Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

Africans in America

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Dick "Tiger" Ihetu

Dick "Tiger" Ihetu (www.myboxingfans.com).

Though little is known about his youth, records show that the Nigerian boxer Richard Ihetu began fighting in 1952 after training with British soldiers stationed in his country. Over the next four years, Ihetu compiled an impressive 16–1 record and renamed himself "Dick Tiger". Ihetu later took his skills to the UK where, after starting out at a mediocre 5–4, he went on to win the British Commonwealth middleweight title. From there, Ihetu made his American debut in 1959. Three years later, he defeated American Gene Fullmer in a brutal 15-round decision to win the World Boxing Association title. He defended the title against Fullmer twice more, winning bouts in Las Vegas and Ibadan, Nigeria. Another American, Joey Giardello, defeated Ihetu in 1963, and for the next few years, Ihetu earned the belt back and lost it again. At one point, Ihetu even won a match against Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, which earned him a victorious rematch with Giardello. In 1966, Ihetu lost the belt yet again, and announced he would fight as a light heavyweight. Well into his late thirties by then, Ihetu decisioned champion Jose Torre and went on to defend his crown three more times before a series of losses ended his career in 1970. It was around this time that Ihetu became involved in some of the political developments of his native Nigeria, which had gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. Ihetu supported the independence movement of the Republic of Biafra, and protested the UK's opposition to it by returning his Order of the British Empire medal. At the same time, Ihetu's health rapidly deteriorated due to serious liver problems. Ihetu returned to his native Nigeria, where he died in 1971. Twenty years later, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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