In the early 2000’s James Butler a.k.a. The Harlem Hammer became one of the most infamous Boxers to ever lace up his gloves.
On November 23, 2001 he fought Richard Grant at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. The fight was for charity to benefit firemen and police officers that survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 10 round fight was aired live on ESPN 2 and ended up going the distance. The judges awarded Grant a unanimous decision win.
Everything seemed to be going along at the end of the bout as things normally do. Butler had his gloves removed before the announcement of the winner. Grant approached Butler to shake hands, as is customary in most sports. Rather than Butler shaking his hand he sucker punched Grant with his bare fist and knocked him out.
Grant was a bloody mess as he suffered a dislocated jaw and required 26 stitches. Since the incident took place after the bout it was considered assault. Butler was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. After being convicted of the charge he served four months in Riker’s Island prison in New York.
Butler would not fight again for nearly two and a half years and when he returned to action he only had four more fights. He went 2-2 in those fights, but never stepped in the ring again as he was arrested for the a murder that ironically helped him live up to his nickname of the Harlem Hammer.
Butler’s career was on the decline and things did not look good for him. Sam Kellerman, the brother of ESPN personality and Boxing analyst Max Kellerman had let Butler live with him in his Hollywood, California apartment as he tried to revive his career.
On October 12, 2004 Butler murdered Sam Kellerman after he had asked Butler to move out. Butler picked up a hammer and repeatedly struck Kellerman over the head. They had been friends for 10 years. After murdering Kellerman he tried to burn down the apartment. Kellerman’s body was not recovered until October 17, 2004.
Butler was a suspect and on October 27, 2004 was arrested for murder and arson but plead not guilty two days later. It wasn’t until July 8, 2005 that a Los Angeles judge ruled that their was enough evidence for Butler to go to trial.
Butler plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter on March 27, 2006, and was sentenced to 29 years and four months in prison.
It was a horrible decline for a fighter that started his Boxing career 18-1, even worse was that his tumultuous nature cost as man his life. As for the boxer who he infamously sucker punched, after the incident he went 5-7-1 in his career.
You can watch the video of the infamous sucker punch below.