May 13 2020 | Radio Biafra
Dick Tiger – real name Richard Ihetu, born August 14, 1929 – December 14, 1971, was a Biafran-born professional boxer who held the World Middleweight and World Light Heavyweight Championships. Tiger was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
The Ring Magazine named him Fighter of the Year in 1962 and 1965, while the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) named him Fighter of the Year in 1962 and 1966. In 2002, Tiger was voted by The Ring magazine as the 31st greatest fighter of the last 80 years. Dick Tiger emigrated to Liverpool, England to pursue his boxing career and later to the United States.
Richard Ihetu known by his stage name as Dick Tiger came from the Igbo ethnic group and served as a Lieutenant in the Biafran army during the Nigerian Civil War, primarily training soldiers in hand to hand combat. In December 1967, he received a direct commission as a Lieutenant into the Propaganda Corps of the Biafran Army. It was an act which made an impression from afar. Jerry Rawlings, the former military head of State of Ghana who later became that country’s President, once claimed that as a young man he only realised the enormity of the Nigerian-Biafran civil conflict when Dick Tiger enlisted into the Biafran Army.
There was something of a tug of war for the allegiance of Dick Tiger during the period of crisis before the onset of war, as well as in the early stages of the ensuing conflict. His world light heavyweight title bouts against the Puerto Rican Jose Torres respectively in December 1966 and May 1967, were accompanied by telegrams of support and congratulations from Colonel Jack Yakubu Gowon, the Northerner who became Nigeria’s Military ruler after the counter-coup of July 1966 and Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Military governor of the Eastern region who led his people of Biafra. As Tiger prepared to face Bob Foster in defence of his light heavyweight title in May of 1968, he reacted with astonishment at the Nigerian media’s habitual reference to him as “Dick Tiger of Nigeria”.
Dick Tiger accusations of indiscriminate killings committed by Nigerian armed forces during his interviews with some news outlets such as the New York Times, his playing of the Biafran anthem at his fights in America, and his distributing of anti-Nigerian propaganda outside Madison Square Garden put paid to any hopes the Nigerians had of keeping him on her side.
Dick Tiger did not stop at criticizing the Nigerian Military government for genocide and the commission of war crimes. Dick Tiger helped the Biafra government when he personally dipped into his pockets to assist his people facing genocide.
For instance, in 1967 when the Nigerian-turned-Biafran politician K.O. Mbadiwe went to the United States to raise monies for the Biafran effort, Dick Tiger contributed $1,000 to a fund that was to be made available to the Biafran government.
Dick Tiger handed back his MBE medal to the British embassy in America citing in an accompanying note Britain government immoral and Military support for Nigeria in its “genocidal war against the people of Biafra.” Richard Ihetu was one of the great Men to come out of Biafra. His sacrifice, commitment and desire shall never ever be in vain.
Richard Ihetu [Dick Tiger] stood for Biafra firmly, he never in his lifetime shy away from the Biafra struggle, he sacrificed his medal of honour for Biafra freedom. Posterity shall always remember him. Dick Tiger for standing up in defense of freedom and justice. On 30th May 2020, we will remember you and all those who in one way or the other fought for Biafra freedom. Biafra heroes and heroines will be incomplete and disjointed if we refused to acknowledge your zeal to set your people free. Rest on our great warrior.
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media