How great might Ikemefula Ibeabuchi, better known as Ike, have been had he not suffered the meltdown of all meltdowns? Years after Ibeabuchi’s career came to an unexpected end, fans still wonder. Indeed, to many it appeared as though Ike was well on his way to becoming not only a world heavyweight champion, but perhaps one of the next dominant rulers.
It was the win he scored over the slick Chris Byrd that convinced plenty of fans and some experts that Ibeabuchi was a future champ. Instead, the chilling KO win he scored back in March of 1999 was Ibeabuchi’s final fight (in the ring anyway).
After going hammer and tongs with fellow juggernaut of a puncher David Tua in the summer of 1997, 24-year-old Ibeabuchi had certainly proven his credentials. Having out-pointed the dangerous Tua, “The President,” as Ibeabuchi was known, proceeded to destroy the then undefeated Byrd. This fight pitted two undefeated fighters together – Byrd lost both his unbeaten record and his consciousness in the fifth-round.
Sounding for all the world like a shotgun blast, Ibeabuchi’s left hand, a hook-cum-uppercut, was savage and it blasted Byrd’s head back violently. Byrd went down, yet amazingly, on pure instinct, he climbed back up. Ibeabuchi showed his finishing skills as he tore at his wounded prey sending Bryd down a second time. Up again clambered the badly stricken fighter, only to take more shots and be stopped, whilst still on his feet, with just a second remaining in the round. Byrd was so out of it he did not even know he had been knocked out – his state of mind being evident during the post-fight interview he gave Larry Merchant.
Now 20-0(15), Ibeabuchi had put the entire heavyweight division on notice. Had he carried on fighting, training and keeping himself on the straight and narrow, Ibeabuchi would have been right in the running for a big fight with either a Lennox Lewis, a Mike Tyson or maybe a Hasim Rahman. Would he have had a great shot at beating Lewis and Tyson, along with Rahman? We will never know, as Ibeabuchi imploded.
Imagine also how much fun it would have been seeing a prime Ibeabuchi gling up against today’s best big men. Ibeabuchi vs. Deontay Wilder really would have been flat-out nasty.