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*On this date in 1929, Dick Tiger was born. He was a Black professional boxer.
Born Richard Ihetu in Nigeria little is known of his childhood but records show that he turned pro in 1952. Tiger campaigned in Nigeria and England and won the British Commonwealth middleweight title before debuting in the United States in 1959. Tiger was an aggressive counter-puncher. He would move forward trying to draw his opponent into an exchange. Tiger would then try to counter his opponent’s punches with blows of his own.
This African man was an extremely hard puncher, relying on a devastating left hook to render foes unconscious. In 1962, Tiger exploded onto the American boxing scene by knocking out Florentino Fernandez and getting a decision over Henry Hank. Those wins earned him a title fight against WBA middleweight champion Gene Fullmer, whom he would meet in three consecutive grueling fights.
Tiger beat Fullmer in October 1962 to win the WBA title, drew with him in February of 1963 and earned recognition as undisputed champion with a TKO of Fullmer in August of 1963. That fight, staged in Nigeria, was Fullmer's last. Tiger dropped a decision to Joey Giardello in his first defense. But in a 1965 rematch with Giardello, he regained the crown with a points win. However, two fights later he lost the crown to welterweight champ Emile Griffith.
After the Griffith loss, Tiger moved up to light heavyweight ranks and won the 175-pound title by out-pointing champion Jose Torres in 1966. Tiger, who was now 37, posted successful title defenses against Torres and Roger Rouse before losing the crown to Bob Foster on a fourth-round knockout in 1968. It was the only time Tiger was stopped in his career. Tiger won three straight bouts beating Frankie DePaula, Nino Benvenuti and Andy Kendall before losing a rematch with Griffith in 1970.
It was his last fight. Dick Tiger died on December 14, 1971.
Boxing Album: An Illustrated History
by Peter Brooke Bell
Smithmark Publisher, 1995