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Monday, December 27, 2021

Review of President of Pandemonium

President of Pandemonium: The Mad World of Ike Ibeabuchi
By Luke G. Williams
Hamilcar Publications, 2021.

Ike Ibeabuchi scored two impressive victories over undefeated contenders as part of his quest to achieve heavyweight supremacy in the late 1990s. In a thrilling fight, the Nigerian native notched a unanimous decision upset over devastating puncher David Tua in 1997. Three fights and two years later, Ibeabuchi stopped skilled southpaw Chris Byrd in the fifth round of their bout. He looked ready to challenge Lennox Lewis for the title.

But Ibeabuchi faced inner demons. His preparation suffered as his mental health seemingly deteriorated. Violent run-ins with the law eventually derailed his promising career. He left a trail of victims in his wake.

Luke G. Williams provides a fair-minded and thorough analysis of a complicated man with a tarnished legacy. He gives great background about Ibeabuchi's homeland, Nigeria, which is the seventh most populous nation on the planet and quickly climbing, and details the role his Igbo culture had on his outlook.

Ibeabuchi's mental health struggles aren't mocked or dismissed as boxing writers are wont to do, but neither are they an excuse for his irresponsible and violent behavior. Williams does an excellent job piecing together interviews from the people around the self-proclaimed "President" to provide a window into his life.

One of those people was Cedric Kushner, a South African Jew who served as Ibeabuchi's promoter. Kushner, who died in 2015, didn't see much promise in Ike at first. He soon realized what a prize this fighter truly was. About Kushner, Williams ultimately concludes, "[H]is apparent failure to insist that Ibeabuchi get help remains morally questionable."

Though another Jewish promoter, Bob Arum, makes an appearance, Kushner is the main Jewish character in the book. Ibeabuchi never faced a Jewish opponent. Tim Puller would have been the most likely foe, but their paths never crossed in the ring. They did have common opponents, however. Both KOed Mike Acklie in the first, and both fought nearly five whole rounds with Chris Byrd. Ibeabuchi stopped Byrd with a second to go in the fifth while Byrd stopped Puller with five seconds to go in the same round.

Though there's not much of a Jewish angle in President of Pandemonium, it's worth a read for the fantastic reporting. The 1990s were something of a golden age for the heavyweight division and Ibeabuchi was nearly a major player. This is a great book for fans who want a different look at that era.

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