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Ike Ibeabuchi: Seeking redemption


Before going to jail, Ike Ibeabuchi (left) defeated Chris Byrd, who went on to become heavyweight champion of the world.

Before going to jail, Ike Ibeabuchi (left) defeated Chris Byrd, who went on to become heavyweight champion of the world.

Former top rated heavyweight contender from the 1990s, Ike ‘The President’ Ibeabuchi, 20-0, 15 KO’s, is now planning a return to the ring after an incarceration period of approximately a decade and a half.

He is now 42 years of age, and will be 43 by the time he returns to the ring.

New fans of the sport, perhaps, uneducated about the fistic exploits of Ibeabuchi, might ask, “Why all the fuss?”

The fuss is because Ibeabuchi is seen by many boxing pundits as the most wasted potential of boxing talent in the last 50 years of the sport. Before his problems outside of the ring took him away from the sport, he was viewed as a sure thing, the next heavyweight great that had come along.

Many felt he was a legitimate and dangerous threat to Lennox Lewis, who was the heavyweight champion of the world at the time.

Ibeabuchi was an anomaly, a rarity, a freak of nature if you will. Rarely are punchers also volume punchers.

Ibeabuchi was a good sized stocky heavyweight at 6’2 and 240 pounds without an ounce of fat on him, resembling more of an NFL linebacker than a heavyweight boxer.

Men of this size tend to not have large gas tanks in the stamina department. They have power but in general will gas out quickly if they push a fast pace. This was not the case with Ibeabuchi, however, he could lay a tremendous pace, carrying his power late in a fight just as he would in the early rounds.

He also seemed to be improving with every fight until his career was suddenly put to a halt. The rest of the 1990s and early 2000s heavyweights probably all let out a sigh of relief at his exit.

His detractors may say he only has two signature victories on his resume, so again why all the fuss? It is true that most of Ibeabuchi’s opposition were non-descript, but for the exception of David Tua and Chris Byrd. While many fans remember Tua and Byrd later in their careers on the downside, the interesting thing here is that Ibeabuchi took both of their O’s when they were young and in their primes.

Tua was still in prime shape weighing in at 226, back when he was destroying everyone like Mike Tyson used to. Ibeabuchi walked through Tua’s bombs and delivered his own, and at a staggering pace. Ibeabuchi and Tua engaged in a mini classic that broke compu-box records for the most punches ever thrown in a heavyweight fight.

Ibeabuchi got his hand raised in a pure slugfest, winning by 12 round unanimous decision. Tua would go on to challenge for the world title later in his career and would remain a top contender for many years, but seemed to have a hard time maintaining his weight and training properly ever since the Ibeabuchi fight.

Chris Byrd was an undefeated rising contender, but was absolutely wrecked by Ibeabuchi. In the course of Byrd’s entire career, no one ever beat him as badly as Ibeabuchi did. It was perhaps this victory, beating a prime Chris Byrd (A small guy or not), that really had the boxing pundits wondering just how good Ibeabuchi was and could become.

At 26 years old he had the boxing world stirring after this win. It would be his last professional fight. Byrd would go on to battle the Klitschko brothers in both victory and defeat. He would defeat David Tua and Evander Holyfield among others on his way to becoming two time heavyweight world titlist.

So even though there were only two key victories, they were over good opponents. What was more important to the boxing pundits, however, was how he won them. One was a vigorous physical contest of power, durability, and stamina. The second was a systematic beat down of a good opponent who would twice become a world champion, even after this drubbing.

After defeating Byrd in the fashion that he did it in, the boxing world was pleading for Ibeabuchi to get a crack at Lennox Lewis. This would never happen, however, as Ike’s demons got the better of him and he left a promising boxing career for a long stay in prison. He would last fight at the age of 26 while seemingly in a state of constant improvement.

17 years is a long time to wait before making a comeback in any sport, much less boxing. Ibeabuchi is going to attempt it however, and try to make some boxing history.

He will be 43 by the time he fights, supposedly on a card in April of 2016 sometime. You would figure even at a fast pace, by the time he got to a world title bout he would be getting close to breaking Foreman’s record as oldest man to challenge or win a heavyweight world title. That is of course if he can still compete on the world level at this age.

The chances of him coming back to win a world championship are astronomical. A lot of casual fans don’t know who he is, unless they were around watching boxing in the 90’s, or if they have heard about him from others. This could stunt his marketability, and unfortunately for him could slow down his march up the ranks, because at his age he needs to move quickly.

Having signed with Pacquaio advisor, Michael Koncz, may help with that however. It is all just speculation at this point, as to how it will all play out. What we do know is that he is out of prison and a free man, and planning to fight again, on an epic comeback trail of redemption.

“[Ibeabuchi] has served his time and wants to improve himself and Manny feels that since he’s served his term and is trying to turn his life around, he deserves a second chance,” Koncz told Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports.

The unbeaten Nigerian heavyweight fighter has yet to secure his license to fight in Las Vegas and he also needs to undergo rigid medical tests to be sure he is in good health.

“I am definitely in shape and I understand I would have to prove this,” he said.

“I need to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world and I understand that I will have to prove myself worthy. Any of the tests that would be required of me, an EKG, an MRI, an EEG, those kinds of tests, X-rays, things that would be required to obtain a boxing license, were done while I was incarcerated. But I am willing to cooperate and do whatever so that I may obtain my boxing [license] and appear on this card in Las Vegas,” he said.

If I had to predict the outcome, I would say it is a doubtful endeavor. Ibeabuchi’s biggest strengths were his physicality attributes of power, strength, chin, and stamina. I’m sure he is still a strong man and has power, since it is often the last thing to leave a fighter. The ability to take a punch and stamina are often one of the first things to leave a fighter as he ages, and those were perhaps his two biggest strengths.

He is a freak of nature in a way and can perhaps prove me and others wrong, but the odds are, he is up against it. That is not to say his skills were bad, he was technically sound and had a good offense. His defense wasn’t the best, and he often relied on his iron chin to stay in the pocket and deliver his own bombs.

Perhaps, he is a young for his age, not taking much punishment. Noteworthy fringe contender Amir Mansour is actually older than Ibeabuchi so it is not an impossible feat to climb back into contention and make some money. Winning a world title is another story though. If he looks good on the comeback trail who knows?

To make an accurate assessment we would need to see Ibeabuchi back in the ring. I look forward to seeing how his story unfolds.

• Culled from

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