By Paul Daley – Like a candle blown out by the wind, that’s how it felt for me personally when Ike Ibeabushi was sentenced back in 1999. Aged 26 a career full of promise and excitement came crashing down around him just as he was on the verge of taking over boxing’s most glamorous division.
Barrel chested, built like a power lifter and donning Black shorts and ankle boots without socks he brought comparisons with Iron Mike Tyson but that’s not where the comparisons ended. Like Tyson, Ike also was a powerful force of nature running through competition like a hot knife through butter which was mirrored on his final record of 20 wins with 15 of those coming by way of knockout.
The two wins that people look at when they think of Ike are the ones involving David Tua and Chris Byrd in particular, before that time many were sceptical about his skills amongst the division’s best, needing to see more but those two fights made even the harshest of critics in to believers.
Let’s start with Tua, much like Ike he too was destined for great things, coming into the contest he was the clear favourite sporting a 27-0 record which saw him already beating future world champions Oleg Maskaev and John Ruiz where only three men held the feat of making it to the final bell. The New Zealander was a powerhouse as I nervously watched trying not to believe the boxing insiders who predicted a Tua victory.
No one could have predicted what we saw unfold on the night of the 7th of June 1997 where before our eyes Ibeabushi not only took everything that Tua had thrown at him but came back with more than enough answers. Both men broke the heavyweight record that night for the amount of punches thrown (1,730) while Ike also set the Individual record for the most punches thrown in a fight by a heavyweight with 975 punches an average of 81 per round where a heavyweight normally would average around 50. As the records tumbled, neither man did at the end of the twelve pulsating rounds. Ike had won a unanimous decision from the three judges in attendance but most of all we had got our answer to Ike’s push for a major title, could he do it? The question was asked, a resounding YES came the response.
Ok so he beat a brawler many said but could he beat someone elusive or able to box from the outside? The test was Chris Byrd who like Tua was also unbeaten going into the contest, boxing the ears of many a contender up to this point, which to be honest he did to Ike for three or four rounds.
After that time Ike managed to cut Chris in the fourth and trapped him against the ropes in the fifth where he unleashed an uppercut with nothing but bad intentions mixed with a right cross that left chris on the canvas. Byrd made it to his feet obviously hurt, he tried to shake off the effects but as the action continued a right hand put him down again. Chris as many will know is a friend of ours at TopClassBoxing I have to say he showed a tremendous amount of heart to get back to his feet, but the writing was on the wall for the former Olympian who succumbed to the follow up assault as the referee stepped between the two fighters to save Byrd for another day.
Now he had arrived at the top of the heavyweight pile leaving a whole host of contenders at his feet, eyes fixated on Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield who at the time were the divisions rulers respectfully, fights that we would never get to see Ike tested in.
His heavyweight plans give way to the demons inside his head, Ike told his close friends how he used to hear voices inside his head which told him to do bad things showing obvious signs of schizophrenia.
Like I mentioned earlier the comparisons between Ike and Mike continued as both also served time but with a very different outcome because while Mike’s was able to continue his career “The President” still to this day serves his time at the Lovelock correctional center in Lovelock,Nevada.
Ike was arrested and charged with attempted sexual assault on a Las Vegas Call girl in 1999 where the woman in question told the arresting officer that Ike had attempted to have Sexual Intercourse with her when she asked to be paid upfront for a contracted lap dance.
Now I’m not writing this story to say that Ike wasn’t guilty of the crime plus he had a rap sheet that could fill a side of A4 paper but if you look at the situation in regards to Tyson who was convicted of rape you will see the injustice as I continue.
Ike is serving out his 2-10 year sentence and a consecutive 3-20 year sentence in Nevada where at the time of writing he has been denied parole on four separate occasions the last coming in May 2013.
Since his incarceration, Ike has earned two college degrees from Western Nevada Community College: an Associate of General Studies and an Associate of Applied Science in General Business.
Tyson on the other hand (Guilty or not) served out his 3 1/2 year sentence where he was able to continue his multimillion pound career without really missing a step. I guess that’s where the fascination with the heavyweight division ended for me, long gone are the days where the sport’s top division is competitive as the likes of Fury and Pulev amongst others try to lessen the grip that the Klitschko’s have over the weight class.
Aged 40 Ike, I believe even if he is released next year would find it hard to reinvigorate any kind of push for world honours or even get in the type of shape to make a living from the sport. I can but dream because that’s all it would be. I believe if he does get his release forms he will be deported back to his homeland of Nigeria where he will be remembered as a fighter that could have been so very special, a fighter to me personally that would have beaten both Lennox and Evander given the chance, writing his name into the history books as one of Africa’s best.