Andrew Baker a Carolinas Boxing Hall of Famer died on Saturday, May 15, 2021at the age of 67 in Lumberton, NC.
Andrew was born as the baby of five siblings to the late Sylvester and Mildred Baker on October 21, 1953 in Barnesville, NC.
Andrew graduated from Orrum High School in 1972 but his work ethic spanned over decades started at a young age when Andrew was growing up helping his father who was a sharecropper in the tobacco fields. All he knew was getting up at zero dark thirty in the morning, hooking the mule up and cropping the tobacco out of the field. It was during this time that he learned discipline and was able to visualize where he could one day be if he continued to dream and work hard.
Andrew loved sports but was sparked by his fascination as a kid at watching Muhammad Ali take the world by storm on TV. From his in-ring and out of the ring demeanor, Andrew wanted to emulate the boxing great. Ali was his idol growing up. He used to go outside and do the same thing he saw him do on TV. His father saw his passion for Boxing and brought him his first set of boxing gloves. His cousins used to come over to play with him and all he wanted to do was box.
In 1974, Andrew joined the US Army and was assigned to Korea. While in basic training the soldier decided to try his hand in the ring. Eager to test his skills, he asked the Boxing Team if he could try out. With a laugh, the coach told him to come on. The coach put one of his best ringers in the ring with Andrew and the rest is history. This would be the beginning of his eight-year career as a Boxer.
Through the encouragement of his drill sergeant, Andrew joined the US/Korean Boxing Team. It wasn’t long before his skills were put to the test and Andrew proved his skills as a fighter by winning the US/Japanese Lightweight Championship. His next stop was the Inner Service Championship in the Philippines which he also won. As an All-Army Boxer, he won the 1974 North Carolina Golden Gloves as well as nominated to go All-Army from 1975-1977.
In 1976, Upon his return to the US, Andrew won the Virginia A.A.U. Invitational Championship, thereby qualifying him for the Olympic National try-outs. It would be during these try-outs that he would face professional Boxing great, Tommy “Hitman” Hearns. Andrew’s face would light up when he talked about the moment when he dropped Hearns in the first round with a right hook, and then like a true competitor, Hearns got the last laugh by winning the bout in a split decision.
Andrew resumed training and later traveled to Germany where he won the Lightweight German Championship two years consecutively and qualified to go All-Army. He was the All-Army Lightweight Champion and won the Korean Army Championship in 1980. Andrew continued on a winning strike, and in 1982 he won the Korean Championship for a second time. Andrew was an unorthodox boxing stylist that fused speed, agility and power seamlessly. He always said the art of boxing is one that requires precise timing and perfect execution for the maximum delivery of speed and power.
After his win, he returned to the US again but this time it wasn’t to fight. After years of accumulating knowledge of what he called “the fight game,” it was at this time that Andrew decided his calling was not in the ring, but in the corner. So, with that he took his 85-5 fighting record and became a coach. He knew it was time to hang up the gloves and share his knowledge helping up-and-coming young fighters.
Andrew was re-assigned to Fort Riley in Kansas in 1982 where he created the Boxing program there as his first coaching stop. He wanted to share his knowledge to inspire others to believe and achieve their goals. It was his desire to bring out the best in others. During this time, Andrew coached not only top Boxers in the Army for 12 years but also assisted for world-level fights. It was the early 1990s when Andrew started coaching national talent as an Assistant Coach such as Oscar De La Hoya, Chris Byrd, Timothy Austin and worked with other Boxers such as Roy Jones, Jr. and Patrick Washington.
Coaching new boxers was the answer for Andrew as his years of experience fighting alongside such noted professionals as Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon Spinks, John Tate, Michael Dokes and James “Bonecrusher” Smith sharpened his knowledge of the sport. Andrew retired from the military after serving 20 years and five months in the US Army. Just like he spent much of his time in uniform, his civilian life was also centered around Boxing.
He set up shop at Smith’s Tae Kwon Do Academy, Lumberton, NC to start something for the youth, to get the kids off the street and help them build morale and give them goals. He sponsored events in the community such as the First Tough Man Contest and The Amateur Boxing Tournament. Later he went on to open a Boxing gym at Total Elite in Lumberton, NC to provide youth an opportunity to learn more about the sport as well as provide a structured athletic environment for the Boxers. He was a driving force to the growth of the Boxing environment in Lumberton, NC. He even expanded his horizons by becoming a conditioning trainer to many local and national celebrities throughout.
Andrew loved people and was a member of Minter’s Chapel Holiness Church in Boardman, NC where at an early age, he was baptized and accepted Christ as his personal savior. During his early years he enjoyed singing in the gospel group The Golden Stars with his cousins Gary, Windell, Jerry, Billy, Alton and Delano.
Through it all Andrew tried to keep a personal touch with whomever he coached whether it was a world champion or local amateur. This led him to be recognized as one of the State’s elite in the Boxing community as he was inducted in the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017 and inducted into the Fort Bragg Hall of Fame in 2018.
Andrew was a man of many passions, a champion of champions, a legend, a coach, and humanitarian. He touched and inspired many people throughout this region and all around the world. His incredible legacy makes us believe that we can achieve our goals and become better. It’s not just his legacy and accomplishment as a Boxer and Coach but in the way he navigated his life, how he took care of his family, shared of himself and allowed his challenges to inspire the fire that fueled his ambition and guided his journey towards greatness.
He left his indelible mark on the lives of many people who adored him. To Andrew, boxing taught discipline, morals, and how to establish goals. That is what took the country boy from the dirt road and tobacco fields to places all around the world, and today he is counted as one of the best fighters and coaches in the US.
In the last words of Coach Andrew Baker, “No Pain-No Gain, Let’s Work!”
Andrew was preceded in death by 2 sons, Andre Lavon Baker and Antonio Baker, a sister Geneva Baker and brother Sylvester.
Andrew leaves to cherish his memories, his wife and soulmate Laura Ann, “affectionately known as Honey”. Together they shared 31 years and was married for 18 years. He also leaves behind 3 sons, Elder Alvin Baker of Fayetteville, NC, Marcus Hamilton of the home, Chris Hamilton of Lumberton, NC, 2 sisters, Vivian Paisley of Orrum NC, Eloise Taylor (Thomas) of Lumberton, NC, Mother-in-law Gertrude Turner, Sister in laws: Patricia, Ann, Delilah, Lisa and Queen Turner all of Lumberton, NC his Brother in laws: Simon (Vanessa) Turner and Elvin (Lucinda) Turner all of Lumberton, NC, a host of nieces and nephews including a special nephew like brother Chris Gerald, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
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