Tua vs Ibeabuchi: Something had to give - But nothing did!

25.01.06 - By James Slater: Nothing did give, in the ring that is. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the mind of Ike "The President" Ibeabuchi. This did give and as a result he now languishes in a prison cell on a rape charge. What a shame. What a waste. This guy seemed to have it all; power, endurance, speed, grit and, under the tutelage of former welterweight champion Curtis Cokes, finesse. When he and the then likewise undefeated David "The Terminator" Tua hooked up on June the 7th 1997, the Tua man was an overwhelming favourite over the virtually unheard of Ibeabuchi. But what a fight the Nigerian, who had relocated to Texas U.S.A, had in store for the Samoan powerhouse!

Those who saw the fight witnessed the twelve most incredibly fast paced rounds ever in a heavyweight bout. Larry Merchant, doing commentary, said, quite early in the fight with conviction in his voice , "Something's got to give". But he was wrong, nothing did. These two strong, solid heavyweights went at it hammer and tongs for the full twelve rounds. In the process their punch-stat numbers, particularly Ibeabuchi's, surpassed those one would normally associate with welterweights!

Maybe it's in light of the poor state of the heavyweight division today, but this match up really does look something quite remarkable now. We certainly were somewhat spoiled back in the '90's. Although even back then there were complaints and groans about the state of the heavyweight division. I know I would gladly swap those days for the ones we have to contend with now! In many ways, this fight came too early in both men's careers. Surely a fight of this quality, between two legitimate world class heavyweights, deserved to have been contested when a world title was at stake? (although no one knew then, of course, that Ibeabuchi's fighting days would soon reach a premature end) As it was, the lightly regarded WBC international title, held by Tua, was on the line.

Ibeabuchi and Tua answered the opening bell at The Arco Arena in Sacramento ,and the first four rounds they fought could very well have been held in a phone booth. Nothing much changed throughout. The big hooks thrown by both men were thudding into each other's skull and ribcage area right from the get go and the intensity of the fight never faded. It was an incredible fight and the pace of it alone ensures it should be held in much higher esteem today than it is. The first three or four rounds belonged to "The President", but then, in rounds five through eight, Tua's work started to erase some of Ike's early lead. Most people watching must surely have been amazed at the ability of the unknown Ibeabuchi. Still, would David come on to stop him in the later rounds? Neither guy really had an edge over the other in terms of physical strength, which must have been a surprise to Tua. He tried to shove Ibeabuchi around throughout but was unable to out muscle him. David's body work was more of a factor but Ike's toughness served him well in this regard too. He was magnificently conditioned and he sported a body beautiful physique. Tua was also in top shape (something that wouldn't always be true later in his career) and by the tenth round these two heavyweights had thrown a staggering 1300 punches between them according to punch- stats. This was one action packed fight!Tua's hooks were his best weapons while Ibeabuchi's hooks AND his jab were his best tools. I believe this may have been the key to his success. Both men's chins were comparable to granite and they needed to be!

Astonishingly, by the end of the tenth round neither guy appeared to be breathing overly heavy. In fact, the number of punches being thrown, again, especially by Ike, was pretty much the same in the last two rounds as it was in the opener. The stamina on display was something to behold. At the end it was very close and an argument could have been made for each man emerging victorious. As things unfolded, the judges rewarded the soon to be very well known Ike Ibeabuchi, with a win courtesy of a unanimous decision. The final punch-stats numbers totalled a phenomenal 1730 punches thrown. This is more than Ali and Frazier threw in the gruelling "Thrilla In Manilla".

Sadly, as I've said, Ibeabuchi's career ended just as it got going and he was jailed not long after what was almost certainly his last fight, a five round KO win over Chris Byrd. I'm convinced he would have captured world honours ,had he behaved himself. As for Tua, he would go on to accomplish much; destroying men who had either held a version of the heavyweight title or would do so subsequently. But the crown has thus far eluded "The Terminator" himself. He is still active today though, so he may yet get his hands on a belt.

Whatever the future holds, the great effort David Tua gave on the night of June the 7th 1997, ensures I will always remember him, and the man who narrowly defeated him in Ike Ibeabuchi, as a heavyweight who gave us all something to shout about. The fight they put on deserves to be remembered as nothing less than what it was; Something very special indeed. Not only in the heavyweight division, but in any division!

Article posted on 25.01.2006

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