Forgotten Legends: Ike Ibeabuchi

By: Steve Gallegos

The Heavyweight division in boxing has been in shambles recently. The Heavyweight Championship of the world is no longer the biggest event in all of sports and many of the top heavyweight contenders lack the excitement to drum up interest in a once very hot division.

The last good era of exciting Heavyweights was in the mid to late 90’s. Superstars of the divison were fighters like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. There were also a string of very good young heavyweights on the rise. Promotional companies such as Main Events and Cedric Kushner Promotions invested heavily in these young, big men, televising all heavyweight cards such as HBO’s “Night at the Young Heavyweights” as well as the recurring Pay Per View event called “Heavyweight Explosion”. David Tua, Chris Byrd, Shannon Briggs and Michael Grant were among the class of the rising young heavyweights; however there was one fighter who steamrolled his way to the top of the rankings, only to have his world come crashing down hard due to problems outside the ring. That fighter was Ike “The President” Ibeabuchi.

At 6″2 with a very muscular frame, Ibeabuchi was a destroyer in the ring, throwing large volumes of punches while smothering opponents. Ibeabuchi took up boxing after watching Buster Douglas’ upset win over Mike Tyson and turned pro in October 1994, scoring a 2nd round KO. Trained by former welterweight champion Curtis Cokes, Ibeabuchi would win his next 16 fights, 12 by KO. He would then get his first taste of national exposure on 06/07/97 when he took on fellow undefeated heavyweight prospect David Tua.

The fight was an HBO Boxing After Dark main event which was supposed to be another showcase for the young, up and coming  Tua. Curtis Cokes said prior the bout that he had the Heavyweight divisions best kept secret in Ibeabuchi. He turned out to be right. Ibeabuchi came out throwing bombs from the opening bell and wouldn’t let up. Both men exchanged hard shots all night, up until the final bell. When the decision was announced, Ibeabuchi was the winner by majority decision. He was no longer the best kept secret.

After the Tua fight is when Ibeabuchi began to have problems outside the ring. He complained of numerous headaches, causing him to hallucinate in which he claimed he saw demons. This would cause many outbursts in public. In August of 1997, Ibeabuchi went into a rage and abducted his girlfriends 15 year old son and crashed his car into a pillar. The teenage boy would suffer life altering injuries due to the attack. The crime was ruled an attempted suicide and Ibeabuchi served 120 days in jail.

He returned to the ring in July,1998 and won two fights by KO before facing another undefeated heavyweight prospect and future heavyweight champion in Chris Byrd. They met on 03/20/99 and Ibeabuchi rushed Byrd from the outset throwing hard shots and smothering him on the ropes. Byrd, known for his quickness and elusiveness, wasn’t able to weather the storm. In the fifth round, Ibeabuchi landed a hard left hook that dropped Byrd on his face. Byrd got up only for Ibeabuchi to drop him once again. Byrd was able to rise again but Ibeabuchi would not let up, causing the referee to stop the bout just prior to bell sounding to end the round.

Ibeauchi was back on top; however it was very short lived as his problems outside the ring would once again get the better of him. While in Las Vegas in July, 1999, Ibeabuchi was charged with sexual abuse after an incident with a female escort at his hotel room. He was convicted of battery with intent to commit a crime and he was sentenced to 2-10 years in prison. He was also convicted of attempted sexual assault in which he received 3-20 years in prison. He remains incarcerated to this day. His professional record to date stands at 20-0 with 15 KO’s. It would have been interesting to see what his career would have been like had he stayed out of trouble outside the ring. Could he have been the successor to Lennox Lewis’ heavyweight throne? Could he have had a legendary matchup against one of the Brothers Klitschko? We could only imagine how it would have all played out.

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