Eric Esch began his fighting career on the Toughman Contest scene in Arkansas in the early 1990s and went on to become a five-time World Toughman Heavyweight Champion with a record of 56–5 with 36 by KO. He received the nickname "Butterbean" when he was forced to go on a diet (consisting mostly of chicken and butterbeans in order to meet the Toughman 400 pound weight limit under the new age trainer Prozay Buell.
He made his pro boxing debut on October 15, 1994, beating Tim Daniels by decision in Birmingham, Alabama. He soon developed a a hugh following and became known as "King of the 4 Rounders". Butterbean ran up a string of wins, mostly by knockout, before being stopped in two rounds by Mitchell Rose on December 15, 1995. He went on the road, around the United States, winning 51 consecutive fights, including against Peter McNeeley. While the majority of his opponents were technically limited he racked up wins and early in his career, he did move up the ranks to win the IBA Super Heavyweight Championship on April 12, 1997, with a second round TKO of Ed White in Las Vegas,Nevada. He made five successful title defences before relinquishing his championship in 2000.
After his five-year winning streak was brought to an end with a defeat by heavyweight Billy Zumbrun in August 2001, he lost on points. He fought his first ten rounder against 52 year old former world heavyweight champion the great Larry Holmes in Norfolk, Virginia on July 27, 2002. While Holmes won by decision , Esch was credited with a controversial knockdown in the final round, which was later shown in filmed replays as not being a knockdown, no punch having landed, and it was a slip and Holmes only reeled against the ropes. This was one of only three fights in a 109-fight career that was scheduled for more than four rounds. He kept fighting in other disaplines like MMA and Kickboxing when he left boxing. He always attracked the masses because he came to fight and he had that one punch KO power.