Chances are you don't know the name Eric Esch. But you probably know something about Butterbean.
If there is a people's champion in boxing's heavyweight division, it is Esch, the round mound of megapound who made his name in 'So You Think You're Tough' amateur fights and has become an international celebrity.
Esch, 36, will be a headliner on the 'Commotion at the Ocean IV' card June 13 at Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City. He earned his nickname through the butterbean-and-chicken diet he employed when he began as a tough-guy fighter out of tiny Jasper, Ala., 15 years ago. Esch, who claims he's 6 feet tall but seems closer to 5-10, dropped his weight from 400 to his current 340.
'I'm in great shape,' he says, and you would be wise not to argue.
Esch doesn't dally with the nuances of the sweet science.
'I don't do the graceful part of the pugilistic sport,' he says. 'I go out there and brawl. Hell, boxing is boring when they tie up and hold and all that stuff. I don't do that. I start brawling from the opening bell.'
It was that way when he started as an amateur and went on to win 18 'So You Think You're Tough' competitions.
'I did it for the extra money,' he says. 'I was making $1,200 a month at a mobile home factory. I could make $1,000 a night doing tough-man fights.'
About 10 years ago, he turned pro and became the king of the four-round bouts. Some contend that it isn't really boxing, but he makes no apologies.
'I get a lot of disrespect, but I fight four rounds because I can make it exciting,' he says. 'If you give it everything you've got for four wide-open rounds, the fans get their money's worth.'
Last year, he stepped up to 10 rounds to fight aging Larry Holmes, losing a 10-round decision but dropping the former champion and gaining a measure of respect.
'He outboxed me,' Esch says. 'I have nothing to be ashamed of. I had him backing up the whole fight. His experience at the very top level of the sport was the difference.'
Esch, 63-3-4 with 49 knockouts, is a cottage industry in himself. He's the central figure in a pair of video games. His 'Surf Buffet' commercial is the longest-running in the history of Las Vegas. He appeared in the movie 'Jackass,' and his video is up for honors at the American Video Awards. On Thursday, he ventures to Japan to participate in a mixed martial arts event.
Butterbean's demeanor is affable, his manner gentle outside the ring.
'People who don't know me can be intimidated, but I am as easygoing as they come, as long as you don't screw up,' he says with a big grin.
He will fight another year or year and a half, he says. For the love of the sport.
'Unlike Tonya (Harding), I don't mind hitting a person,' he says. 'I'd rather hit a person than a bag.'
• Harding, 2-1 in her pro women's bantamweight career, will fight Emily Gosa of Sulligent, Ala., who will make her pro debut on the Chinook Winds card. Trainer Will Massie promises a better, more seasoned Harding than in previous fights.
'We are going to see a knockout this time,' Massie says.
Harding spent much of her early training time in a Vancouver hotel suite.
'We will train in different places,' Massie says, 'but in a real boxing gym this time, not in a hotel room.'
Harding says she enjoys boxing more than she did figure skating.
'Boxing has judges, but there are less politics involved,' she says.
• Portland's Steve Forbes will not make his Oregon pro debut at Lincoln City after all. Forbes, a former IBF junior lightweight champion, will fight champion Carlos Hernandez of El Salvador for the crown sometime this summer. Promoters would not allow him to have a tuneup bout.
'It is too bad, but this may work out a lot better,' Forbes says. 'Now I can make my Oregon debut a title defense.'
• P.J. Carlesimo has contacted Toronto about the Raptors' vacant head coaching job and will get a listen, says John Lashway, the club's vice president for communications. General Manager Glen Grunwald has a short list of maybe six candidates to replace Lenny Wilkens. One name to remember: Dwane Casey, the longtime Seattle Sonics assistant. Casey has never been a head coach, but that won't matter, says Lashway, who has been involved in the interviewing process.
'Our focus is to find the next Rick Carlisle,' Lashway says, referring to the former Blazer assistant who has been a major success at Detroit in his first job as a head coach. 'That makes the most sense for our organization.'
•ÊKeith Lewis, Oregon's senior safety, is scheduled to appear Tuesday in Lane County Circuit Court on a second-degree assault charge. Authorities say Lewis punched UO track athlete Brandon Holliday at a Eugene bar in the early hours May 11, breaking Holliday's nose. Six days later, Holliday competed in the Pacific-10 Conference championships, sporting two black eyes and dark glasses.
If convicted of second-degree assault, Lewis would face jail time under Measure 11; it's the same charge that faced the late Eric Dylan Jones after he beat up UO football player Devan Long in March. But it's highly likely that Lewis will plea-bargain to a lesser charge.
The Ducks probably will suspend Lewis for one game next season. The real question is: Will the arrest, and any conviction, hurt Lewis' chances of becoming a police officer, his career goal?