20 Years Ago: When Heavyweight Great Larry Holmes Boxed Butterbean In His Final Fight

Larry Holmes never could say no to a buck, just like plenty of fighters. Holmes, who gave us some great quotes during his great ring career – “I grew up dirt poor and now I’m filthy rich” – once said that any man who says he is not fighting for money is “either stupid or he is lying.” Holmes pulled in some massive paydays during his career, most deservedly, and the manner in which he left his chosen sport was also a right he had more than earned. And Larry saw an earner being dangled before him in what turned out to be his final fight.

It was 20 years ago this month (July 27), when a 52 year old Holmes met cult hero, the one and only “King Of The Four Rounders” himself, Eric Esch – better known as Butterbean. As a fight, the ten rounder Holmes and ‘Bean put on was not all that, yet the fight drew a crowd and plenty of TV fan attention all the same. Holmes, a fleshy but not too unsightly 254 pounds, jabbed, jabbed, and jabbed some more at his inviting, slow-footed 334 rival/target.

YouTube video

The two men met in Norfolk, Virginia, and unfortunately (for so many reasons) it wasn’t too long before the fans in attendance starting booing. Now, the question could be asked, what the hell did they think they’d see? Holmes, still possessing a left jab plenty of younger heavyweights would be proud of, was pretty much rooted to the spot himself, shooting out his still-effective weapon as an often reluctant Butterbean advanced.

It was in many ways a sad way for Holmes, a supreme champion, to go out. Yet it could have been far worse. There was a brief scare for the man who ruled the heavyweight division from 1978 to 1985, this in the 10th and final round. A bleeding Esch let loose with a haymaker, the wild yet powerful punch knocking Holmes backwards, into the ropes, where Larry stumbled. Holmes suffered the ignominy of having to listen to a standing eight-count from the third man in the ring.

Despite this (and Holmes was never hurt, but Butterbean, courtesy of his “knockdown” now had something to dine out on over the years ahead), “The Easton Assassin” who had pretty much ran out of bullets, won a pretty wide UD – the scores being 98-91, 97-92, 96-93.

Holmes was paid well for his swansong, while Butterbean is still having ideas of fighting again later this year; this when he is as old as Holmes was when they had their fight.

Holmes WU10 Butterbean: you can file this one under curiosity bout. Or you can forget it ever happened. At least the great Holmes – for many fans one of the top three to five best heavyweights ever to do it – went out a winner. With a bundle in his pocket.