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Dick Tiger: Not a befitting tomb for a champion

For the legendary boxer Richard Ihetu, aka Dick Tiger his final resting place should have been something to behold. A visit to his mausoleum in…

For the legendary boxer Richard Ihetu, aka Dick Tiger his final resting place should have been something to behold.

A visit to his mausoleum in his Amaigbo village did not depict that for a champion who brought honour not only to Nigeria but to Africa.

Lying side by side with that of his wife, Dick Tiger’s vault has fallen into disuse, decrepit and overgrown with weeds.

Dick Tiger,  born Richard Ihetu on August 14, 1929, at Amaigbo in Nwangele Local Government Area of Imo State shot himself and Nigeria into fame on August 10, 1963, when at the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan he defeated his three-time opponent, Gene Fullmer, in a World Middleweight Championship title. This was not the first time Tiger had encountered Fullmer in a boxing bout as he defeated him in 1962 and again in February 1963.

He was in the the Biafran Army as Lieutenant , training soldiers in hand to hand combat and died on December 14, 1971 of cancer. Tiger won many awards, some posthumously.

With all the fame brought to Nigeria, his children feel that their father has not been adequately honoured by his fatherland.

His son, Barrister Richard Ihetu, Jnr, who spoke to our correspondent, said that though his father was honoured by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration during the Nigeria’s Centenary celebration, and by former Governor Rochas Okorocha, these were not enough.

He was particularly miffed that Tiger, who turned professional at the age of 23 and bringing the sport to a limelight in the 1950s and 1960s has not has not been adequately recognised by his home state.  He said a secondary school, (Dick Tiger Memorial Secondary School) was named after him by his people while  Okorocha gave him an award as the Grand Commander of the Order of Imo (GCOI).

Ihetu would have loved his father’s statue standing side by side with those of Ikemba Odimegwu Ojukwu, Dede Onunaka, Sam Mbakwe, and the other notable Nigerians in his home state.

“It is not that we are hungry, but we expect more from them; some sort of financial assistance to back up what we are doing.’’

He said that he was not waiting for anybody but was making arrangements to make his father’s final resting place more befitting.

“I find very appalling. This thing does not happen in the U.S. or any other place. I don’t want to be misunderstood, but I believe that if it’s in any other part of the country other than where I come from, he would have been given more recognition. May be because of the role he played in the Biafran war. I am looking at it that way. It is not too much to have a Hall of Fame for him. It is very unfortunate that Okorocha did not mold him.

“A former member of Imo State House of Assembly told me that he made presentations to Okorocha, he promised, but did not fulfill the promise.”

The Chairman of the Imo State Sports Council, Mr. Fan Ndubuoke, said that the state government would  not forget the exploits of its past heroes. According to him, the Emeka Ihedioha administration is putting in place a comprehensive package to honour its heroes, including Dick Tiger.

“We are in touch with his family and Nwangele local government  council and we are looking at what we can do to honour them. The governor will soon roll out the package,’’ Ndubuoke said.

At the Nwangele Local Government, a government official told our correspondent that the state government in conjunction with the local government is planning an annual boxing tournament in honour of the boxing legend.

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