Mystery surrounds Ibeabuchi release
Exclusive by Luke G. Williams
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirms that former heavyweight contender Ike Ibeabuchi is ‘no longer in custody’. But where is he? Luke G. Williams investigates …
Whenever ‘top tens’ of lost, wasted or unfulfilled heavyweight boxing talents are compiled the name of Ikemefula Charles Ibeabuchi is always at or near the top of the list.
Before his arrest in 1999 and subsequent imprisonment for sexual assault and battery, Ibeabuchi had the boxing world at his feet. His war for the ages against David Tua and his savage knockout of the much-avoided – and previously undefeated – Chris Byrd, had seen the then 26-year-old prospect’s professional record advance to 20-0 with 15 stoppage victories. Before the forces of law and order intervened, a World Heavyweight Championship challenge was within touching distance for the formidable Nigerian pugilist.
Ever since Ibeabuchi’s incarceration, the boxing cognoscenti have pondered ‘what-might-have-been’, while the boxer’s more fanatical admirers have eagerly – and perhaps over-optimistically – wondered whether he might still blaze a destructive trail through the heavyweight division when finally released from prison. After all, if George Foreman could make a comeback in his forties, why not Ibeabuchi?
Other observers of a more compassionate disposition have pondered whether prison - or the boxing ring - were really the right place for Ibeabuchi, a man whose highly erratic behaviour prior to his conviction was characterised by possible signs of mental illness.
Throughout his decade and a half in custody there have been frequent rumours that Ibeabuchi was on the verge of release. Indeed, he has been eligible for parole since 2002. Yet in nine hearings over eleven years he failed to convince the authorities he should be freed, despite having proved himself a dedicated student while in prison, earning two degrees from Western Nevada College in 2007, and being named on the Dean’s List in Spring 2005.
In February 2014, it was wrongly reported in some media outlets that Ibeabuchi had finally been granted parole and released. Some reports even claimed that he was set to return to boxing, under the management of John Wilkinson and Bill Hodge.
However, it soon emerged – thanks to the investigative efforts of writer Michael Woods – that although Ibeabuchi had indeed been paroled, due to his status as a Nigerian national he had subsequently been moved into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ICE subsequently revealed that after a hearing in front of an immigration judge, an order had been made to have Ibeabuchi deported to Nigeria, based on the seriousness of his original conviction.
While awaiting deportation Ibeabuchi was held at the Eloy detention center in Arizona. Now, nearly two years later, Boxing Monthly can reveal that Ibeabuchi - now aged 42 - is no longer in ICE custody, although his current whereabouts are unknown, and it is also unclear if he plans on making a boxing comeback.
The first indication that Ibeabuchi had been released came on 24 November when a post appeared on a Facebook page listed under his name that read:
“America is the land of the second chance - and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life. - George W. Bush
IKE "THE PRESIDENT" IBEABUCHI WAS RELEASED FROM PRISON ON TUESDAY 17TH NOVEMBER 2015, TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOR HIS MERCY AND VICTORY...... Enjoy your Freedom "POTUS."
Bearing in mind the ease with which fake Facebook accounts can be established, this post should, of course, be treated with the utmost caution. However, there are reasonable grounds for believing that this Facebook account does, at the very least, belong to someone with a connection to Ibeabuchi and his family.
For example, on 13 February 2014 the page reported accurately the news that Ibeabuchi’s mother, Patricia Ibeabuchi, had died from a heart attack. The page had also previously promoted Patricia’s website - helpikeibeabuchi.org – which had lobbied for Ike’s release.
In order to check the veracity or otherwise of the Facebook post, Boxing Monthly accessed the ICE’s publicly available detainee locator database to check on Ibeabuchi’s current status.
Sure enough, the database lists his status as “not in custody”, explaining that this means that sometime within the past 60 days Ibeabuchi has indeed been released from ICE custody, for one of the following reasons:
“Removed from or voluntarily departed the United States,
Released from custody pending the outcome of their case,
Released into the United States due to the resolution of the immigration case (e.g., grant of an immigration benefit that permits the person to remain in the country), or
Transferred into the custody of another law enforcement or custodial agency.”
Unfortunately, due to privacy restrictions, a spokesperson for the Eloy Detention Center, although able to confirm that Ibeabuchi was no longer in residence at their facility, was unable to give any further information relating to the circumstances of his release to Boxing Monthly. An enquiry to the ICE headquarters in Washington D.C. received the same response.
Given the immigration judge’s decision last year to deport, it seems highly unlikely - albeit not impossible - that Ibeabuchi has been allowed to remain in the United States.
It is therefore to be assumed that the now 42-year-old pugilist has been deported to his homeland of Nigeria. If this is the case, and given the fact that he now possesses a criminal record, the chances of him winning readmission at a later date to the United States – where he was hoping to continue his boxing career – appear to be slim.
However, until ‘the President’ breaks cover, or makes a definitive public statement, his whereabouts remain unknown, as do his future plans.
As ever, in the turbulent life and career of Ike Ibeabuchi, nothing is simple.
In 2016, Boxing Monthly online will feature a biographical series by Luke G. Williams covering Ike Ibeabuchi’s life and career in definitive detail.