Eric Scott "Butterbean" Esch (born August 3, 1966 in Atlanta, Georgia) is a restaurateur and former super-heavyweight boxer, wrestler, mixed martial artist who fought at about 350-400 pounds. He has held boxing titles in the IBA Super-Heavyweight division and the WAA Heavyweight division and compiled a combined boxing record of 77-10-4 with 58 knockouts. Esch currently owns and operates Mr Beans BBQ & Steakhouse in Jasper.
Esch was born in Atlanta. Around 1970 his family relocated to Saint Johns, Michigan, and then moved to Jasper in the late 1970s. He emerged into boxing in Toughman Contests in Texarkana, Arkansas in the late 1980s. His nickname is said to have been earned from his diet of chicken and butter beans. He amassed a Toughman record of 56-5 with 36 knockouts and won five World Toughman Heavyweight championships before becoming a professional boxer in 1994.
After a period spent fighting in club-level bouts, he began moving up the ranks of the International Boxing Association's Super-Heavyweight class and won the title in that division on April 12, 1997. He successfully defended his title through March 2000, when he defeated WAA champion George Linberger to claim his second title belt. He lost a 10-round decision to Larry Holmes in 2002 He relinquished his title following a four-round split decision to Harry Funmaker on October 3, 2009.
Esch began his mixed martial arts career at a K-1 Premium event on December 31, 2003. He lost his first bout to 155-pound Japanese fighter Genki Sudo. He went 1-0-1 in 2005 before beginning to fight regularly in MMA events in 2006, often as a main draw. His current MMA record is 16-8-1 with 5 knockouts and 11 wins by submission.
As a pro wrestler, Butterbean made two appearances in WWF events in 1997, including a knockout of "Toughman" Bart Gunn 27 seconds into their bout at WrestleMania XV. On May 29, 2009 Esch won a Pro Wrestling Syndicate Heavyweight Championship by defeating Trent Acid. He lost the title to Kevin Matthews on May 8, 2010. He has also participated in kickboxing fights, compiling a 3-4 record between 2003 and 2009.
In August 2010, Esch announced his retirement from fighting after fulfilling his already-scheduled obligations. Esch's sons, Brandon ("Babybean") and Caleb are also professional fighters. He also has a daughter, Grace.
Esch, whose bald head and round form lend him a distinctive appearance, has made numerous appearances on film and television. He played a museum security guard in the 1998 film Chairman of the Board with Carrot Top and had a small part in the 2002 film Jackass: The Movie, knocking out star Johnny Knoxville. He has also appeared on "Squidbillies" on the Cartoon Network and "Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling" on Country Music Television. He is set to star in an Investigation Discovery Channel reality series based on his work as a volunteer reserve deputy for the Walker County Sheriff's Office.
Esch was featured on the cover, and as the final "boss" in the 1995 EA Sports video game "Toughman Contest". He has also appeared as a playable character in all of EA Sports' "Knockout Kings" boxing games. He filed a lawsuit against the producers of the 2010 animated film Despicable Me, claiming that his image was used without permission. The scene in question appeared only in film previews, and the suit was dismissed.
In 2023 Esch claimed to have dropped from 515 pounds to 304 pounds largely by practicing "DDP Yoga", a fitness program marketed by former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page.
- "Eric Esch" (December 26, 2010) Wikipedia - accessed January 3, 2011
- Faulk, Kent (November 2, 2010) "Walker County wrestler Butterbean's lawsuit against companies behind 'Despicable Me' dismissed." The Birmingham News
- Phillips, James (January 3, 2011) "Officials fear reality show will paint negative picture of Jasper." Daily Mountain Eagle
- Heim, Mark (August 7, 2023) "‘Butterbean,’ former boxer, reveals he’s down more than 200 pounds; Here’s how he did it." AL.com