Whether it’s the discipline, the conditioning, or even just the small acts of sportsmanship, the payoff can be seen in the boxers first bout.
“It’s an enjoyable experience to see these kids participate and when they participate, how well they’re disciplined and the respect they have for one another before the fight,” said Baker, who is hoping to help grown the sport within Robeson County. “That’s what I want the young kids to see: how well it’s organized and how well two people, before and after the bout, can tap gloves.”
It’s a sport that will be on full display Saturday night when Baker sponsors the 2013 Men’s and Women’s Amateur Boxing Smoker.
Bouts start at 6:30 p.m. at the Lumberton National Guard Armory on Fayetteville Road. 20 matches are scheduled to take place, Baker said, with boxers ranging from nine to 31-years-old. Tickets are $6 for children and $12 for adults.
The card includes experienced boxers Keno McLaurin and Cravon Regin, both of Lumberton. Newcomers Kodi West, of Lumberton, Lydell Hinson, of Fairmont, and Cornelius Jones, of Elizabethtown, all will be making their debuts on the card.
The other boxers in the event are largely coming from within the state, with a few coming in from Virginia and South Carolina.
Hinson and West were in their final week of preparation Monday as they work with Baker at Total Elite Fitness in Lumberton.
Hinson, 9, got into the sport at the encouraging of his father.
“I want to do it since my dad did it,” he said. “My dad pushed me.”
West, on the other hand, has tried multiple other sports and decided to give boxing a shot.
Both have trained for five months to get in shape for their bouts, working on the technique of the sport and the cardio necessary for a match.
“It gets tough,” West said. “Once you get near a fight you start training harder and you have to push yourself lot farther than you usually do.”
Asked what the hardest part was, Hinson replied simply, “Everything’s hard.”
But it’s a toughness that Baker said helps build character.
“Boxing is a sport that can really test what you want,” he said. “It’s something you have to have the training for and have the conditioning to do.”
In hoping to grow the sport among the area’s youth, Baker understands there can be negative associations made with the sport and hopes seeing it live will get more families interested.
“It’s not all people think it’s made out to be,” Baker said. “When one thinks about boxing, they think about violence, but when they see it, when it’s done right with the rules and regulation within it, they see something different in the sport, because it’s all about a goal set to get to bigger and better things.”
The fights are santioned by the Amateur Boxing Federation and no matter the age group or gender, numerous measures are put in place to keep fighters safe, including the use of head gear, mouth pieces and protective cups, along with pre-fight physicals and a physician at ringside during the event.
Baker said as fighters grow, opportunities can open up for young boxers to get as far as the state, regional, and even international levels of competition, depending on their goals.
West hopes the path leads him in that direction.
“I’m going to try to move up and when I get older I’m going to try to become a pro,” he said.
Baker said that within the community, there could be a potential boxing star in the wings.
“It may open a kid’s eyes,” he said. “You never know what we have here. We might have an Olympian. All they’ve got to do is see it, dream it, and it shall be done.”