Almost 30 years after his bout against corruption, Dave Tiberi still fights the good fight

In 1992, Former International Boxing Federation (IBF) Middleweight Champion and Boxing legend, James Toney, won what is largely considered the most controversial decision in boxing history, an infamous decision that would change the sport of boxing forever.

Boxing illustration
Sam Ford/THE
REVIEW

Dave Tiberi has parlayed his controversial loss into a career of helping others.

BY
Senior Sports Reporter

In 1992, Former International Boxing Federation (IBF) Middleweight Champion and Boxing legend, James Toney, won what is largely considered the most controversial decision in boxing history, an infamous decision that would change the sport of boxing forever.

“I got a gift that night; I should’ve lost,” said Toney in 2009. “I’ll admit that.”

His opponent, Dave Tiberi, is a native of New Castle, Delaware. He came from a large family, with many of his siblings close in age. He found his passion for boxing at a young age.

“I had 11 older brothers, I had no choice,” Tiberi joked.

In July 1991, Dave Tiberi touted a 21-2-3 record ahead of his match against Eddie Hall, which was a title fight for the International Boxing Council (IBC) Super Middleweight Championship. Tiberi was able to pull the upset and knock out Eddie Hall to become the first Delawarean boxing world champion.

This IBC Super Middleweight Championship win meant that Tiberi was the next man up to challenge IBF Middleweight Champion, James Toney. At the time, Toney touted a 28-0-2 record and was considered to be a heavy favorite.

Leading up to the fight, Tiberi said he had an unbridled confidence and felt that he was as prepared as he could possibly be to win this fight. His training camp was led by his trainer, Marty Feldman, and Tiberi sparred with boxing greats such as Bernard Hopkins (who was his main sparring partner of six years), “Prince” Charles Williams and Steve Little.

“I remember how well camp went,” Tiberi said. “We had a very powerful camp leading up to the fight… My sparring partners emulated Toney to a T… By the time I left camp and came back to Philadelphia, I just remember how cat-quick I was, how mentally prepared and determined I was.”

The championship bout between Toney and Tiberi took place on Feb. 8, 1992 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fight was attended by the likes of a young Donald Trump, magazine mogul Bob Guccione and various other celebrities.

“By the time I got in the ring, I had walked up with peace,” Tiberi said. “I just knew I had done everything right leading up to the fight.”

This bout is widely considered one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history, with Toney edging out Tiberi in a split decision. Out of the three judges, one judge gave the fight to Tiberi with a score of 117-111, while the two other judges gave Toney the fight with a score of 115-112.

“I thought I won three-fourths of the rounds,” Tiberi said. “As a fighter you know when it’s your day, and I thought that was my day. I mean, after the fight, I went to the press conference, and he went to the hospital.”

At the time, Delaware Senator William Roth oversaw the Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations in the U.S. Senate. After watching the controversial bout, Roth immediately launched an investigation. They found that the two judges who awarded James Toney the victory were unlicensed in the state of New Jersey, while the only licensed judge gave Tiberi the win. The investigation by Roth also found that the referee was considered green and incapable of reffing a title fight, which is important because Tiberi was deducted a point in the sixth round due to a questionable low blow.

“I was waiting for Michael Buffer to say ‘And new!’, but when I heard ‘And still!’, I just remember that I started to question God, I really did.” said Tiberi.

The year prior in 1991, Toney was voted the Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America and The Ring Magazine. An award in which Toney beat out the likes of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

“To be able to fight the number one person in the world, during his heyday, and in my heart of hearts, knowing that I did everything I had to do to be able to win the world championship, I’m at peace.” Tiberi said.

After the fight, Donald Trump and his then-wife Marla Maples made their way into Tiberi’s locker room. They both expressed their disappointment with the decision, so much so that Trump banned betting on boxing in all of his casinos for six months.

Tiberi turned down many fight offers and multi-million dollar contracts after his bout against Toney. He sacrificed his boxing career to fight against corruption in the sport of boxing, as he wanted to make sure that an incident like this would never happen to another fighter ever again.

Roth alongside fellow-Delawareans, then-Senator Joe Biden and then-Congressmen Tom Carper, expressed their bipartisan support for Tiberi’s fight against corruption. The outpouring support from fans, politicians and fellow boxers for Tiberi created a novel public awareness of misconduct in boxing. This eventually led to the passing of the Muhammed Ali Boxing Reform Act in 2000, which protected boxers from repeating Tiberi’s experience and from being exploited by promoters in any way.

When Tiberi decided to end his boxing career, he knew that one of his biggest goals was not only to help others, but to better Delaware communities.

“If we all get involved in the Delaware community in some way, if we get in that mindset, we’re not gonna have any type of hate, violence or any type of problems because we’re gonna be too busy helping others,” Tiberi said. “If we get that mindset, we can have Delaware transform unlike no other state.”

Fourteen years ago, Tiberi started Delaware Decision Makers, a group of business, healthcare, educational, nonprofit and government leaders. The group meets once a month to discuss ways for Delaware to prosper and grow. Each monthly meeting averages about 100 attendees, and each meeting is in a different Delaware county than the previous. In the past, the university, Del-Tech and Wilmington University have all been hosts. This bi-partisan effort aims to support leadership in Delaware and keep money circulating through businesses and organizations in the First State.

Like all things, however, Delaware Decision Makers’ efforts have been hindered by COVID-19.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, Tiberi’s friend and business partner, Richard Piendak, reached out to him after biking at the Riverfront in Wilmington. There, he saw a couple arguing about getting and wearing masks, and right away, Piendak knew that it was a sign that he should get involved. He immediately contacted Tiberi and the two discussed how they could help. Within 12 hours, their project already had its own website.

Together, Piendak and Tiberi collaborated on creating Donate Delaware, an organization that aims to help health care organizations and first responders during the pandemic in various ways. Piendak owns a warehouse in Newport, Delaware and he decided to use that in their efforts to help. When the pandemic surged, Tiberi and Piendak reached out to Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore and shared their vision. Poore put them in contact with leadership at Christiana Care, which is a network of various Delaware hospitals, and their project took off.

“What was really exciting was that we were able to ship palettes of personal protective equipment [PPE] out of the warehouse for Christiana Care.” Tiberi said. “But then other hospitals started reaching out to us, as well as responders, EMTs, paramedics and the police, we were contacted by so many people that we decided to put a concise plan together.”

Donate Delaware has been getting essential workers the proper PPEs during the pandemic. Shortly after their plan was in place, they were able to expand their reach to help as many health care workers and first responders as possible. According to Tiberi, after establishing their Newport warehouse as a distribution site, JP Morgan donated 25,000 masks and AAA donated 900 masks, which Donate Delaware was able to distribute to various Delaware hospitals.

“There’s so many Delawareans who have jumped aboard… everybody came aboard, and we’ve all worked together to make it happen.” Tiberi said.

It’s estimated that Donate Delaware has donated over one million PPEs to the community, and just recently, they have partnered with Bank of America, which donated 100,000 masks to their cause.

Tiberi has also been a part of other organizations that fight for the betterment of Delaware, including serving on the state board of the Boys and Girls Club and working closely with recruits at the Delaware State Police Academy in Dover. He’s worked with recruits at the academy for 29 years teaching discipline, self defense and de-escalation tactics.

“It’s been a great, exciting experience, I’m really proud of all the men and women I’ve had the opportunity of working with, they’re great leaders in our community, so to help be a part of that has been great.” Tiberi said.

Tiberi learned some of his philosophy from Widener University’s psychiatry program that teaches case workers and psychiatrists how to work in the field. Some of the tactics taught are verbal judo, communication from a distance and reading body language.

“A large number of interactions [with police] can just be handled verbally, but there is a small number where you have to know how to control a situation and be able to protect yourself and the person you’re interacting with,” Tiberi said. “It’s about being able to keep your composure.”

That infamous loss to Toney did not plague Tiberi’s outlook on life, instead he made the best out of his situation. To this day boxers all over the world benefit from the stance that Tiberi took.

Almost 30 years after Tiberi was on the losing end at the hands of corruption and misconduct, he has parlayed his career into fighting for the people of Delaware.

“I love being engaged in our community here; you can get so much done just by being committed to this Delaware community.” Tiberi said. “Anybody who looks at legacy, they look at the success you’ve had, and for me, I just hope it’s not about me; it’s about how I can make an impact. I don’t care if it’s a boxing ring or in our community in Delaware. It’s about how I can help someone else. We have to fight the good fight.”

To donate, you can go to https://donatede.org/. There you can donate masks, hand sanitizer, and other essential items to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Collection locations for these items are listed on https://donatede.org/collection-locations/. Through Donate Delaware you can also donate money to various relief efforts to help those affected by COVID-19. To get in contact with Donate Delaware or volunteer visit https://donatede.org/contact-us/.

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