On this day in 1994, the King of the Four Rounders, Eric “Butterbean” Esch, made his professional boxing debut, winning a four-round decision over the obscure Tim Daniels in Birmangham, Alabama. By this time, Butterbean had already developed a large amount of notoriety for winning Tough Man competitions. He was a five-time “world champion” in tough man competition. When he originally started competing, he had to go on a diet of chicken and butterbeans in order to diet down to the 300 pound weight limit.
Butterbean was never a remotely serious contender in boxing, but his colorful, all-action style and his enormous size made him a big draw during the second half of the 1990s. Standing 5’11” and consistently weighing in at 310-330 pounds, he was exactly what he was advertised as: a big, tough dude who could take a big punch and throw one back in return.
Although he fought primarily club-level fighters, Esch did at one point win 50 straight fights, mostly by knockout. He held the IBA Super Heavyweight championship, although it was a title basically created for him and was never defended in a bout of longer than four rounds. Butterbeans did record a win over former Mike Tyson opponent Peter McNeeley in 1996, via Round 1 TKO. There is no question the big fellow could bang.
The highlight of Esch’s career is almost certainly his 2002 bout with Larry Holmes, a top-10, all-time heavyweight. Esch managed to last 10 full rounds against Holmes, eating jabs nearly the entire time. It was the only time in his career that he fought more than four rounds. Holmes was past 50 by this point, but he was still Larry Holmes.
Butterbean also competed for K-1 in kickboxing, compiling a record of 3-4 and in MMA, going 17-11-1. He also appeared twice on WWE pay-per-views and his unique appearance and charismatic personality led to numerous television and film roles. Perhaps his most notable appearance on the big screen was when he knocked the snot out of Johnny Knoxville in the Jack Ass movie.
For his boxing career, Esch compiled a record of 77-10-4 with 58 knockouts. There is no doubt that a big part of his appeal was the freak show aspect he presented. At the same time, he earned a lot of money, over a lot of years, climbing into rings and cages to fight other men, and he never failed to entertain the paying public. His career may not have been a great one, but it was certainly memorable.