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Following the recent announcement that the UCI Road World Championships will be held for the first time in Africa in 2025, Andrea Dijkstra speaks to African cyclists about what this will mean for professional cycling on the continent.

Fifty years after the death of Dick Tiger, Emeka Chigbu talks to the son of the late sporting legend about boxing, Biafra, and how the sportsman’s political views robbed him of a place in the history books.

Nigerians may claim the British heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua as their greatest ever boxing star. In reality, though, that title belongs to another sportsmen, with an equally disputed nationality: Richard Ihetu. 

Popularly known as Dick Tiger, Ihetu rose from very humble beginnings trading empty bottles in Nigeria's old Eastern province, to the pinnacle of the boxing world in the 1950s and 60s, conquering both the middleweight and light heavyweight division.  

Born in 1929 in Nkwerre-Amaigbo in today’s Imo State, Ihetu moved with his family to the ancient city of Aba, where he grew up.  

As a young man his interest in boxing was sparked after Gordy Uzoaro formed a boxing club in the city, which Ihetu joined, quickly excelling in the sport. Richard Ihetu's trajectory in boxing got a boost when he came in contact with renowned British boxing scout and promoter Bobby Diamond, who propelled the young Ihetu from his adopted home of Aba to Calabar, Lagos and finally London. In his path lay several boxing titles, culminating in the British Commonwealth Middleweight Champion belt. 

Dick Tiger.jpg

Ihetu fought over 80 professional bouts, notching up 60 wins, including 27 by knock-out, as well as three draws and 19 losses.

It led Ring magazine to name him Boxer of the Year in 1962 and 1965 while the Boxing Writers’ Association of America declared him Fighter of the Year in 1962 and 1966. World fame, surely, beckoned.  

In 1962, Dick Tiger moved from the Commonwealth Middleweight title into the World Middleweight division and won the World Middleweight title after beating Gene Fuller. In another feat of extraordinary ability, he moved from the middleweight into the light heavyweight division in 1966, and won the World Boxing Association Light Heavyweight title when he defeated Jose Torres. 

But despite rising to the top of his sport at a time when a newly independent Nigeria was trying to make a name for itself on the world stage, the Easterner found himself shunned by his fellow Africans. 

In the heat of the Nigeria-Biafra conflict, Dick Tiger switched allegiance from Nigeria, under whose flag he had fought in the past, identifying with his Igbo race and the breakaway republic of Biafra instead. He was appointed a Biafran ambassador by the separatist government and began to march to ring side bearing Biafra's rising sun tricolour.  

The boxing legend's oldest son, Richard Ihetu Jr, described the move as a ‘diplomatic coup’ by his father, which he did to highlight the 'injustice done to the Igbo' and other Easterners during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. 

A proud Biafran, his father returned his CBE to Britain, accusing the former colonial power of being unjust in its support of Nigeria, which had been complicit in ‘genocide against his Igbo compatriots residing in their south eastern Nigeria homeland' according to his son. 

It was during the Biafra war, in 1968, that Dick Tiger lost his light heavyweight title to Bob Foster in a knockout – the first knockout loss of his boxing career. Many attributed the loss to the pressure he was under as a result of the conflict. But, according to Ihetu Jr, his father acknowledged that the ‘better fighter’ won on the night.  

Despite such setbacks, Ihetu, who died aged 42 in December 1971, achieved heights no other African has done in professional boxing.

He was the first African to be inducted into the international boxing hall of fame. And in 2002 was voted one of the greatest fighters by Ring magazine, coming in 31st, ahead of global icons including Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson. 

Nigel Collins, editor-in-chief of Ring said: ‘If there was ever a neglected hero who deserved a biography, it is former middleweight/light heavyweight champion Dick Tiger.’ 

It appears that you really can have your cake and eat it as Dick Tiger found out when he became the Middleweight champion of the world. London, England.jpg

Though he attained global fame as a young fighter, Ihetu was a quintessential family man, with a wife and eight children.

And while he never earned big money like today's fighters – Ihetu worked as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York after retiring from boxing – he managed to develop a portfolio of investments before the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war and eventually used that money to move back to the city where his boxing career began. Some members of his family still reside in Aba today, including his son Richard Ihetu Jr, who laments that the city his father loved so much is yet to recognise and honour his boxing legacy. 

He told NewsAfrica that his father would be disappointed by the ‘poor state of boxing and sports facilities’ in Aba.

Fighters of Nigerian origin may be making waves in global boxing today, but potential home-gown boxing stars have been left largely left 'undiscovered', Ihetu Jr said. 'Boxing clubs no longer exists in the region and up-to-date sports facilities are completely lacking’.  

He questioned how many how many more Dick Tigers the nation could have produced had it invested in young sporting proteges, like the UK did when it propelled Joshua to success as part of its Team GB Olympics squad. Adding that with more than 70 per cent of Nigeria’s 200 million population aged between 18 to 35, the country has the potential to more than punch above its weight on the international stage.

Sports news

March 24, 2021

Politics takes centre stage as football administrators in Africa elect new CAF president.

Perhaps no election in the history of the African Football Confederation (CAF) had generated so much interest and enthusiasm as the 43rd CAF Elective General Assembly,which saw South African businessman Patrice Motsepe elected to the top spot at the Rabat meeting on March 12.

Established 64 years ago, CAF strives to develop the game across the continent and ensure fair representation for Africa at global tournaments. For many, African football was best managed between 1972 and 1987, when a former footballer from Ethiopia, YidnekatchewTessema, was CAF president.

Tessemas death in 1987 paved the way for the emergence of a new leadership for CAF in 1988, when Issa Hayatou, a teacher and sports minister from Cameroon, was first elected as CAF president. He went on to lead the continental body for 29 years.

While those who keep a tab on African football agree that CAF, under Hayatous leadership, has improved the financial fortunes of the game in the continent and helped get more African teams in the World Cup.

Footballs development during that period led to the best of the continents talents deserting the African game for the more lucrative contracts in Europe.

Hayatous reign as CAF president ended when the then-FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, and a string of other powerbrokers in the executive committee of the world body, were indicted for alleged corruption by the US Department of Justice or banned by FIFAs Ethics Committee for malpractice.

Hayatou himself was not charged or implicated in those corruption scandals, but his long record was tarnished by an alleged payment to him of approximately $18,000 from the marketing company ISL in 1995.

He admitted receiving the money, but claimed it was not a corrupt payment and that he used it to pay for a celebration of CAFs 40-year anniversary in 1997.

The Cameroonian would later lose the top spot to the president of the Madagascar Football Association, Ahmad Ahmad, at the CAF congress in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after gaining just 20 votes to Ahmads 34 in the 2017 election.

Ahmads rise was reportedly made possible by the young hawks in the CAFs Executive Committee, who were dissatisfied with the alleged opacity that had characterised Hayatous management of the continental body.

Ahmad barely had chance to settle into the role before some of his clique in the Executive Committee started grumbling about his leadership style. One-time supporter of Ahmeds in the CAF Executive CommitteeAmajuPinnicksaid: ‘The issue of trust started coming in and thats what led to the initial breakdown [with Ahmad].

The president of the Nigeria Football Federation said he had originally planned to support the CAF president to have a second term in office, even a third,’ before growing disillusioned with the Madagascans management style.

Ahmads prospects of retaining his CAF presidency were dealt a huge blow when he was arrested by police in Paris, France, and questioned over allegations of forcing CAF to buy sportswear through a French company, rather than directly from manufacturers, and at inflated prices. Ahmad, alleged to stand to be rewarded up to $830,000 from the arrangement, has denied the allegations, adding:All decisions were taken in a collective and transparent manner.

The 61-year-old was banned for five years and handed a $200,000 fine by FIFA in November for contravening the governing bodys code of ethics.

However, Ahmad denied the allegations and appealed the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which, in a preliminary ruling, reinstated him as CAF president.

Ahmed’s replacement made his fortune from mining.

The 58-year-old is the president of Mamelodi Sundowns, the Pretoria township club that won the African Champions League in 2016.

Patriotic zeal fuels Usman’s title ambition

Still basking in the successful defence of his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title,Usman has said he will not be pandering to popular opinion to move up to the next division.

The Nigerian, who has a stranglehold on the Welterweight division, endured a challenging first and second round when he met Gilbert Burns in Las Vegas in February, before violently putting away the Brazilian in the third round of the UFC 258 main event.

Usman showed that hes one of the best fighters on the planet by making adjustments and working behind the jab before putting an end to his opponent.

The victory extended Usmans UFC winning streak to 12 and marked his third defence of the welterweight crown.

Calls have been growing for Usman to move above his 78kg division to the Middleweight class where his fellow Nigerian, Israel The Last Stylebender Adesanya, reigns as champion.

The UFC Middleweight division covers competitors within the 78kg-83kg range.

Usman, however, maintained that he would consider moving up a weight class if Izzy (Israel Adesanya) gave up on the middleweight division. Adesanya is expected to move up a weight class and challenge Jan Błachowicz for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship on March 6, 2021, at UFC 259.

He told ESPN,If Izzy is willing to move up, wellhe is moving up. But if hes willing to give up that 85 pounds and says, “I have nothing to do in that division anymore,” then absolutely, I would entertain that thought.

He added that he would rather have two African UFC champions, as opposed to one African holding two belts at the same time.

In the aftermath of his triumph over teammate Gilbert Turns, Usman called out American Jorge Masvidal for a rematch.

Usman beat Masvidal at the UFC 251 in July 2020, and it has been suggested that the two top welterweight fighters could engage in a rematch by the end of 2021.

Africa’s footballing proteges

Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o may have laid the foundation for two new footballing dynasties, after their sons both made landmark football appearances last month.

Former Chelsea youth team player Isaac Drogba, 20, made his professional debut for the Italian fourth division side FolgoreCaratese, coming on as a 79th-minute substitute as the team sealed a 4-1 win over Saluzzo.

The son of former Ivory Coast captain and Chelsea legend, Paris-born Drogba had previously spent time plying his trade for the reserves at French side, Guingamp, where his dad had spent one year before sealing a big move to Marseilles.

Interestingly, Isaac Drogbas maiden appearance coincided with that of Samuel Etoos son, Etienne, who played for Cameroons junior side for the first time in the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.

Etienne put up a Man of the Match performance, scoring twice and assisting another, as his side also bagged a 4-1 win against Mozambique in the final group stage fixture.

His first goal was a glorious freekick that opened the scoring in the seventh minute.

He added a penalty in first-half stoppage time.

Speaking to CAF media, the young Etoo said:There is always pressure in life, whether or not you are the son of a famous person. But for me, I just try to enjoy my career and demonstrate to people that I can do it.

He said his dad had been a huge inspiration to him, but added that he one day hoped to surpass his achievements. 

I want to try and be better than him, and I am always looking forward to stepping on the pitch and giving my best.

Cameroons all-time top scorer and one-time captainEtoo senior was regarded by pundits as one of the best strikers in the world in his prime. 

The 39-year-old won back-to-back trebles with Inter Milan and Barcelona, and clinched the African Player of the Year a record four times – in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010.

Didier Drogba, 42, was named African Footballer of the Year twice, winning the accolade in 2006 and 2009.

He is widely regarded as one of Chelseas greatest ever players.