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Eric Esch aka ButterbeanEric Esch aka Butterbean - Larry Burton on Picasa Web Albums, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Butterbean: Punchline with a knockout fist

Growing up in the 1970s my Dad was a boxing fan. While I doubt many, if any, of the fights were live broadcasts, I remember seeing them on television. Over time I developed a fondness for the sport myself, despite lacking real knowledge of the contenders or the different boxing organizations.

In the 1990s, preliminary bouts often featured four-round fights involving a fighter nicknamed Butterbean. At first glance, Butterbean seemed like a joke. Standing at just 5’11” and weighing a hefty 400 pounds, he appeared to have no shot at winning. But then he’d land a punch, and he was a joke no longer! That man could throw a serious punch.

Butterbean not your traditional boxer

Eric Esch, better known as Butterbean, resembled anything but a traditional, chiseled boxer. His fighting style was far from graceful or conventional, more akin to a barroom brawler. Yet, despite initial impressions, Butterbean carved a unique niche in boxing history, becoming a cult hero and a symbol of raw punching power.

Butterbean’s road to boxing started on the toughman circuit of the early 1990s. As befitted the brawler impression I had, these were bare-knuckle brawls, often held in local bars. But for Butterbean, they were a proving ground. His size and unorthodox style made him a dominant force, and he amassed a staggering 56-5 record with a reputation for thunderous knockouts.

Given such a reputation, you might expect the nickname “Butterbean” to have a fighting-related origin. However, it was a surprising consequence of a strict diet imposed by a former trainer. To meet the 400-pound weight limit for the toughman circuit, Butterbean was forced to subsist mainly on chicken and butterbeans, resulting in his now-famous nickname.

The move to professional boxing in 1994 was met with skepticism. Boxing purists and analysts labeled him a novelty act, but those who underestimated him paid the price. Butterbean’s punches were like sledgehammers, capable of turning any fight with a single blow. His knockout rate was astronomical, with a professional boxing record of 77-10-4 with 58 of his victories coming by way of KO.

Respect gained in fight against Holmes

Butterbean’s most high-profile fight came against legendary heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. At 52 years old, Holmes exposed Butterbean’s limitations in what was the first 10-round fight of Butterbean’s career. While Holmes secured a unanimous decision victory, Butterbean nonetheless gained respect for his toughness and his ability to take punishment.

Butterbean’s appeal went beyond his thunderous knockouts. He possessed a charisma and charm that drew in fans. His larger-than-life personality and genuine love for the sport were infectious. He was a throwback to the old-school fighters, a showman who could put on a spectacle even if his technical skills weren’t the most refined.

Butterbean’s career spanned over two decades, encompassing not just professional boxing but also kickboxing and even mixed martial arts. He faced a diverse range of opponents, from fellow brawlers to faded boxing legends. While his limitations as a technical boxer were evident, he never shied away from a challenge, showcasing his unwavering determination throughout his career.

Peter, with over 20 years navigating the dynamic world of sports websites, brings not only experience but an insatiable passion for the games. An avid NHL and curling fan, his heart beats for all things sports, from the roar of the crowd to the quiet intensity of strategic plays. At Attiq, Peter strives to curate an attic of hidden stories, insightful analysis, and forgotten legends, inviting you to explore the depths of the sports world beyond the headlines. Click here for Peter's posts.