One time WBC intercontinental Champion (1997) is out of prison and back to the squared ropes where he is best known for his boxing prowess. The Nigerian who until his incarceration in 1999 posted 20-0, 15 k.o’s record is gradually retracing his steps after 16 years behind bars will finally have a chance to get into the ring for a chance to fight again.
Released by the Nevada Prison System on February 28, 2014 and handed to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which detained him in Eloy, Arizona before he was released from custody by ICE in November. To get back in the stream of top fights, Manny Pacquiao is offering him a life line to fight under his card in April.
Upon his release from prison, Ibeabuchi hired Pacquiao’s advisor Michael Koncz, who is hopeful of the chances of ‘The President’ making his comeback as support for Pacquiao’s April bout. Early reports have suggested unbeaten Californian Andy Ruiz Jr (26-0-KO17) is a possible opponent.
But not many people will remember the name Ike Ibeabuchi other than those who fought him and those who avoided him during his assault on the Heavyweight division in the late 90’s. He was once considered one of the most dangerous boxers of his generation and was considered by many to be the man to dethrone Lennox Lewis.
Born in Nigeria on September 21st 1973, Ike “The President” Ibeabuchi was inspired into taking up the sport of boxing at the age of 17 instead of joining the Nigerian Army after witnessing James “Buster” Douglas massive upset win over Mike Tyson in 1990.
Whilst still in Nigeria he twice beat future Olympic Bronze Medallist Duncan Dokiwari as an amateur before immigrating to America where his mother had moved to Dallas to work as a registered nurse three years previously.
When Ike arrived he was still very raw and teamed up with former Welterweight Champion, Curtis Cokes as his trainer. Cokes couldn’t believe the natural talent he had in front of him and was more amazed by Ike’s ability to learn so quickly. Cokes would later comment “He was raw when he walked in my door, but each day you would have to teach him something new because he improved so fast. It was tough to keep up with him.”
A year after moving to America and at the age of 20 Ike entered the 1994 Dallas and Texas Golden Gloves tournament and won it convincingly before turning pro the same year a month after his 21st birthday. His debut would be against Ismael Garcia where he would knockout his opponent who was also making his debut out in two rounds. The defeat was enough for Ismael to decide that the sport of boxing wasn’t for him whereas Ike got the taste for destruction and couldn’t wait to fight again.
He was back in the ring just two months later which spiralled into seven fights and seven victories within his first year of turning pro. Five more fights between 1995 and 1996 would result in another five wins with Ike now starting to be noticed in the boxing world as a hot prospect having notched up 10 knockouts during those first 12 fights of his career.
Four wins later and Ike would get a chance to break into the top ten of the WBC rankings but in order to do so he would have to make a massive jump in class to fight a man that the critics were calling the “next Tyson”
David Tua was a massive puncher with 23 knockouts in 27 wins with no defeats. He had already beaten future two-time World Champ, John Ruiz and was the WBC international Title holder at the time that meant he was a prime contender for Lennox Lewis’s WBC Belt.
It was a big ask from Ibeabuchi who really raised to the occasion in what was a fantastic bout of back and forth action. It was the night that was supposed to put Tua up for the Title shot that he would now have to wait another three years to get after being dominated by a man who was only supposed to be a prospect. Ibeabuchi was now a bonafide contender after putting the first blemish on Tua’s record and showing the world there was a dangerous Heavyweight on the rampage.
Two years and two knockouts later Ike would then take on another top unbeaten contender at 26-0, Olympic Silver Medallist and future World Champion, Chris Byrd who would go on to be the first of only two men to beat Vitali Klitschko.
It started as a close fight with Byrd trying to box at a distance behind his awkward southpaw jab but it was only a matter of time before Ibeabuchi would find his range and unleash enough hooks to see Byrd destroyed against the ropes after being smashed to floor with relentless powerful shots that was enough to end the fight in the fifth round and now put himself right in contention for a shot at the World Title and many believed that he had now showed the skills and power to not only win it but to dominate like Mike Tyson did in the mid to late 80’s.
As quickly as the excitement ran through the boxing world that we had a real contender that didn’t have a glass jaw, who was relentless in his attacks and could take a “shot.” Ike was relentless and set a record of throwing 975 punches in a fight and averaging 81 punches per round which is virtually unheard of for Heavyweights and what made “The President” very, very dangerous and evidently highly feared by his fellow professionals. It was even rumoured that Tyson said during an interview where he wanted to call out Heavyweight Champ, Lennox Lewis, that he was asked if there was anyone he didn’t want to fight and his answer was simple, Ike Ibeabuchi.
Perhaps fortunately for the other contenders and even the champions but unfortunately for the fans the win against Chris Byrd would be his final appearance in the ring.
There was a massive fall from grace by perhaps the hottest prospect in boxing at the time and the most bizarre of incidents involving a man that has since been indicated had severe physiological difficulties and these were now starting to surface.
What I will comment on is that Ike showed signs of mental illness when a flight was booked for him but he was too big for one seat and there wasn’t the room to give him two so he walked up and down the runway of JFK airport screaming at armed guards “you better shoot me”
This should have been a sign that he needed help but it seemed to be ignored and things spiralled out of control from there as he went on to kidnap his former girlfriend’s son and had a car accident where the boy got permanently injured. The courts had decided that Ike had tried to commit suicide and there was an alleged pay-out of $500,000 in compensation to the 15 year old boy.
There were also other incidents involving sparring partners and trainers before his eventual imprisonment in 1999.