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Dick Tiger’s well-deserved Centenary Award

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Ogu Bundu Nwadike

ogubundunwadike@gmail.com, 08037146635

Among the 100 Nigerians deemed fit by powers that be in Nigeria for honour during Nigeria 100 years celebration is the legendary Dick Tiger. Celebrated at different times as the British Empire Middleweight champion 1958 – 1963. World Middleweight champion 1962 – 1963 and 1965 – 1966. World Light Heavyweight champion 1966 – 1968. Dick Tiger’s legendary bout with his arch-rival, Gene Fullmer at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan,Oyo State, Southwest Nigeria on August 19, 1963 was reportedly the first ever world title boxing on continent Africa.

The significance of Dick Tiger in the annals of sports in Nigeria was such that whenever the brawling orthodox pugilist engaged in many of his numerous fights, the Nigerian government sent a powerful delegation to keep him national company and provide him native support. Little wonder he fought a total of 82 fights, winning 60 fights with 27 knockouts (KOs), losing only 16 fights and drawing in 3 fights. Incidentally, as biographer Adeyinka Makinde lamented despite all of Dick Tiger’s accomplishments which stood him out as a worthy ambassador of Nigeria, he was never rewarded with a national award. That is why I am joining in celebrating the wise decision of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to honour Dick Tiger in the even more unique occasion of Nigeria’s centenary celebrations.

For his rare feats in the power sports of boxing, Dick Tiger has continued to be showered with awards of recognition and honour which makes it easier for all to contain the fact of his untimely demise but obviously fulfilled lease in life. He was awarded the civil award of Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the British authorities. Dick Tiger was elected into a number of prestigious Halls of Fame including the following: The Ring Magazine Hall of Fame in 1975; The World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1987; and The International Boxing Hall of Fame in1991. In addition, Dick Tiger was awarded The Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year 1962 abd 1965; The Edward J. Neill Award for Fighter of the Year 1963and 1965; and The Norwich Union Trophy for Nigerian Sportsman of the Year 1961- 1963 and in 1965 and 1966. All of these were ample fulfillment of the prophecy of Dick Tiger’s first trainer, Maurice Foran who in 1955 at the outset of Dick Tiger’s glorious career described him as “Diamond in the Rough” as Dick Tiger still glitters like diamond albeit in our memories.

Born in the quiet regal village of Ubahu in the Amaigbo autonomous community in the Nwangele Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo State, Southeast, Nigeria, on August 24, 1929, his father Mazi Ubuagwu Ihetu and his mother Madam Rebecca Ihetu named him Richard. He grew up a normal hardworking Igbo youngman and while growing and displaying raw strength at Aba in Abia State, Southeast, Nigeria the young energetic Richard was reportedly discovered by a Briton who ensured that he employed his natural gift of strength and talent of boxing in a rewarding manner. It is reported that the way Dick Tiger pounces up and around to beat up bigger, taller compatriots then in Aba led his British benefactor to describe him as “Tiger”. Of course, Dick is an abbreviation of his real name, Richard. So the world was bequeathed the great Dick Tiger. He married Abigail Ogbuji and they were blessed with eight lovely children. But sadly in 1971 Dick Tiger transited to great beyond after a bout of cancer which he could not win. But the great Dick Tiger lives on!

The honour done Dick Tiger by President Jonathan last week was an honour done to Nigeria nay Africa. It is an honour well deserved for such a world acclaimed boxing champion whose early beginnings were quite humble; who defied all odds and out of dint of hardwork and reasoned determination rose from grass to grace and succeeded in his chosen career. I am very delighted to witness the justice of honour extended to one illustrious Nigerian to whom honour is due. I anticipate more honours from the federal government, state governments and LGAs of Nigeria to further immortalize the legendary Dick Tiger of Nigeria.

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