The Night “Butterbean” Dropped Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes!
By: Ken Hissner
It was on July 27, 2002, when former world heavyweight champion Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, 68-8 (44), was looking for a final “patsy” to end his career with. Holmes was known for “picking his opponents” to give himself an edge.
Holmes “chose” a 334 pound “entertainer” who many felt was a “novelty act” in Eric “Butterbean“ Esch, 65-2-3 (48), from Jasper, Alabama, known as the “champion of the 4 rounder’s!” Only in his second and third fights did Esch have a pair of scheduled 6 round bouts and only stopped once in his career up until then. To give Holmes even more than an edge he demanded the bout be scheduled for 10 rounds. It’s no secret he was figuring Esch tiring if he even got to the sixth round.
The first round had Holmes moving as much as he could at 254 pounds and using his jab 90% of the time. Holmes had a 3” reach and a 3 ½” advantage in height. Only when they got into a clinch did Esch hit Holmes with a right hand to the side of the head of Holmes. In the second round Esch backed himself into a corner and challenged Holmes to come in and fight him there. Holmes came in and backed up that fast while Esch came out of the corner laughing.
In the third round the big punch of the round was a right from Holmes to the chin of Esch who “acknowledged” it was a good punch. In the fourth round Holmes did his usual “dirty trick” using his (football) straight arm left pushing Esch from the side of his head moving him a step or two to his left. Holmes got a warning from referee Chris Wollesen. Something Holmes had gotten away with his whole career and he let the referee know he didn’t like the warning.
In the fifth round when Esch would bull his way in Holmes would immediately tie him up with arms around his upper body. Esch would drive his right hand into the rib cage of Holmes some six times. At the end of the round Holmes looked confused and walked in a circle before returning to his corner. This was the first round Esch seemed to win. In the sixth round Esch received a small cut on the outside of his left eye that never became a factor in the fight.
In the seventh round Esch backed Holmes into a corner but Holmes quickly moved away and Esch “mocked” him for doing it. In the eighth round Esch landed his first left hook to the head of Holmes. He used a jab and right hands when he got close enough up until this point. Esch would bum rush Holmes starting with a right to the head and Holmes once again would evade Esch. This was the second round Esch took.
In between rounds the camera focused on Holmes who seemed to be huffing and puffing with some swelling around his eyes. In the ninth round Holmes was warned again having his stiff arm glove on Esch’s chin “lining him up” for the right. Once again Holmes showed his arrogance back talking to the referee.
Prior to the start to the tenth and final round Esch was standing in his corner while Holmes was slouched on his stool not moving until the bell sounded to start the round. At this point he had to be embarrassed that his idea of pounding on Esch the way he did Tex Cobb hadn’t worked. Esch would again dare Holmes to come into the corner where Esch backed himself into. When Holmes came in Esch rocked him with a right to the side of the head forcing Holmes to once again back up several steps. This was not the same Holmes who bounced in the ring for he was more flat footed from the start.
With approximately 0:25 left in the bout Esch landed a right to the kidney of Holmes. With less than 0:20 left in the bout Holmes threw a right hand landing on the chin of Esch who countered with a left hook to the body knocking Holmes into a corner and halfway through the ropes. The ruling is if you are saved from a knockdown by the ropes it is an official knockdown. Holmes was shaking his head in disgust by the referee’s call and count with about 0:16 left in the bout. After Holmes took an eight count Esch came in from a neutral corner but before he and Holmes could do anything the bell sounded the end of the fight. Esch seemed to want to congratulate Holmes but the latter turned his back to Esch. The fans were cheering as Esch was walking around the ring with his hands held high as in victory. Holmes on the other hand was leaning on the ropes facing the fans in obvious exhaustion.
For Esch it was a victory in itself going ten rounds for the first time.
Then came the decision of judge Vaughn LaPrade of 97-92, judge Phil Kornberg 98-91 and finally judge Peggy McCuen of 96-93 as did this writer score it all for Holmes. For the 52 year old Holmes it would be his final time in the ring. For the 35 year old Esch he would fight on for another eleven years following this bout with a draw and winning seven of his next eight fights. Like most boxers they seem to pick up a majority of their losses at the end of their careers Esch went 4-6 in his last 10 bouts before retiring in 2013.
“Holmes had respect. I only wish he wasn’t so afraid of getting hit. He ran the whole time. Guess that was respect for my power right there. I would have ko’d him if it were a twelve rounder,” said Esch. Esch will always be remembered for dropping the former heavyweight champion of the world Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes in the former champions final round of his career. He might even think “I retired Holmes!”