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REMEMBERING A FORGOTTEN CONTENDER: IBAR ARRINGTON, September 20, 2011


REMEMBERING A FORGOTTEN CONTENDER: IBAR ARRINGTON
By Steven J. Canton, September 20, 2011
(Originally published in THE BOXING WORLD, December 2012)

Dale “Ibar” Arrington was born on November 30, 1951 and grew up in Monroe, Washington. He had two older brothers, Hilliard (Tiny), and Marcus and sisters, Judy, Margaret, and Pat in the household with their parents Lloyd and Gladys. An older brother had died at birth.

Marcus was born with mild mental retardation and epilepsy and attended only a few years of school in the days before special education classes. After Gladys died, Marcus lived in an institution and then several group homes, where he worked hard to learn to cook, clean and develop the skills needed to be on his own. He was a caring, outgoing person who wanted to be like everyone else and in many ways he succeeded. He had lived in his own apartment for 15 years with some help from his family and social service agencies. Everybody was a friend to him. Frequently, he brought home transients, who were hungry or needed a place to stay even though they often stole his money or ate all is food. One day he was collecting aluminum cans to earn a few more cents of independence. He started to cross the train tracks just as a train was coming, was startled, and dropped his bag of aluminum cans. He reached down to get it as the train whistle blew, but missed. He tried three more times to get his bag but each time he tried he missed. His sister Margaret said, “knowing Marc, he wasn’t going to give up those cans without realizing the consequences of not giving them up.” He was 48.

Tiny worked in the shake mills in Everett, Washington most of his life, until going blind because of diabetes. He was heavily involved in Little League and other youth sports programs and enjoyed country and bluegrass music and was a member of the Old Time Country Music Association. He died at the age of 71.

As a young boy, Dale (Ibar) loved baseball and dreamed of being a major league baseball player. He was a power hitter right from the start and by the time he was a senior at Monroe High School major league scouts were regularly showing up to see him play. One of his high school teammates, Bill Burch said, “We were all in awe of Dale, he had athletic skills that any one of average ability could only dream of, he was a phenom at baseball…pitching and center field.” “No one could hit his fastball and it seemed as if he hit a homerun in every game.” After graduation he decided to enlist in the Navy for four years, believing that it was his duty to serve his country and his baseball career stalled. He ended up boxing, which is another sport he enjoyed as a youngster. Now, he was a power hitter of a different sort, with the remarkable ability to give and take punches. In the ring, he displayed an excellent left jab, great right hand, and remarkable chin. “Opposing boxers couldn’t knock me out,” Arrington said, “It just couldn’t be done.”

“The Sailor Man” Ibar Arrington, turned pro in September 1974 with a draw against Ed Blytheway. He won his next nine bouts before losing a ten round decision in a rematch with Blytheway. He fought Blytheway a third time, stopping him in the fifth round and followed with eight consecutive wins including defeating fringe contenders Pat Duncan and Jose “King” Roman.

He received $10,000 to travel to London and fight the undefeated European heavyweight champ, John L. Gardner and stopped him with a vicious right hand in the first round.

Arrington found himself on the threshold of stardom on November 5, 1977 when he fought Larry Holmes in the ten round main event at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas before a star studded celebrity crowd that included Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby, Cher, Redd Foxx and several others. “Thousands of fans crowded into the venue and at the end,” he remembers, “they were all on their feet.”

Arrington lasted into the 10th and final round, taking the best that Holmes could dish out while landing plenty of heavy leather of his own. The bout was stopped in the final 30 seconds because of severe cuts over both of Arrington’s eyes. “It was a good fight, a close fight, a real tough fight,” Arrington said, “Holmes was in his prime, he was hitting me as hard as he could, and I was just smiling at him…he didn’t like that…I was arrogant.” Between rounds, Arrington looked over at Ali, and saw him slowly shaking his head with amazement. “I don’t know if he had disbelief that I could take that punishment or disbelief that I wanted to,” Arrington said. His $20,000 purse was, by far, the largest of his career. Seven months later, Holmes defeated Ken Norton to win the WBC world heavyweight title, in a classic encounter.

Arrington fought on, winning some and losing some and retired after losing a ten round decision to Gerrie Coetzee in 1978, in South Africa. He made a comeback in 1982, picking up a draw and two more victories before finally retiring for good. His ring record was 28-7-2, with 21 K.O.’s.

After boxing, Arrington worked as a car salesman, then at a shingle mill, and later as a deputy sheriff in Island County. He proceeded to take additional law enforcement training and became a federal police officer which lasted for almost 17 years.

Arrington became a Christian, after much prodding by his wife Karen and now works in the maintenance department of the Horizon Broadcast Network in Minot, North Dakota. It is a Christian company, and Arrington participates in daily prayer sessions and weekly Bible studies and Sunday services at his church. “Becoming a Christian,” he said “was the greatest thing I ever did in my life.”

“The violent part of life is over for me,” “there’s not even a desire anymore, I do work out; I punch a heavy bag, but only to stay in shape.”

Many boxers leave the sport with far more than just the memories. Many times there are permanent reminders of the physical punishment they absorbed. Ibar Arrington, however, left on his own terms, with everything intact, and the memories that can never be taken away. For that, he is grateful.


Category: Steve's Corner


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