25 Years Ago Today: When “President” Ike Ibeabuchi KO’d Chris Byrd In Frightening Fashion

By James Slater - 03/20/2024 - Comments

This one was just plain scary.

It was 25 years ago today when unbeaten, emerging heavyweight contender Ike Ibeabuchi, perhaps a champion of the future, perhaps even a star of the future, sent the accomplished Chris Byrd into another dimension with a chilling display of power-punching. The two men met in Tacoma, Washington, and the lethal punching display from “The President,” as Ibeabuchi was known, sent shock waves through the sport.

Ibeabuchi, at age 26, was perfect at 19-0 going in, and he might have been a perfect puncher. For sure, Ike was a dangerous puncher of the highest order. Byrd, a slick southpaw who would make a career out of giving away both height and weight against the heavyweights (Byrd actually won an Olympic medal as a middleweight), was also unbeaten, the 28 year old being 26-0.

Ibeabuchi, seemingly carved from rock, had shown his toughness along with his punching ability in June of 1997, when he had edged fellow powerhouse David Tua over 12 magnificent rounds in a truly great battle. Ibeabuchi had plenty of experts thinking he just might be the next big thing at heavyweight.

Certainly, the brutal icing of Byrd did nothing to change this view.

The first four rounds saw the crafty and tricky Byrd have some success, with Ibeabuchi unable to land cleanly with anything. Often fighting on the ropes, Byrd was slipping and rolling, and he was firing shots back. But the sheer pressure from Ibeabuchi was proving taxing, and Byrd was feeling the pace. Ibeabuchi was able to refrain from getting frustrated in there.

The fifth round was sheer X-rated drama. And violence.

Catching Byrd with a monster of a left uppercut/hook, this as “Rapid Fire” was again trying to fight off the ropes, Ibeabuchi followed it up with a right and down Byrd went. The left hand bomb had sounded like a shotgun blast! It was enough to send Byrd into another dimension, the stricken fighter not having any idea where he was, Byrd talking to the referee as he got back up. Soon sent down again, this time from a nothing punch, Byrd was totally gone, only instinct seeing him get back up a second time.

Then, with Ibeabuchi blasting away, the fight was stopped, Byrd somehow still on his feet. Ibeabuchi had put the entire heavyweight division on notice, the now 20-0(15) operator having kicked the door down for a world title shot.

Instead, Ibeabuchi would never fight again.

The story of Ibeabuchi’s meltdown is a famous one: how Ike demanded to be called only by his presidential nickname, how he began hearing demons in the air-conditioning, and how the mentally ill fighter did all manner of horrible things to a call girl he kept prisoner in his Las Vegas hotel room in July of 1999.

Ibeabuchi’s career was over, the Nigerian jailed. To this day, fans wonder how far Ibeabuchi might have gone had he not gone nuts. Might Ibeabuchi, who had so much natural skill and talent, have ruled the world, at least for a short while? We will never know. Even now, however, Ibeabuchi is still said to be harbouring ideas of fighting again. He is 51 years old.

As for Byrd, he showed real heart and desire in rebounding from what could have been a career-ending defeat, with Chris going on to defeat Vitali Klitschko in a huge upset, and with Byrd also beating David Tua, Evander Holyfield, and Jameel McCline. Byrd, who ruled as IBF heavyweight champion from December 2002 to April of 2006, showed he was a fine boxer. He just didn’t know what hit him when he fought Ike Ibeabuchi.

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