An all business, no nonsense type of guy, and a proud Nigerian, Richard Ihetu (better known as) ♛🇳🇬Dick Tiger (60-19-3, 27KO) had been summed up by many of his peers during his tenure as a quality individual in addition to being a great fighter.
He had a subtle, smooth style where nothing exclusively jumped out at you that made you say “wow”, but he was a worker that would grind you down, and had impeccable fundamentals, good solid sound defense, high ring IQ, a quality chin, and was equally as great fighting in the pocket as he was coming forward to press the action. He didn’t possess devastating power, but he did hit hard enough to command respect and do damage, and he would inflict much of that damage from his high level ability to counter-punch and get off his left hook, which was a pretty good one. To sum up what it was that he brought to the table, he was a resourceful well-rounded boxer who looked to take the fight to you in an aggressive, yet calculated way. He is arguably all of Africa’s greatest boxer, and he left us with some strong moments in the 1960’s.
Dick Tiger turned pro in the year 1952, with some mixed results in the early years, but he kept learning his craft on the job, and found his niche that worked for him, turning him into a very formidable fighter by the time 1960 came around. On the come-up, he split one fight a piece with ultra talented Brooklyn Middleweight 🇺🇸Joey Giardello in consecutive fights. Reeling off a string of victories, he would get his first crack at a World Title, that being the vacant WBA Middleweight Title that was eligible to win due to former Champion 🇺🇸Paul Pender’s retirement, naturally vacating his claim as Lineal World Champion, and for Tiger, he had to face legendary Middleweight 🇺🇸Gene Fullmer for this vacant Title Belt. In this contest, the Tiger was let out of the cage, as he out-hustled Fullmer to a points decision in what was a firefight, becoming a claimant as Middleweight World Champion. The second fight of their back-to-back-to-back trilogy was a better fight, and a bloody one, as both pugilists bled profusely throughout their 15 rounds, with the final verdict rendered a draw by the judges. For Tiger, this was technically his 1st Title defense since he kept possession of the WBA belt. For the 3rd match-up, the ante and the stakes were raised, with the WBA and the vacant WBC Middleweight Titles on the line to crown a new Undisputed & Lineal Middleweight King. The fight took place in Nigeria, and Tiger gave his people a show on this night, with an explosive outing, taking the fight to Fullmer, and Fullmer couldn’t handle it. Having no answers for the Champion, Gene decided to call it a night after the 6th round, retiring on his stool from the match (and officially from boxing, with this being his final fight), granting Dick the right to be called ♛Undisputed Middleweight World Champion. His reign was short-lived however when he ran into his rival 🇺🇸Joey Giardello in his next match. Joey used his footwork and ring generalship to keep Tiger at bay, and did so successfully through 15 rounds to be awarded a points decision, becoming the new Middleweight Champion of the World, now holding a 2-1 advantage over the Nigerian boxer.
Tiger looked to get back on track, but the following year in 1964, he ran into 🇺🇸Joey Archer, and his night didn’t go so well. Archer being the outside range boxer that he was, took a page out of Giardello’s book and out-boxed him through 12 rounds, sticking and moving en route to the victory. A couple fights down the line, Tiger picked up a nice win over Ruben Carter. In his next contest, he would get one last crack at 🇺🇸Joey Giardello, and an opportunity to win all of his hardware back that he lost to Joey 2 years prior. This time, Dick Tiger flipped the script on his nemesis, doing so with more calculated effective aggression, relying on his patience to get inside and work underneath Giardello’s punches. Tiger won a Unanimous decision, once again earning the right to be called ♛Middleweight Champion of the World and evening up their personal battle, both having 2 wins a piece to their name. Following, Tiger knocked out domestic German standout Peter Mueller to set the stage for a mega fight against one of the all-time-greats, that being 6X Lineal Champion & Hall-of-Famer 🇻🇮Emile Griffith. What the public would get is a high level game of chess with plenty of technical skills on display from both legends, exclusively fighting in the pocket, while Griffith every once in a while would bounce outside and circle to stick the jab effectively. The fight was a close one, and most observers sitting at ringside felt that Tiger did enough to win and to retain his belts, but the decision went to Griffith with all 3 judges giving it to Emile (2 of them close), so in front of a disagreeing Madison Square Garden audience, Emile had lifted the Crown off of Tigers head to become Middleweight Champion.
That was the final fight that Dick had in the Middleweight division, so he decided to jump up to Light-Heavyweight. He was small for the division, but with his well rounded skill-set, he could hang around with the bigger fighters, and he did more than just that. He IMMEDIATELY went after Puerto Rican great 🇵🇷Jose Torres (which says something in and of itself about Tiger’s willingness to be great), and Torres was the Undisputed Light-Heavyweight Champion, having both Lineal and WBA/WBC claims to his name. The first half of the fight was very methodical, give and take, but the second half of the fight, Tiger increased his output and routinely got to the inside on the Champion and exclusively did his work there to finish the fight, and succeeded in outpointing Torres to become ♛Undisputed Champion for the 3rd time in his career, this his first at Light-Heavyweight. A rematch happened quickly between the two, and 🇵🇷Jose Torres gave a much better account of himself. While Tiger had control of the early portion of the fight, Torres came on strong towards the end, making for a very interesting wait period when the scorecards were being tallied. Dick Tiger was given a rather wide (too wide) decision on the scorecards that had Torres visibly upset, firmly believing that he had did what was needed to win the fight, and his supporters were more livid than he was at ringside, and a melee broke out all around the ring apron, vehemently expressing their disgust for the verdict…nonetheless the chapter between the two was closed with Tiger officially having the edge 2-0 over Torres. After securing a third defense to his Lineal Title, he would square off against Future Hall-of-Famer & devastating power puncher 🇺🇸Bob Foster. The size difference between the two was astronomical, with Foster being about 2/3rd’s of a foot taller than Tiger, who also possessed a much longer reach, and to top it all off, he had a massive speed advantage, which spells recipe for disaster when you factor all of those different components together. Foster dominated the fight, then landed a nasty left hook that floored the Nigerian Champion for only the second time in his career…this time though…he wasn’t getting up as he was flattened with that shot, and Bob Foster took over the Light-Heavyweight division as the new “Sheriff” in town.
Following his devastating defeat, he would face a fella named Frank DePaula, which turned out to be a surprising, but deserving choice for Fight-of-the-Year in 1968, per Ring-Magazine’s voting. In the 2nd and 3rd rounds, a war broke out and produced a total of 4 knockdowns, with Tiger going down twice in the 2nd, and DePaula going down twice in the 3rd. Dick Tiger survived a crazy gut-check of a fight to get a points victory via unanimous decision. At the age of 39, Dick Tiger put together a vintage performance against Italian legend & Olympic Gold-Medalist 🇮🇹Nino Benvenuti, getting by him in a 10 round unanimous decision verdict. In 1970, Tiger would get a rematch with 🇻🇮Emile Griffith, and this time, it wasn’t nearly as close a contest as the first one was, and Griffith outclassed Tiger this time around, winning a wide decision against the Nigerian fighter. This was the final fight in Tigers Hall-of-Fame career.
He unfortunately didn’t have much life to live post-retirement, as he was diagnosed with liver cancer, and tragically passed away at the young age of 42. It’s a shame that he didn’t truly live long enough to see the impact that he had on boxing, and beyond the sport, nonetheless his legacy and spirit lives on in the profession, as one of the main pillars of the 1960’s, pushing the sport forward in a positive direction, and inspiring future generations to do the same. Here are a list of his accomplishments. 🖼️
– 3X Undisputed Champion (160, 175)
– 3X Lineal Champion (160, 175)
– 6X World Champion (LINEAL, WBA, WBC)
– 2-Division World Champion (160, 175)
– 1962 Ring-Magazine Fighter of the Year
– 1965 Ring-Magazine Fighter of the Year
– 1968 Ring-Magazine Fight of the Year (Tiger/DePaula)
– Won 7 Fights over Hall-of-Fame Boxers
– Won 6 World Title Fights, 5 of them Undisputed Title Bouts
– International Boxing Hall-of-Fame (Inducted in 1991)
SIGNATURE MOMENT🖊️– Dominating Gene Fullmer in their 3rd contest to become Undisputed Lineal Middleweight Champion of the World for the first time, and putting the doubts of their 1st 2 encounters to rest with a convincing performance.
NOTABLE WINS – 🇺🇸Joey Giardello (2X), 🇺🇸Gene Fullmer (2X), 🇮🇹Nino Benvenuti, 🇵🇷Jose Torres (2X), 🇺🇸Henry Hank, 🇺🇸Ruben Carter, 🇩🇪Peter Mueller.
NOTABLE DRAWS – 🇺🇸Gene Fullmer.