It was a comeback that brought comparisons to Rocky on ABC's Extreme Weight Loss this week.
In the course of losing more than half his body weight, Mike Epstein of Voorhees, with encouragement from ex-heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield, fought a 12-round exhibition match, and afterward didn't even realize he'd broken a couple of ribs.
Los Angeles surgeon David Stoker was able to remove "six square feet of skin" because Epstein's fight with fat was so successful.
Weigh-in weight: 417 pounds. Final weight: 197. Loss: 220 pounds.
The husband and father of three, who once was a trim body builder, explained on Tuesday's show how he did it for his family, and reached out to the show's trainer Chris Powell, hoping to be transformed back into wife Nancy's "hero" again in time for their 20th anniversary.
"I used to tease him that he gained more weight with each pregnancy than I did," said Nancy, who in a kitchen scene had a mug reading, "My next husband will be normal." She lost weight each time, but he didn't, she said.
Mike Epstein lamented on the show how much he had let himself go – falling into bad habits like late-night bingeing on chips and other calorie-laden foods.
"I break furniture," he said. "I don't fit into seats. I don't go to places. I don't go to social events. And the worst is when I see other dads do stuff and I have to sit there on the sideline. That kills me."
He feared for his life.
Then Powell answered Epstein's written plea for help with a surprise visit to Conversion Technologies International, a document-digitizing firm Epstein runs with his brother in Mount Laurel. Mike was shocked when approaching a vending machine was met with alarms going off, lights flashing and confetti flying through the air.
A year of intense workouts followed, resulting in Epstein's own physical conversion.
"It's so fun to have fun with him and play sports with him in the back yard because he never did it before," daughter Gabby says in a 6ABC report.
At end of the show, before the final weigh-in, Mike and Nancy, a patient woman with a sense of humor, touchingly renewed their vows. (See full episode from 8/13.)
Tuesday night, their family and friends joined them to watch the show at Katz JCC in Cherry Hill.