Long retired from wars in the boxing ring, the indefatigable Dave Tiberi battles for the poor and underserved in Delaware
When Dave Tiberi talks, his hands flash out in front of him, punctuating his words. Look closely, and you see that he holds them cupped in a half-fist, like a boxer about to snap off a jab or throw a hook.
Old habits — and muscle memory — die hard.
Tiberi used those piston-like hands and a rock-solid jaw to fashion a 22-2-3 record and win the International Boxing Council Super Middleweight Championship on his way to a watershed moment in boxing history: his Feb. 8, 1992, fight against International Boxing Federation Middleweight Champion James Toney at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
The undefeated Toney, a 10-1 favorite, won a split decision that night, outraging many in a crowd that included a large contingent of Tiberi’s fellow Delawareans. Their reaction was echoed by ABC television commentator Alex Wallau, who called it “the most disgusting decision I’ve ever seen.”
That opinion was reinforced by the discovery that the two judges who voted for Toney were unlicensed in New Jersey, while the one who gave the nod to Tiberi — by a healthy margin — was licensed in the state. So it would seem the decision was illegal on the face of it.
Tiberi himself was convinced he had won. As he said then and has repeated since, “I went to the press conference afterwards; he went to the hospital.”
Senator Roth’s Hearings
Among the shocked attendees was U.S. Sen. William Roth, who happened to be from Delaware and also the head of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations. Roth quickly initiated hearings to probe the darker side of “the sweet science,” and the hearings eventually led to the Muhammed Ali Boxing Reform Act and the Professional Boxers Safety Act.
A rematch seemed inevitable to many, but Tiberi refused all offers — which reportedly topped out at $500,000 — unless he fought as champion and Toney as the challenger. That was not to be, and Tiberi ended his seven-year professional career at the age of 25.
Unlike many ex-fighters, the New Castle native never allowed boxing to define him. After a brief pause to process the shock of the Toney decision and to testify during Roth’s hearings, Tiberi immersed himself in business pursuits and charitable and philanthropic work that have earned him state and national recognition. Over the last three decades, propelled by an Energizer Bunny enthusiasm coupled with a preternatural disdain for sleep, he has continued to do well while doing good.
Toward the end of his boxing career, Tiberi had a local cable TV show, and that morphed into TNT Video, Multimedia & Television Productions, Inc. As the digital age dawned, TNT Video developed expertise in web-based technologies and created software that provided first responders with critical information for managing emergency scenes. That led to the creation in 2005 of a second company, Emergency Response Protocol, which provides businesses with security systems that include body temperature and security camera installations, access control, and 24/7 live video monitoring. Tiberi is president and his wife, Angela, is CEO of the company, located in Newport.
Meanwhile, he continues to be involved in myriad charities and community services. A partial list of the boards he has served or is serving on include the St. Francis Hospital Foundation, the Sunday Breakfast Mission Homeless Shelter, Delaware Boys and Girls Clubs, Delaware Police Chiefs Foundation, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Delaware Dream Center, and Leadership Delaware.
Training Police Candidates
He also founded the Delaware Decision Makers, and co-founded and served on the board as a volunteer at The Dave Tiberi Youth Center for 22 years. And for the last 30 years, he has been a volunteer instructor in defensive tactics at the Delaware State Police Academy in Dover.
Two of his brothers served in Vietnam, and preventing suicides among military veterans is one of Tiberi’s passions. “Do you know that almost 22 veterans commit suicide every day?” he asks.
His support of veterans’ mental health resulted in the latest of many honors: an award on Sept. 25 from the 22in22 movement, which combats military veteran suicide.
Tiberi is the second youngest in a family of two girls and 12 boys, seven of whom were involved in boxing at one level or another. Dave first entered a ring at the age of 5, and by 12 or 13 was taking on adults at Delaware Park’s Tuesday Night Fights.
He turned pro at 18, soon after graduating from William Penn High School, where he was a two-sport star. He made honorable mention All-State in baseball and was a standout center in football, where he balanced entreaties from coaches to gain weight while trying to maintain the 155-pound middleweight limit.
In such a large family, luxuries were few, and hand-me-downs were a fact of life. “When you’re a kid and three or four of your brothers wear a pair of sneakers and then you get them, or when you get a little hungry, it can be tough,” he says. “So when I see people out there hurting, and when I see people really struggling, I can relate. My mom and dad would never ask for help, but there were people who helped us, and I specifically remember them.“
That childhood and a strong religious foundation seem to fuel Tiberi’s tireless desire to give back, or, as he calls it, his “outreach.”
His charitable work comes in both a macro and micro form. While he serves on boards and speaks to church and civic groups, he also performs everyday acts of kindness, like handing out bags filled with food and cleaning products to the homeless he encounters during trips to the supermarket or gas station. The bags are prepared by his church, Parkview Assembly of God in Newark, and Tiberi keeps two or three in the back seat of his truck.
A Pandemic Catalyst
The pandemic (or should it now be called “the first pandemic”?) was a tailor-made catalyst for a Tiberi take-the-bit-in-his-teeth charge into action.
It started in March of 2020 when his long-time friend and business partner, Richard Piendak, head of Richards Paving, heard a man and woman arguing over acquiring and wearing facemasks. Piendak called Tiberi, described the incident, and they both realized that a critical demand for masks and other protective equipment was imminent.
“At that point,” says Tiberi, “nobody had even heard of personal protective equipment.”
They quickly created Donate Delaware, a nonprofit aimed at helping health care organizations and first responders. A website was online within hours, PPE was gathered, and Piendak’s warehouse in Newport became a storage center.
Tiberi has influential friends and acquaintances throughout the state, and he is not shy about asking for their help. In this case, he contacted State Sen. Nicole Poore, of New Castle, whom he has known for years. Poore put him and Piendak in touch with Christiana Care and its group of Delaware hospitals, and Donate Delaware was off and running. Since then, it has supplied more than a million PPEs to the community while partnering with several organizations, including JP Morgan, Bank of America, and AAA.
“I got Dave and Richard the introductions they needed,” says Poore. “They did all the heavy lifting.”
The senator is a big Tiberi fan. Calling him “relentless” in serving the underserved, she says, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called Dave with a story about someone like Little Sisters of the Poor who needed assistance, and it didn’t matter if it was the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn, he would go and deliver, almost like Santa Claus, so that they had what they needed to help other people.”
“What lot of people don’t realize,” she adds, “is that while he’s done a lot of training for the state police, he’s also done a lot of one-off with kids who are high risk, who could take one path or another. The minute someone calls and says, ‘Hey, can you talk to this kid,’ he makes sure he schedules that time — and he does it.”
Piendak’s wife, Kathy, is another admirer. During Out & About’s phone interview with her husband, she grabbed the receiver and began — there is no other word for it — gushing. “There’s not one charity that he doesn’t support, whether it’s school supplies, coats in the winter time, he has a way of doing good wherever he goes,” she said. “When you have a need and you call him, if he doesn’t have an answer, he knows someone who does.”
As the executive director of Delaware Regional Dream Center, Jeremiah Maina also has seen Tiberi in action. The center, which is a nonprofit associated with Tiberi’s church, provides community outreach.
“Dave through Donate Delaware was key in assisting us with masks and hand sanitizer,” says Maina. “That guy is far beyond caring. He has a heart for the community and makes sure people in the community are getting their needs met.”
Despite all his charitable and business endeavors, at his core Tiberi is a family man. Married for 31 years, he and Angela (“She’s the backbone of everything I do; she keeps me straight”) have three grown daughters: Alexis, Angela Marie, and Ariel. “They are my biggest accomplishment in life,” says the paterfamilias. “They mean everything to me.”
The Tiberis recently — and joyfully — welcomed a male into the family: Alexis’ son, Callahan David McLeish.
Angela and Dave live in Hockessin and take frequent long walks near their home. The walks, combined with training police candidates and a group workout in Smyrna on Thursday nights, help keep the 6-foot, 170-pound Tiberi in shape.
As Poore says, “He is the first to give credit to others,” so it’s no surprise when Tiberi credits his native state for much of his successful charity work. Citing the almost instant creation of Donate Delaware as an example, he rattles off some of the businesses, organizations, institutions, and politicians that offered to help. “Everybody I’ve reached out to has responded with either time, talent or treasure – the three Ts that are key to a successful community project,” he says, then adds one of his aphorisms: “If you can’t do it in Delaware, it can’t be done.”
“No one can say no to Dave,” says Jennifer Cohan, CEO of Leadership Delaware. “He’s always giving back to the community and asking others to do the same.”
Sure enough, Tiberi ends our interview by calling on fellow Delawareans to step up in the face of poverty, crime, a new virus, and other societal challenges.
“Everybody can do something,” he says. “What’s going to impact our community is our involvement with nonprofits. There are so many who need support, and we could do so much more. Right now, we don’t have a choice. We all have to dive in together.”
— Dave Tiberi is attempting to raise $20,000 by Sept. 24 for Stop Soldier Suicide. To donate, go to: runsignup.com/teamdavetiberi. To give to Donate Delaware, go to donatede.org, or call Tiberi at 690-6946.