopping. He gave Fullmer a first re-match in Las Vegas, USA, and it ended in a draw.
Ten months later, Fullmer was given a second re-match, this time at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan. With flag-and-banner- waving Nigerian supporters behind him, Tiger gave the American the beating of his life, stopping him in the 7th round.
In 1966, Tiger moved up to the lightweight category and in December of that year, he beat Jose Torres in Puerto Rico to win the world light heavyweight title. He went on to defend the title three times before losing it to Bob Foster at the Madison Square Garden, USA, in 1968. At 38, Tiger was still fighting and winning awards. Even with the Nigeria civil war going on back home, Tiger summoned courage and step into the ring in 1968 to fight Frankie Dapula and won. The bout was adjudged the fight of the year. His last fight on stage was in 1970, but lost to America’s middleweight boxer, Emile Griffift.
Tiger retired and became a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He died of a liver cancer in 1971 and his burial in his hometown, Amaigbo, was witnessed by a large turn out of more 15,000 mourners, who came from within and outside the shores of Africa.
To his daughter, Justina, the late Tiger lived the life of a hero and should be treated as one. “I was about nine years old when my father died. I knew him as a father but it was my late mother who really told me stories about him. My father came from a very humble beginning and he was more interested in rendering assistance to people, no matter what it would take.
According to Justina, the late boxing legend invested all he acquired from the ring into the country. “My dad did so much for his country even without support coming from nobody. He was able to build a Secondary School, (Dick Tiger Memorial Secondary School in Amaigbo). He wanted to make sure that the up-coming youths get the needed encouragement. My mother told me that Dick Tiger built the school when he had not even thought of laying a foundation for his house in the village. So you can see the true patriotism in him as a Nigerian. That is why we are saying that all true sports loving Nigerian must celebrate this man as a true hero”, she stated.
In 1987, the then government of General Ibrahim Babangida honoured the late Dick Tiger and in 1991, twenty years after his death, Tiger’s name was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.