‘Crazy as I ever was’: A Testimony Of A Beloved Brother In Christ.

Former Heavyweight boxer Dale “Ibar” Arrington, who grew up in Monroe, poses recently for a photo at the Arlington Boxing Club.
Kevin Nortz/The Herald

“Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.”
—Malachi 3:16

Once upon a time, Ibar Arrington, who grew up in Monroe, was a major player in the world of heavyweight boxing, trading blows with likes of Larry Holmes. And even though his life has mellowed a bit, he still has the flair of a heavyweight champ

EVERETT — As a boy he loved baseball, and he was a pure power hitter right from the start. The ball just jumped off his bat, and by his senior season at Monroe High School major league scouts were showing up to see him play.

Even then, Ibar Arrington was known as a slugger.

Later, with his baseball career stalled by four years in the Navy, Arrington, who now lives in Minot, N.D., ended up in boxing, another sport he’d tried as a youngster. Now he was a power hitter of a different sort, and with a remarkable ability to give and take punches — not once in his pro career was he ever knocked out — he became one of the premier heavyweights in the Pacific Northwest.

In the ring he displayed a terrific left jab and a mighty right, but his best asset might have been an ability to absorb punishment. He had, in boxing parlance, a great chin, meaning he could take even the most vicious blows and remain upright.

Opposing boxers “couldn’t knock me out,” Arrington said in a recent interview held during a trip back to his home state to visit relatives. “It just couldn’t be done.”

In a pro career that stretched from 1974 to 1982, Arrington posted a 29-7-2 record with 20 knockouts. He was good enough to get bouts against several top national and international contenders, including a memorable meeting with soon-to-be World Boxing Council champion Larry Holmes at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, a bout Arrington came within a whisker of winning.

Among those he didn’t fight were Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, probably the two premier heavyweights of the era.

“I would’ve loved to have fought either one of them,” the 55-year-old Arrington said. “Especially Ali because of his notoriety. But I would’ve loved to have stood toe to toe with George Foreman, too. I would’ve absolutely loved it.”

Sometimes, he said, “I think about who I could have fought and who I should have fought. But it’s not like it left a sour taste in my mouth. I just fought whoever came along.”

Still, Arrington was on the threshold of stardom on Nov. 5, 1977, which was the night he fought Holmes in a 10-round main event before a Las Vegas celebrity crowd that included Ali, Bill Cosby, Cher, Joan Collins, Redd Foxx and Walter Matthau at ringside. Thousands of other fans crowded into the outdoor venue at Caesar’s Palace and at the end, he remembers, “they were all on their feet.”

Arrington lasted into the 10th round, taking the best the heavy-hitting Holmes could dish out and giving back plenty of his own. Then, with about a half-minute to go, the referee stopped the fight, citing bloody 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. But I was like, ‘C’mon, man, hit me. I know you can hit harder than that.’ I was egging him on. I was arrogant.”

Between rounds, Arrington looked over at Ali, sitting nearby, and saw him slowly shaking his head with amazement.

“I don’t know if he had disbelief that I could take the punishment or disbelief that I wanted to,” Arrington said with a smile.

Although the bout went into the books as a technical knockout — the only non-decision loss of Arrington’s pro career — “I could have easily finished the fight,” he said.

Seven months later, Holmes defeated Ken Norton to win the World Boxing Council heavyweight title.

Arrington received $20,000 for fighting Holmes, the top payday of his career. A month earlier, he’d picked up $10,000 for traveling to London to fight Englishman John L. Gardner, the European heavyweight champ, whom Arrington floored with a vicious right in the first round, his earliest pro knockout.

Otherwise, Arrington was usually paid anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a fight. Put all his winnings together and he figures he earned “maybe a couple hundred thousand” dollars from boxing, much of which he was wise enough to invest in real estate.

His mistake, though, was fighting in the day before cable and pay-per-view broadcasts, which today can bring a monetary windfall for top fighters. Even now, Arrington occasionally bumps into promoters he knew from years ago, “and they tell me, ‘Ibar, if I had you today you’d be a multimillionaire.'”

In the last five months of 1978, Arrington lost consecutive 10-round decisions to Marvin Camel (later the WBC and International Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion), Charles Johnson and Gerrie Coetzee (later the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion). Those defeats sent him into retirement, though he returned to fight three times in 1982 before getting out for good.

After leaving boxing, Arrington stayed in the Everett area for several years, working first as a car salesman, then at a shingle mill and later as a deputy sheriff in Island County. The latter job led him to take additional law enforcement training, and he became a federal police officer for almost 17 years, first for the U.S. Department of Defense in Susanville, Calif., and then for the Veterans Affairs office in Omaha, Neb.

He left police work in June, largely because of something else he’d left a while back — his old lifestyle.

Prodded by his wife, Karen, Arrington became a Christian about eight years ago, and he works today in the maintenance department of the Horizon Broadcast Network in Minot. It is a Christian company, and Arrington participates in daily prayer sessions with his fellow employees. He also attends a Wednesday night Bible study and Sunday morning services at his church.

Becoming a Christian, he said, “was the greatest thing I did in my life. I just turned myself over to God.”

His faith is the main reason Arrington has no longing — unlike some retired fighters — to return to the ring.

“The Bible teaches love,” he explained. “But when I was a boxer, I didn’t love my opponents. I’d just as soon kill them as look at them. That killer instinct they say you have to have (to succeed), well, I had it. There were a couple of times when I really tried my best to kill them.

“But now I just don’t see how you can (hit a man) and say that it’s with love. I just don’t see that’s God’s way of doing things.”

The violent part of his life, he said, “is over. There’s not even a desire anymore. I do work out. I punch a heavy bag, but that’s just to stay in shape. It has nothing to do with making a comeback.”

Longtime boxers often leave their sport with more than just memories. Repeated blows often produce lasting mental impairment, and goodness knows Arrington took his share. Yet 25 years later he remains remarkably sharp.

“I used to have people come up to me after fights and say, ‘Ibar, don’t those punches hurt?’ And maybe with the punches I took, I should be dead. Or if not dead, maybe I should at least be brain-dead.”

But for Arrington, not so.

“I am,” he said with a laugh, “just as crazy as I ever was.”

  1. Peregrina, 30 October, 2007

    Just a little background to this, if you don’t mind…

    Ibar asked me on the morning of this interview if I wanted to go with him, as he had a last minute case of nerves. Well, he didn’t say that, but I knew he did! I declined, as I know that Ibar has such a great testimony…and it’s his testimony, not mine! As it happened, the sports writer, who had known Ibar since the late 70s, has become a Christian as well, and the two of them had a great time of fellowship.

    God is good! We rejoiced this morning when the article came out at how the Lord is glorified!

  2. Pastor Huck, 05 November, 2007

    Enjoyed this Ibar story and account of his drastic change in nature; from killer instinct, to I can’t hit anybody like that anymore. He’s like a brand new species of human, and that’s what Jesus does for us.

  3. YeshuaAgapao, 09 November, 2007

    Brian Sugrim is in the process of getting away from boxing. He doesn’t fight anymore but does teach once a week. He’s in West Michigan university for aeronautical engineering right now. Brutal schedule though. Full time 3rd-shift 6-12-12-12 work schedule, two kids, and full time school.

  4. bill burchnorm, 18 February, 2008

    my name is bill burch i had the pleasure of knowing dale (ibar) arrington we both went to monroe high school he was two years ahead of me , i was in awe of dale he had athletic skills that any one of average ability could only dream of he was a phenome at baseball , pitching and center field no one and i mean no one could hit his fast ball and im thinking he hit home runs in every game what apower house but if you asked dale what he really wanted his response was always “to be heavy weight champion of the world”i didnt doubt him ,i think of dale often and brag of knowing him and i am very happy to hear he is doing good and is happy , i have no doubt that the lord has a great friend and disciple in dale arrington

  5. Fredrik Farhadian, 19 February, 2008

    Nice article about Arrington. I remember him as very tough fighter.
    I´m happy to read that he´s doing well.
    With Jesus in your life, anything is possible.

  6. Bill McDonald, 17 May, 2008

    I started my amateur boxing career under Ibar Arrington’s boxing team in 1977. I moved on to box for the firefighters boxing team in Marysville for many years. Ibar always remembered me over the years, whenever I ran into him. I was happy to year that Ibar became a christian. What a better witness than a legitimate tough guy (Ibar) doing gods work! I am still very involved with boxing as a pro manager and coach. I often tell stories about how tough Ibar was. Going 10 hard rounds with a prime Larry Holmes. God Bless Dale!

  7. Tina Henshaw, 18 January, 2009

    I had the pleasure of knowing Ibar and his wife Karen when they were living in Omaha. They are two of the nicest people I have ever known. I love to watch boxing and I sure would have liked to see some of Ibar’s boxing matches.

  8. Sherry Bytheway, 26 July, 2009

    My husband’s half brother Ed Bytheway was Ibar’s first pro fight. Unfortunately Ed died during our honeymoon in 1976 and my husband did not have many memories of Ed. If anyone has memories to share with us we would enjoy hearing them. We are both Christians and are glad to hear Ibar is as well.

  9. Carola McAndrews, 13 September, 2009

    Does anyone keep in touch with Ibar? It was nice to read this article about him as I have heard lots about him over the years from my Mom, Esther Bell. If anyone knows how to reach him, please email me at:
    I appreciate your help!!

  10. Randall Rayburn, 09 October, 2009

    I met Dale back in the summer of 2006 when my Wife Heidi & I left San Diego to relocate to Minot, ND in order to work with Horizon Broadcast Networks. Dale opened up his apartment for us before we officially met and I had the privelage of getting to know him for two + years. Words don’t give justice on how to explain Ibar. All I know is that I have yet to meet a man as giving, helpful and gentle as Mr. Arrington. Thanks for the memories dear friend. You are missed…

  11. john wiedmann, 26 November, 2009

    i fought ibar in an exhibition bout in mission canada in 1976 and view the photos quite often. he was a tremendous fight and tough competitor , punching himself in his head right after i delivered what i felt was a solid punch to his chin. there was never a doubt about the outcome as the 5 round exhibition couldn’t end soon enough for me. i used to joke , the only thing hurt that night on ibar were his hands for the punishment he delivered to me for 5 rounds..

  12. Pamela Ihler, 16 December, 2010

    IBAR is my Mom’s brother and he has made full circle to return to Everett, Washington. I have enjoyed reading the posts since, honestly, I never saw my uncle box (the only family member that declined, I guess). I was the designated babysitter for his little girl. I would not have given up that role for anything. My sister stated how I believed at the time when she said how awful it was seeing her uncle getting hit.
    He was a wild card but turned up Aces. I am sure that he would enjoy knowing that people still think of him. I really liked his wife Karen and I think it was because of her that he found the Lord. Don’t ever think that there is someone in your life (or even family) that would never turn to God; I am here to testify.
    I don’t know if anyone will ever read this but, I do appreciate the thoughts ;.)

  13. Daniel Leslie, 10 April, 2011

    I met Ibar in around 1975 through a neighbor, Dennis Mackey, who took pictures at some of his fights. I was lucky enough to attend one of the fights as his assistant. For the profession that he was in, I remember him as a very easy going person. I think of the event often with very fond thoughts.

  14. Charles White, 05 May, 2011

    I have heard many good things about Arrington, and would love to meet him someday. I am a huge boxing fan and live only about an hour away from Everett, so if he is really moving back this way, hopefully I will run into him someday. My best friend growing up moved to Minot about 5 years ago, which is originally when I heard of Arrington. As a young kid, while I was sad that my friend was moving away, I was also jealous that he could one day run into Arrington in Minot.

  15. Meghan Shields, 02 July, 2012

    If anyone can get in touch with Ibar I would like him to know that my father Jeff Shields has went to meet Jesus a few months ago. They worked together at the VA and my mother wanted to let Ibar know that he has passed away. weve been looking all over for his address, email, phone number anything but my father would have known any of that if they still spoke. So if anyone can get ahold of him please pass this on. Thank you

  16. howard l mehaffey jr, 08 October, 2012

    i am a relative of ibar’s i do believe that my dad used to be in his corner and i recently met with my sister and she told me that she was at almost every fight because dad made her go, i am a big boxing fan wish i could find out more about ibar and would love to hear from him one day.

  17. Hope, 12 December, 2013

    it was really amazing to read this article. one of his trainers was a relative of mine. whom also became a sheriff. did humble iron work. harry matthews. ive met a few fighters. and it seems alot turn too god sooner or later. sometimes i think thats how he reaches out to some the strongest. and when they are ready, they listen and hear him.

  18. Rhonda Olsen, 27 November, 2016

    My former husband, Joe Marty, promoted and invested in Ibar’s early years. They were Monroe High School classmates and friends. I’m not perticularily fond of some of those memories, but my heart rejoices now that Ibar has found what God had in mind for him all along. Continue to make an eternal difference. Rhonda Marty Olsen

  19. Frank Cencak, 21 September, 2017

    I followed Ibar during his boxing career and attended many of his fights in Washington State. One of the best fighters I have ever seen, and am glad to see that he is a Christian…..God bless you, Ibar.

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