Jose Ibarra was once a bright, young star in the super featherweight division, but nearly two years out of the ring has left him as a question mark in the division. The time away and a switch in trainers has him basically having to restart his career, but it’s a challenge that Ibarra seems confident he is willing to take on as he chases a dream he has had since he was in elementary school.
Ibarra’s boxing career began at the young age of seven when he developed a connection with Derrick Reed of the Second Round Gym in Raleigh, North Carolina while watching his cousin box at the gym. He helped Ibarra to train and balance boxing with the challenge of having to work 12 hour days in the fields with his family over the summer.
Things in the ring did not start out the way Ibarra would have hoped, though. In the first regional event of his amateur career, he was knocked out in front of his friends and family, leading to thoughts that maybe boxing just wasn’t the sport for him. He actually took a three month hiatus after the loss, questioning whether he had what it took to make his dream become possible. His older brother, however, was able to convince him to stay in the ring and rebound from the loss. When he returned, he was able to do just that. “He told me, it’s about who wants it more,” Ibarra said, recanting his brother’s words. “At that moment, I knew I was not going to let anyone outwork me again.”
Since that bout, Ibarra has yet to lose another fight. He won the last 25 bouts that he fought as an amateur, even taking home a bronze medal in the 2014 Junior Olympics during that stretch. Ibarra’s career would be put on hold once again for about seven months in the early part of 2018 when he found out that he was having a daughter, but when he returned he decided it was time to make the move up, in part because of his daughter.
Ibarra began his professional career on August 16, 2018 when he stepped into the ring in Durham, North Carolina to face Jose Berberena as one of just five fights on a prestigious Christy Martin Promotions card. He would make quick work of the fellow rookie, ousting him after just one round. Gardner Payne, who was in attendance to watch Payne Boxing’s Alberto Palmetta and Kelvin King fight on the card, was excited by what he saw and immediately reached out. “He came up to me in the venue and handed me his card and said he wanted to talk soon,” Ibarra said describing that first meeting with Payne. “We talked about two weeks later and had a strong connection and shortly before my second fight, I was able to sign with him and Payne Boxing.” Payne remembers that he was extremely excited by the signing, as well. “I loved the fact that he took a tough fight out of the gate to begin his career. I also just really liked his fighting style. He is a super aggressive fighter and those are the types of fighters I want here at Payne Boxing.”
After signing with Payne Boxing, Ibarra would take home a unanimous decision win over Spencer Bryant as one of the headliners on Christy Martin Promotions Fight Night in Charlotte, North Carolina in late November. He would turn around two weeks later to defeat Varon Webb by unanimous decision in Columbia, South Carolina to advance to 3-0 in his young and promising career.
As the calendar flipped to 2019, Ibarra was set for another huge year, as he looked to continue to climb the super featherweight division rankings with a rapid pace. He was scheduled to be one of the headliners on another Christy Martin Promotions card in February against Dee Venable. During the week of the fight, however, Ibarra realized he wasn’t going to be able to make weight while on the flight back to North Carolina from Florida. “I was training down in Miami for the fight and the way I was eating just wasn’t working. When I got on the plane, the water weight made me blow up and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make weight.” The fight was called off and shortly afterwards, the relationship with his trainer would come to an end, as well. After a heated battle with Reed, both sides would go their separate ways, making it tough for Ibarra to stay the course. “I had been with Coach Reed since I was seven. Once that happened, I just lost the motivation.” Ibarra went into a pseudo retirement, leaving some wondering if we would ever see him in a professional boxing ring ever again.
Ibarra would take nearly a year off from the ring while he attempted to get his mind refocused, but earlier this year, the spark for boxing returned, once again thanks to his older brother. “We got back to sparring again and I started feeling the urge again,” Ibarra said. “This is what I have wanted to do with my life since I was 8 (years old). It’s time to get back in the ring.”
There is not a set date just yet for when Ibarra will officially make his return to the professional boxing ring, but Payne has said that he expects it to be sometime in the near future on one of the editions of the Payne Boxing Series. The question now is, will Ibarra be able to pick up where he left off back in 2018?