Senior writer Franz Lidz takes a look at the career of a lovable
The Butterbean futures market took a tumble last Friday at
Madison Square Garden when an unbeaten, pork-bellied baldy named
Eric (Butterbean) Esch got squashed by a tomato can. Tabbed the
Great Big White Hope, the 300-pound mauler was cruelly exposed
as just another great big white dope.
The Legend of Butterbean began to unfold in 1992, when Esch was
making his living by assembling floors in a Jasper, Ala.,
mobile-home factory. His buddies dared him to enter a local
Toughman contest. At the time he was a 420-pound butterball. To
get down to the 400-pound weight limit, he went on a crash diet,
living on nothing but butter beans and water. Hence his nickname.
He won that tournament and 17 more. His only losses came in the
finals of the 1992 and '93 Toughman World Championships. "People
loved him," says Toughman promoter Art Dore. "He could punch a
ton and take a good shot." With Dore as his manager Butterbean
became a boxer in '94. He was king of the four-rounders, running
off 14 straight victories, including 11 knockouts--10 over
opponents and one over a referee who got in the way of one of
his roundhouse rights. "Strange things happen when you put on
boxing gloves," Butterbean explains.
At the height of his fame the Mean Bean Machine was a character
in Sega's Toughman video game. The accompanying "data sheet"
gave his vital statistics:
Height: 6 feet.
Weight: Enough to crush you.
Turn Ons: The sensation you get running into a wall head-first.
Best Job: I was a jack at the tractor pulls.
Favorite Fashion Statement: The nails that hold up my socks.
Plate in Head: Double reinforced steel, two inches thick.
"Actually, the only plates I have are the ones I eat on," said
Bean during a prefight breakfast at Blimpie's. Asked to detail
the biggest meal he ever ate, Butterbean said, "Seven whole
"Five dead," added Dore.
The turkey fed to Butterbean on Friday night was 1-6-1
journeyman Mitch Rose. At the opening bell Butterbean rushed
Rose as if he were a dessert tray at a buffet. But Rose shelled
Butterbean with rights in Round 1, and 48 seconds into Round 2,
with Butterbean huffing helplessly, the fight was called.
Suddenly, Butterbean was a has-bean.