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World Boxing Federation Champions Of The Past: Earl Butler
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FEATURE   Photo: Former World Boxing Federation (WBF) World Super Middleweight Champion Earl "Sweetness" Butler landing a shot on Thomas Hearns. 

Since the World Boxing Federation was originally founded by American Larry Carrier in 1988, many of the sport’s biggest names have won a WBF title, and proudly defended the blue, red and gold belt all over the world.

In the Champions Of The Past Series we take a closer look at some of the boxers who held WBF titles in years gone by, from lesser known champions to world renowned fighters, legends of the sport and current or future Hall of Famers.


Earl Butler, full name Junior Earl Butler, also known as just JEB, was the epitome of a true fighter. From Super Middleweight, where he won the World Boxing Federation (WBF) world title in 1997, to Cruiserweight, he was willing to take on anyone, anywhere!

Butler grew up in Saint Martinsville, Louisiana where he was born on June 13, 1967. He started boxing in his teens, and won several Golden Gloves tournaments during a successful amateur career, earning the nickname “Sweetness”.

A natural athlete, he also explored other sports in his youth, competing in track & field and American Football during his years of attending Navarro College in Texas, but he returned to boxing under the guidance of his college English professor.

In 1990, at the age of twenty-three, Butler turned professional, and made his paid debut at Light Heavyweight on a small show at the Riverside Resort & Casino in Laughlin, Nevada on October 10. He got off to a decent start, beating fellow first-timer Mel Avery on points over four rounds.

The Riverside became a second home to Butler, as seven of his first eight bouts took place there. While not against frightening opposition, four of those eight bouts were main event fights, and by the end of 1991 “Sweetness” was 8-0 (4) and starting to make a name for himself.

But 1992 would be a bad year in the ring for Butler. On January 21 be boxed on a show at the Union Plaza Casino in Las Vegas, also featuring big names Michael Dokes, Tom Johsnon and Jeff Mayweather, and lost on points in his first real step-up against Brent Kosolofski (8-1).

In June he gained his only victory of the year, stopping Barry Basler (10-15-1) in eight, but in September and October he came up short again against 1988 Olympian Anthony Hembrick (23-3-1) and Daniel Perez (10-2), who three years later challenged Nigel Benn for the WBC World Super Middleweight crown.

1993 was much better, but not ideal, with victories over Randy Smith (25-25-1), Cecil McKenzie (6-1), Terry Bee (7-0) and Jeff Medley (4-4), but he also suffered a devastating first round stoppage defeat at the hands of McKenzie in a rematch.

He entered 1994 with a 13-4 (5) record, and, while he won his first fight of that year, stopping a debutant called Cleo Taylor in two rounds, he soon found himself in the role of being “the opponent”. At this point, very few would bet money on Earl Butler as a future world champion.

On April 19, 1994 Butler took on Canada´s 1988 Olympic silver medalist Egerton Marcus (12-0) at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, losing a unanimous decision for the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Light Heavyweight title.

Losing to Marcus was no disgrace, and it was a decent enough performance, but seven months on he traveled to Denmark and was stopped in one round by future European Champion Ole Klemetsen (16-1) from Norway.

In January and February of 1995 Butler had to settle for draws against opponents he on paper should have beat easily in Armando Campas (1-12) and Augustine Renteria (7-11-2).

It should however be mentioned that the Campas-draw was a technical one due to injury, and Renterie was a much better fighter than his less-than-stellar record suggests, and known for his ability to score upset-victories against heavy favorites.

Ironically, going 0-2-2 in four outings somehow landed Butler two of his biggest fights.

June 13, 1995, in a Tuesday Night Fights main event televised live by the USA Network, Butler fought former WBA World Super Middleweight Champion Michael Nunn (43-3) in Moline, Illinois. Nunn won a unanimous decision over ten rounds, but considering his recent results it was a moral victory for Butler.

The good performance against Nunn secured Butler another huge opportunity, this time at Cruiserweight, against living legend Thomas Hearns (54-4-1), a former Welterweight, Super Welterweight, Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion.

Unfortunately Hearns was much more comfortable at Cruiserweight than Butler, and obviously still a very skilled fighter. On September 26, 1995 at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Hearns knocked Butler down twice, but “JEB” proved his mettle and went the full ten-round distance.

Six weeks later, Butler finally returned to winning ways, beating no-hoper Eriberto Valdez (1-14) in four rounds. In March of 1996 he was likely picked as merely a decent name to beat for fringe contender Rocky Gannon (24-4), but Butler had other ideas and won by split decision.

Besides coming off a victory over Thomas Tate (30-3), Gannon went on to win IBC and IBA world titles in his next two fights, beating good opponents Richard Hall (17-0) and Undra White (16-4), so he turned out to be a significant scalp on Butler´s resume.

Doing well against Nunn and Hearns, and defeating Gannon, had enhanced the standing of Butler, despite his record at the time being a mediocre 16-8-2 (7), and lined him up for another crack at one of the sports iconic names.

On May 14, 1995 he challenged the great James Toney (50-2-2) for the WBU World Light Heavyweight title, but had to accept defeat in the fourth round. Toney, one of the best pure boxers in history, was simply too much for him to handle, as he would be for almost anyone.

Losing to Toney wasn't the end of the world for Butler, and he didn't allow it to slow down the momentum he had gained prior to that fight. In fact, he was now a big enough name that in his next fight he headlined at The Aladdin in Las Vegas, and this time as “The A Side”.

Future IBF World Champion Steve Forbes, former IBO World Champion Jeff Mayweather and former WBC World Champion Lonnie Smith were all part of the supporting cast when Earl Butler fought Clarence White (17-7) for the vacant WBF World Super Middleweight title on February 13, 1997.

And “Sweetness” was indeed sweet that night, as Butler boxed wonderfully for twelve rounds to secure a unanimous decision (117-111, 116-112, 116-112) over the tough White, and finally fulfill his dream of becoming champion of the world.

Butler stayed busy in the remainder of 1997 with two wins over journeyman Thomas Covington (5-23-1). The first one a rather disappointing narrow majority decision over eight rounds, but the rematch was won conclusively in the first round.

After the second Convington bout, Butler would not fight for two full years, and he had been stripped of his world title when he returned on August 30, 1999 against Light Heavyweight contender Derrick Harmon (18-1) and lost on points in an eight-rounder.

His prime clearly over, Butler only won one more fight, in September of 2000, capturing the Arizona State Light Heavyweight title by out-scoring Anthony Brown (16-8-1). But, as a former world champion, he was still very serviceable, and continued to get big fights a little longer.

So, before retiring in 2001 he lost fights to former IBF World Light Heavyweight Champion Reggie Johnson (39-6-1), reigning IBF World Cruiserweight Champion Vassily Jirov (25-0) in a non-title bout, and former WBA World Light Heavyweight ruler Lou Del Valle (29-2).

In retirement, Butler started something he calls JEB Boxercise, a training program for children and adults, and also took work as a personal trainer for professional Basketball and Football players.

In 2006, almost thirty-nine years old and more than five years after the Del Valle fight, Butler made an ill-advised comeback at Heavyweight, and jumped in too deep against hard-hitting southpaw Eric Kirkland (17-2). Butler was knocked out in two rounds, and never boxed again.

His final record stands at 20-14-2 (8), but he was so much better than those statistics suggest. And how many can claim to have been a world champion, and shared a ring with legends such as Nunn, Hearns and Toney?

Butler currently lives in Tempe, Arizona with wife Shawni and still runs the JEB Boxercise project, along with a clothing brand called #watdaworld. Both of his sons, Emmanuel and Isaiah, have inherited their fathers athleticism and are very talented American Football players.

  Part 63: Dave Russell
  Part 62: Tony Dodson
  Part 61: Pete Taliaferro
  Part 60: Fredrik Alvarez
  Part 59: Ajose Olusegun
  Part 58: Chevelle Hallback
  Part 57: Evander Holyfield
  Part 56: Peter Culshaw
  Part 55: Rolando Toyogon
  Part 54: Joaquin Velasquez
  Part 53: Steve Molitor
  Part 52: Nadya Hokmi
  Part 51: Bert Cooper
  Part 50: Alfred Kotey
  Part 49: Yosuke Nishijima
  Part 48: Wayne Rigby
  Part 47: Jesus Chong
  Part 46: Renata Szebeledi
  Part 45: Lester Ellis
  Part 44: Patrick Vungbo
  Part 43: Patrick Washington
  Part 42: Ric Siodora
  Part 41: Guy Waters
  Part 40: Natascha Ragosina
  Part 39: Nicky Cook
  Part 38: Fahprakorb Rakkiatgym
  Part 37: Felix Camacho
  Part 36: Homer Gibbins
  Part 35: Joe Bugner
  Part 34: Myriam Lamare
  Part 33: Darrin Morris
  Part 32: Suwito Lagola
  Part 31: Aaron Zarate
  Part 30: Tommy Small
  Part 29: Matthew Charleston
  Part 28: Jane Couch
  Part 27: Fahlan Sakkreerin
  Part 26: Kenny Keene
  Part 25: Yvan Mendy
  Part 24: Ronnie Magramo
  Part 23: Randall Yonker
  Part 22: Holly Holm
  Part 21: Vinnie Curto
  Part 20: Robin Reid
  Part 19: Lionel Butler
  Part 18: Mads Larsen
  Part 17: Ken Sigurani
  Part 16: Orlando Fernandez
  Part 15: Roger Turner
  Part 14: Roy Jones Jr.
  Part 13: Fitz Vanderpool
  Part 12: Steve Roberts
  Part 11: Thulani "Sugarboy" Malinga
  Part 10: Junior Witter
  Part 9: Jimmy Thunder
  Part 8: Juan Lazcano
  Part 7: Jeff Malcolm
  Part 6: Ricky Parkey
  Part 5: Carl Daniels
  Part 4: Angel Manfredy
  Part 3: Samson Dutch Boy Gym
  Part 2: Greg Haugen
  Part 1: Johnny Nelson

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