Where Are They Now Presents: Ike Ibeabuchi – A Legend For The Wrong Reasons
The hard-hitter from Nigeria, Ike Ibeabuchi (20-0, 15KO) was a force to be reckoned with! Boxing fans know him for his high-octane fight against David Tua; a fight that broke a record for most punches thrown in the history of the heavyweight division!
In addition, this fight proved Tua to be human as Ibeabuchi defeated him unanimously; handing him his first career loss after knocking out 23 of 27 opponents.
Standing 6’2″ at 244 pounds with a reach of 77 inches, Ibeabuchi possessed hand speed, defense, footwork, power, a good chin and counter-punching ability. In essence, he was virtually a complete fighter!
The fifth round knockout victory over an undefeated Chris Byrd also showed his ability to adjust. Against the slick southpaw, he showed he’s not a one dimensional fighter by keeping up step-for-step with the defensive-minded Olympian. He seized victory by landing a brutal right uppercut.
After achieving his third-straight knockout victory, there were talks of even bigger things on the horizon. Soon to be undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis had just recorded a draw with Evander Holyfield the week prior and the two were in talks for a rematch. Ibeabuchi was heavily considered to be the next challenge for the winner of the rematch. However, Byrd would end up being his last professional bout.
It’s complicated to begin to get into the mind of any boxer. Moreover, Ibeabuchi was even more difficult than normal. There were times he began to believe the hype, insisting to be addressed by “The President” and not his birth name.
There were reports of erratic behavior of him slamming a knife through a table at a meeting discussing a fight deal with HBO. He was demanding outlandish purses and turning down a big money payday of $1 million to face the undefeated and highly rated contender Michael Grant.
This took place in 1999 before Grant wen’t on to fight Andrew Golota. The purpose of this match-up was to prepare Ibeabuchi for the winner of Lewis vs Holyfield 2. This decision would prove to be a critical mistake. Grant would defeat Golota and go on to face Lewis for the undisputed crown.
Would Ibeabuchi have defeated Lewis if he took the Grant deal and been given the opportunity to become the undisputed champion? Add this to the many frustrating questions many boxing enthusiasts have when they think back on possible MEGA fights involving the Nigerian.
The Troubled Soul
Legal issues were also a constant problem. Reports surfaced of attacks against multiple women, abducting the son of his former girlfriend and crashing the car in an attempt to commit suicide. Doctors would finally diagnose him with being bipolar while treating him until he could stand trial.
Once able to answer for his crimes, he would have his career and youth taken away. By ruling, he would serve a sentence of 20 years in prison.
Where Is He Now?
After serving out his sentence, he was placed on lifetime probation. A comeback to the sport of boxing at the age 43 in 2015 was announced. However, another arrest the following year violating an order to enroll in a treatment program in Arizona would derail those plans.
He is detained in Arizona until September 2019. Afterwards, he will face a detainer issued in February 2018 by the US Immigration, Customs and Enforcement agency. This involves the immigration issues he had hoped to rectify before his comeback. However, at the age of 46, a comeback may be highly unlikely.
It is popular opinion among boxing enthusiasts that Ibeabuchi not only could have been a world champion, but possessed hall of fame talent. If only mental instabilities could have been purged from his psyche. This could have prevented a downward spiral, a domino effect if you will that described the disappointing and tragic career of Ike Ibeabuchi!
By: Garrisson Bland