How Much Did We Really Know About Ike Ibeabuchi?

12.01.04 - By Chris Acosta: It is said that long after a boxer retires, his legend grows (the great ones anyway). The same goes for musicians who die prematurely. One minute the person is a living, breathing rock star, but after an overdose he becomes an icon. There's just something about "what could have been" that seems to knock things out of perspective and send us running for more superlatives to throw their way.

For the past few years, I have heard fans and network faces like Max Kellerman and HBO declare the greatness of Ike Ibeabuchi. We all know that the man known as "The President" sits in a jail cell, accumulating rust as you read this. There is no denying at that at the short peak of his powers he was a formidable opponent for just about anyone. He withstood the power of David Tua and the elusiveness of Chris Byrd, giving both of them their very first losses. Those two wins are basically all we have to go on in assessing his abilities and while impressive in their variation, still left questions.

The answers those two bouts gave us were that Ike could punch, absorb a heavy punch and show the patience and resolve to solve a difficult puzzle. Most of us quickly announced him as the "next" great heavyweight, and we didn't even pause like we did when that tag was attached to Michael Grant. When he was officially charged with rape and sentenced to serve time, those of us looking so hard for someone to save the division and boxing in general, went overboard in our praise of his wasted skills.

This is not to say that the man couldn't fight. It was obvious that he had quite a versatility to match his toughness and as we can see today, that combination is as rare as heterosexual hair stylists. But there was still one element of his game missing, an element that was never weened: His ability to compete against a very tall boxer with a dominant jab. No disrespect to Tua or Byrd but both were significantly smaller than Ike and have major flaws in their games. We now know that Tua cannot figure out a fleet-footed boxer and Byrd simply does not have the punch to threaten anyone. If styles truly do make fights, then how would the Nigerian have been able to cope with a bigger man than himself? Would he have been able to slip a jab and move inside? Might a long jab have turned him into a wild swinging brawler or a clueless plodder? Could he remain composed or be tied up in frustration?

Face it, size does play a large role in boxing. Tall fighters can afford to sit behind their jabs and think which is not true of a smaller man. Look at how much trouble a quick-handed boxer like Kirk Johnson had against Vitali Klitschko, hell, look how he struggled with Al Cole and Larry Donald! A few inches in verticality and the whole landscape is rearranged. Punches that look reachable fall short, a seemingly safe distance results in being hit with jabs, once you get inside you fall into a jungle of arms. Physical proportions have made some of the best fighters in history look less than stellar. Ray Leanard vs. Tommy Hearns and Larry Holmes' narrow escape against Carl Williams come to mind.

Ike had great tools but without having fought one of the giants of the modern era, really didn't deserve to be called the next big thing. He may have had enough power and poise to knock Lennox Lewis' dreadlocks clean off of his head but he never gave himself the chance, so we will never know. We needed to see more but for reasons known only to him, he left us with weightless conclusions.

Article posted on 12.01.2004

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