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Articles of 2004

Unfavorable vote for The President – Boxing's Ike Ibeabuchi




o this is what passes for excitement in the heavyweight division these days: four bouts, featuring three retreads, two quickly fading bores and three neverwuzzes.

That said, I'm looking forward to Don King's show Nov. 13 in Madison Square Garden. Sad, but true. There's not much else out there for the big boys.

Andrew Golota will try not to implode in a title fight for the first time in his career, taking his latest shot against the ubiquitous WBA champion, John Ruiz. Quadragenarian Evander Holyfield will hope to extend his career against Larry Donald, one of those fighters you're not sure if you've ever seen fight. IBF champ Chris Byrd, who hasn't looked convincing in years, will face Jameel McCline. Hard luck Hasim Rahman will attempt to end Kali Meehan's 15 minutes of relative fame.

Then, in a battle of one-hit wonders, WBC champ Vitali Klitschko (known for almost beating somebody good) is scheduled to fight Danny Williams (famous for beating somebody who used to be good) Dec. 11 in Las Vegas.

The man who should be known as the best heavyweight in the world, meanwhile, woke up this morning in a jail cell, just as he has for roughly 1,500 straight days. He will do so again tomorrow morning and every morning thereafter for the near future.

His nickname was The President, but save your ballots; he won't be a candidate to fight any time soon.

Ike Ibeabuchi is a symbol of wasted dreams, squandered money and time forever lost. He is serving five to 30 years inside the Lovelock Correctional Center in the Northern Nevada desert for battery and sexual assault.

Many had mixed emotions when Ibeabuchi's parole eligibility was pushed up to Dec. 12. Oh, how we would love to see him back in the ring, plying his wondrously destructive skills in the ring. The Nigerian mammoth is 20-0 with 15 knockouts. In his last fight he obliterated Byrd 5 1/2 years ago, something no other boxer has done. Ibeabuchi also was the first to defeat David Tua.

Ibeabuchi, only 31 years old, would've buoyed what is fast becoming the worst heavyweight era, but the tradeoff for our pugilistic enjoyment was returning an unstable element back to society.

No matter what decision was made, I was going to be happy with it – and equally disappointed, depending on whether I thought as a boxing fan or a civilian.

I wrote a lengthy story on Ibeabuchi's situation right before his hearing this summer. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a few hours in the prison's visiting area one sun-baked Sunday morning. I had been looking forward to the interview for months because it took me that long to arrange it. Ibeabuchi reached out to me last year about writing a tell-all story about him; he had liked an column I wrote about him around the time of his arrest. Nevada prison administrators denied my request for a face-to-face meeting, so I went through the visitor approval process — Ibeabuchi had to invite me by sending out application forms — and I saw him as if I were a family member or friend.

Prison regulations prohibited me from bringing in a notepad or pen, much less a tape recorder. I was nervous about conducting an interview without any materials, but once I passed through the metal detectors and automatic gates a guard provided a pencil and some paper scraps. After all, there were boards games to be played, and I might need to keep score.

At the time of our meeting, I would have predicted Ibeabuchi's release next month. He had so many factors working for him. He already had been given clearance by a psychological evaluation board. He received Nevada Community College credits in psychology, philosophy, business math, personal finance, English and computer technology. It was clear by what I saw he was well liked by the guards.

The biggest friend to his cause was adviser Sig Rogich, a Las Vegas ad agency executive and crisis-control specialist with a direct line to Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn and George W. Bush.

Rogich worked on Ronald Reagan's presidential re-election, was a member of George H. W. Bush's cabinet, served as U.S. ambassador to his native Iceland and is an adviser to the current president. Rogich has earned the current President Bush's prestigious Ranger title by raising more than $200,000 for the campaign.

Rogich also helped Guinn get elected. The governor appoints every parole board commissioner, and they were the ones to decide this summer whether Ibeabuchi could leave prison this year.

But those close to Ibeabuchi were justifiably nervous about our interview. They knew he was capable of insensitive and undiplomatic commentary that could sabotage his parole chances. His English is remarkable, but many of his notions don't translate very well from a cultural standpoint.

Inmate No. 71979 hadn't spoken to a reporter in years. He was engaging and forthright, alternately intense and charming. He didn't avoid a single question, not about that young boy he nearly killed in an apparent murder-suicide auto accident years earlier in Texas, not about the additional rape accusations that arose after his arrest, not about the literal demons he repeatedly told others he saw. He offered philosophical musings on his life.

It was clear, however, his time behind bars had given him plenty of time to justify every troubling situation that had befallen him. The contrition was dwarfed by the excuses. He offered no apologies, saying he was misled and misunderstood.

As one would expect, he made several bizarre statements in trying to defend his deeds:

  “I feel women should bow to me. I have a great ego in going after women. I'm not a person to rape a woman because I'm of the belief she should want to be with me. If she doesn't want to be with me, I don't want to have sex with her.”

  “I have had sex with escorts many times. It's no strings attached. I paid with checks and credit cards. … It was a guilty pleasure. When we have secrets, God has a way of telling you 'I saw what you did.' I thought I could get away with it, but God had to make my little secret public.”

  “How can I have the audacity to rape someone I'm paying to have sex with? In Nigeria I wouldn't be in prison for what I did. The system here (in the U.S.) makes sure someone gets punished whenever a woman cries. This was a call girl, an escort.”

My story didn't even mention how he told me of his hope to marry an American woman quickly upon his release so as to avoid deportation.

The parole board denied Ibeabuchi's release even though the victim didn't testify. The verdict apparently wasn't even close because he won't be eligible for parole again until December 2007. Three years was the maximum amount of time the parole board could make him wait.

Needless to say, Ibeabuchi blamed my story, which appeared on, for his denial. The timing clearly was not in his best interests, but he wanted me to interview him, and one of his attorneys facilitated the meeting. Ibeabuchi also was the one who informed me of Rogich's involvement, something he probably should have kept to himself in a presidential election year. The last thing Bush would need is a Willie Horton scandal, even if by extension.

I eventually received a letter:

Tim Graham, you bastard!

You misrepresented my opinion on women in your article, when you promised me that you would be TRUTHFUL.

You caused me my parole, you son of a gun!

I don't ever want to see you again!

Now, you're attacking SIG'S abilities! Of course, We all know who Sig is. Why sing it to the public?

Again, I don't ever want to see you again. Consider yourself warned!!!

And as I folded the letter and placed it back in its envelope, that disappointment I felt about not being to see Ibeabuchi back in the ring for a few more years quickly abated.

He'll stay in prison a few more years. We're probably better off that way.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List




The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit





As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns





Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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