From some of his contemporaries in ring like Gene Fullmer “Tiger was a rough guy…I went to Nigeria to fight him, and of course, I don’t know what happened over there He beat me. He beat me bad. My mother and father could have been judge and referee, and I couldn’t have won a round.”
Richard Ihetu popularly known as Dick Tiger perhaps is the greatest fighter to come out of the African continent. He held a two-times undisputed World Champion and it is no doubt that his has shaped the face of sports in Nigeria. He was born 14th August, 1929 and hails from Amaigbo in present day Imo State, South East Nigeria. Dick helped to preserve boxing during the recession period in the 1950s and he won the world Middleweight title when he defeated Gene Fullmer in 1962 and the Light Heavyweight title in 1966 when he dethroned Jose Torres were his greatest fight. He retained that title for 2 years, before relinquishing it to Bob Foster in 1968, by a knockout and the first time losing by knockout in his astrophysical career.
Prior to these accomplishments, and coming from a society that is devoid of concrete traditions in boxing, Tiger seemed condemned to poor management and as a result moved to Liverpool in n 1957 in his quest for perfecting his acts. But in 1959, Dick Tiger relocated to the United State of America and perfected his boxing skills to become one of the most sought after by promoters and fans but avoided by contenders. Boxing fans and admirer’s turnout in their numbers to watch the enigmatic boxer and leaving the bouts entertained. He always gave his all just as he never failed his family, his country, and his profession.
He announced his retirement from professional boxing after losing his last fight in 1970, with Emile Griffith and in less than one year after announcing his retirement from his beloved career, he lost the battle to liver cancer in December 14, 1971 at the age of 42. Even in his death, he was not defeated. In 1991, Dick Tiger added yet another feather to his cap when he was posthumously inducted into the prestigious International Boxing Hall of Fame, in the USA. He became the first African boxer ever, to be admitted into this VIP club of boxing greats.
Dick Tiger was a sportsman extraordinary, and remains a credit to boxing to Nigeria. He never coveted the attention, and accolades that he received, but graciously sought to help others in need. He greatly impacted the lives of his people, his country, and his profession. He was an extraordinary gentleman and this was eminent when he met all of Ring Magazines stringent criteria for meriting the cherished title of “Fighter of the Year” in 1962 and 1965. He was also an in-house fighter at the Madison Square Garden and appeared on American television series: “What’s my Line”.
He fought a total of 82 fights, winning 60, losing 19 and drew 3 during his boxing career. He held the World Middleweight Boxing Championship and the world light- heavyweight World Championship between 1950 and 1965.