On November 23, 2001 at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan, New York and via ESPN2 on TV, fight fans witnessed one of the sleaziest moments in boxing history after a fairly uneventful super middleweight 10-rounder, atop a benefit boxing event for the World Trade Center Relief Fund
“Harlem Hammer” James Butler, ranked eighth in the world at the time and inching towards a 168 lb. world title shot, had just lost a unanimous decision to Richard “The Alien” Grant and appeared to be headed over to hug his opponent. However, rather than a congratulatory hug, Butler let loose with a gloveless sucker punch to Grant’s jaw, which broke bone, cracked teeth, and sliced tongue.
As Grant fell to the canvas, blood poured from his mouth as his trainers and ringside medics rushed to his side. The ESPN Friday Night Fights broadcast team called for the arrest of the “punk” Butler.
“James Butler should never be allowed in the ring again…absolutely,” said Bob Papa, on-air, right after the ugly incident. “That is assault, that is assault. He should be arrested on the spot…That is assault and battery! What a punk, James Butler….He was a coward and couldn’t get it during the fight and he sucker punched him.”
Charged with aggravated assault, Butler would serve four months at the Riker’s Island detention facility for the attack.
Luckily, Grant suffered no permanent injury from the attack that necessitated 26 stitches and would move on to have several high-profile bouts, although he never quite became successful at the world class level.
Despite having talked very little about the ugly incident, Grant did say this not too long after the egregious foul:
“I won the fight. He (Butler) can do whatever he wants after the fight, but the fact remains that I beat him. Regardless of whether he gets jail time for what he did or not, his boxing career his finished. It’s over. He’s done.”
Upon release from prison and after a long period of inactivity, Butler would seek the help of longtime friend Sam Kellerman (brother of former HBO commentator and current ESPN pundit Max Kellerman), but would wind up killing him in 2004 over what appeared to be a dispute over the fighter being forced to move from Kellerman’s residence.
Butler, who claims to suffer from bi-polar disorder, is currently serving a 29-year sentence for the murder.
See the entire incident below:
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