Big Bob Baker

By Clarence George on October 23, 2015
Big Bob Baker
He fought Coley Wallace twice in 1954, at Cleveland's Central Armory and at the Garden.

Baker didn’t much talk about his boxing days, according to his son, his mementos winding up “in the bottom of a box on the shelf…”

“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.”—Nursery Rhyme

Born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, on October 26, 1926, heavyweight Bob “Belt ‘Em” Baker fought out of Pittsburgh from 1949 to 1959, racking up a record of 51 wins, 20 by knockout, 16 losses, three by knockout, and one draw. He won his first 25 fights, 17 by KO or TKO, before drawing against Kid Riviera at Cincinnati Gardens on November 13, 1951. It was in his next fight, on November 23, that he suffered his first loss, knocked out by Clarence Henry in the eighth at Madison Square Garden.

Among the 25 were power-punching Sid Peaks, who Baker stopped by fifth-round TKO at Zivic Arena in Millvale, Pennsylvania, on May 29, 1950 (despite Baker being put down for the first time in his career), beating him again at the same venue that July 25, this time by unanimous decision; even harder-hitting Abel Cestac, who lost by unanimous decision at the Arena in Cleveland that December 4; Omelio Agramonte, first losing by seventh-round TKO at Heidelberg Arena in Pittsburgh on July 3, 1951, then by unanimous decision at the same arena that August 13 (the Cuban down eight times); and Jimmy Bivins, who lost by unanimous decision at Duquesne Gardens in Pittsburgh that November 5.

Following his loss to Henry, Baker beat Cesar Brion by unanimous decision at Eastern Parkway Arena in Brooklyn on February 16, 1953, knocking down the tough Argentine three times; Nino Valdes by unanimous decision at Radio Center Arena in Huntington, West Virginia, that May 21 and again at the Arena in Cleveland on December 7, 1955; Charley “Doc” Williams (who once outpointed the great Charley Burley) by unanimous decision at Duquesne Gardens on November 24, 1953; Joe Baksi by unanimous decision at Eastern Parkway on May 24, 1954; Coley Wallace by unanimous decision at the Central Armory in Cleveland that October 1 and again at the Garden that December 17; Rex Layne by unanimous decision at Eastern Parkway on February 28, 1955, and twice at West Jordan Park in West Jordan, Utah, by unanimous decision that July 18 and on points that August 24; and quintessential badass George Chuvalo by unanimous decision at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto on September 9, 1957.

There were also losses. Belt ‘Em got belted by Bob Satterfield, who won by first-round KO at Chicago Stadium on July 1, 1953. Henry won a second bout, this time by unanimous decision at Eastern Parkway that December 21, followed by Archie Moore who won by ninth-round TKO at the Auditorium in Miami Beach on March 9, 1954. That was the last stoppage for Baker, who won his next 13 before losing to Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson by majority decision at the Garden on February 3, 1956, and then by split decision at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh that September 26 (Baker betting his $33,000 purse, almost 300 grand today, on himself). Harold Carter won by unanimous decision at the Garden on January 11, 1957. Capable if rather feather-fisted Roy “Cut ‘N Shoot” Harris won by majority decision at the Coliseum in Houston that April 30, while Eddie Machen won by unanimous decision at Chicago Stadium that July 24. Mike DeJohn won by unanimous decision at the War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse on June 20, 1958, while Dick Richardson (who once beat Ezzard Charles, if only by disqualification) outpointed Baker at Coney Beach Arena in Porthcawl, Wales, that July 9. (Baker had outpointed Richardson at Harringay Arena in London on December 10, 1957.) And there were others, including Mexican heavyweight champ Alfredo Zuany, who won by unanimous decision at Plaza de Toros in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, on November 30, 1958.

Baker hung ‘em up following his loss by unanimous decision to Frankie Daniels at Palisades Rink in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, on October 20, 1959. His last win was over Waban “Tugboat” Thomas (who had a “perfect” record of 14 wins, 10 by knockout; 14 losses, 10 by knockout), kayoing him in the fourth at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 30, 1958.

Despite some wins, most notably over Chuvalo, Baker’s record was pretty spotty after 1955. Still, he earned a crack at Rocky Marciano’s title following that second win over Valdes. But, according to Marciano biographer Russell Sullivan, Rocky wanted to quit the ring because of “his creaky back, which had first given him problems early in his career and continued to loom as a potential problem.” In addition, writes Sullivan, “he had attained financial security” and “knew that his considerable post-retirement prospects in business and public relations hinged at least in part on his status as ‘the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world.’ A fiftieth victory would have certainly been nice, but why risk the perfect 49-0 record that would continue to create revenue? Now that he had beaten Moore [by ninth-round KO at Yankee Stadium on September 21, 1955, formally retiring on April 27, 1956], Marciano had nothing left to prove. His legacy was secure. Why put it in jeopardy?” Moreover, Rocky distrusted and detested his manager, Al Weill. “Marciano admitted that he had built up a considerable dislike if not hatred for his manager,” writes Sullivan, “and that he retired in large part to get away from him.” Adds famed trainer and manager Lou Duva, a close friend of the Rock, “I think the real reason he quit — it wasn’t because of his back, it was because of Al Weill.” And Rocky was just tired of it all, especially the dieting. There was all that cake out there, and he wanted his share. Fair enough, but Sullivan’s contention that Marciano-Baker “excited no one” is perhaps more asserted than established.

Adding insult to injury, Baker beating John Holman by unanimous decision at the Auditorium in Miami Beach on May 9, 1956, didn’t get him a shot at what was then the vacant title, despite the bout being billed as an “Eliminator.”

Big Bob died age 75 on April 23, 2002. According to his obituary, Baker reffed both wrestling and Golden Gloves matches, but found more regular work as a bartender, as well as a foreman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Dropping out of high school to join the Navy during World War II, Baker didn’t much talk about his boxing days, according to his son, his mementos winding up “in the bottom of a box on the shelf.”

The obit quotes Frank DeLeo, one of Paul Spadafora’s cornermen, “He had a good left hook and a good right hand. His punch was strong,” as well as former middleweight and long-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Commissioner for Western Pennsylvania, Andy DePaul, who said, “He couldn’t even punch the bag in the end. He would’ve been the heavyweight champion of the world if he hadn’t broken both of his hands.” Like Laszlo Papp and Donovan George, among many others, Baker did indeed suffer from brittle hands. “He was a fine heavyweight,” continued DePaul, “No. 1 contender in the world. He fought the tough guys. He wasn’t afraid of anybody.” Well, it’s true that The Ring ranked Baker among its Top 10 in 1950, ‘51, ‘54, ‘55, and ‘56, reaching the second spot in ‘55. As for his fighting tough guys and not being afraid of anybody…hell yeah.

“Pat it and shape it and mark it with ‘B.’” “B” for Big Bob Baker, who did a whole lot of patting and shaping in the ring, and should be damn proud of it.

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Nino Valdes vs Bob Baker II Part 1

Nino Valdes vs Bob Baker II Part 2

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  1. Gogi 02:38pm, 02/20/2019

    Mohammed Ali Vs Rocky Marciano, The Super Fight, 1970:

  2. Rocky Marciano Legacy 02:13pm, 12/30/2018

    You can find out all you need to know about ‘big’ bob baker & his scheduled fight vs rocky marciano & MUCH MORE by buying 2013 award winner, Lubek’s Threelogy. Book is explained on amazon!

  3. Jan Paul Lubek 04:03pm, 06/28/2018

    Everything u wanted to know about ‘Big Bob’ Baker & his historic fight with Rocky Marciano in 1956 that never was:

  4. bikermike 02:00pm, 10/27/2015

    Hard to say who won valdez…vs .baker…...but what a fight !!

  5. Clarence George 05:37am, 10/25/2015

    Thanks very much, Mr. Johnson, and it’s always a pleasure when you (or one of your colleagues) pays a visit.

    All the best,

    Edward Brophy

  6. Arch Johnson 04:43am, 10/25/2015

    Thanks for the intro to Belt Em, Mr. George. I enjoyed his story very much, but also picked up a good trivia tidbit about the Mederos being the only man besides Marciano to stop Roland LaStarza. Great question, but unfortunately my list of friends who might know the answer, or even provide an educated guess, or even heard of LaStarza, are dwindling. They can mostly be found here on

  7. Clarence George 07:43pm, 10/24/2015

    Keep ‘em coming, Beaujack, keep ‘em coming.

  8. beaujack 05:11pm, 10/24/2015

    Clarence, before the Eastern Parkway Arena became known for boxing it was a skating rink. As the boxing matchmaker at the boxing arena Teddy Brenner became famous as a great matchmaker who eventually became matchmaker for the old MSG on 8th Ave, between 49-50th street NYC.
    I must have seen a hundred or so boxing shows at Eastern P’kwy Arena, and 2 of the main events I recall fondly that stick out was when my neighbor middleweight Harold Green flattened a great MW prospect Joey Giardello in a middle round, and I recall the controversial decision given to the past peak Joey Maxim over the sensational new B’klyn LH Floyd Patterson.  So many fond moments at Eastern P’kwy Arena for me.

  9. Clarence George 12:50pm, 10/24/2015

    Always very glad to have your imprimatur, Jim.

    If I may take this opportunity:  Requiescat in pace, Maureen O’Hara.

  10. Jim Crue 11:39am, 10/24/2015

    thanks for another gem

  11. Clarence George 08:25am, 10/24/2015

    Appreciate the 411, Mike.

  12. Mike Casey 07:01am, 10/24/2015

    The Satterfield knockout loss was shattering, Clarence. Should be on YouTube or was. Satterfield could bang anyone out when he wasn’t getting banged out himself! Damn good jazz player too by all accounts.

  13. Clarence George 03:11am, 10/24/2015

    Thanks, Magoon.  It was 1955 (a UD win for Baker).  Mederos was a tough Cuban who once knocked out Roland LaStarza, the only guy besides Marciano to do so.

  14. Magoon 02:52am, 10/24/2015

    Good article. My father saw Baker fight Julio Mederos at Madison Square Garden in ‘57 or ‘58.

  15. Clarence George 02:33am, 10/24/2015

    I quite agree, Irish.

    Thank you, Beaujack, for your appreciation and for another tremendous post and reminiscence.  Eastern Parkway has been a parking lot for many a decade.  Our own Chuck Hasson is an expert on the legendary arena.  Rex Layne was a good fighter.  He didn’t quite live up to his early promise, but did indeed beat guys like Turkey Thompson, Cesar Brion, and Bob Satterfield, even Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles.  Coley Wallace once knocked out the great trainer, George Washington.  And how many men can say that they beat Rocky Marciano?  Wallace can (that’s him in the photo, as I’m sure you recognize).  All right, they were amateurs at the time, but still.  In fact, Wallace was the last man to beat Rocky.  Like Bob Baker, there was some talk of his getting a shot at Marciano, but Al Weill wasn’t too keen on the idea.

  16. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:13pm, 10/23/2015

    Dang! beaujack is fun!

  17. beaujack 09:10pm, 10/23/2015

    Clarence, another deserving fighter of the past you write about, Bob Baker. An excellent heavyweight puncher was Bob Baker who I saw twice ringside.Once at Eastern P’kway Arena in B’klyn called the “House of Upsets” where I saw him decision Rex Layne. Eastern Pkwy Arena was about 5 blocks from my abode and I was there almost weekly watching great bouts there. I saw Bob Baker decision Coley Wallace at MSG also. Coley Wallace was a highly touted Golden Gloves Champion who looked somewhat like the immortal Joe Louis, and played the part of Joe Louis in a Hollywood film. As an “oldtimer” I enjoy your articles on fighters of the past that should not be forgotten…

  18. Clarence George 07:28pm, 10/23/2015

    The Germans do indeed have their own version of goulash soup.  A lot of German restaurants offer it, but good luck finding a German restaurant these days.

  19. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:22pm, 10/23/2015

    I concur regarding you thoughts on Bob Baker. BTW an extra large dill pickle as well and I felt like I was King of the World. Which reminds me…years ago I had a hot spicy Goulash like soup in Munich that was not only delicious but worked miracles for hangovers and seemed to sober you up as you slurped it down. Heck, it might have been Goulash or a German variant.

  20. Clarence George 06:23pm, 10/23/2015

    Thanks, Irish.  I’d say Baker was toward the top of the second tier.  No match for Marciano, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have gotten a shot.  Or at least a crack at the vacant title.

    Pickled pig’s feet at the bar, is it?  I would have thought (however mistakenly) that that went out with the ‘30s.

  21. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:40pm, 10/23/2015

    BTW…no Happy Hours in those days but I still got my fill of pickled pig’s feet and pickled eggs and deviled crab on the half shell as the evening wore on.

  22. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 05:30pm, 10/23/2015

    Clarence George-Great remembrance….one thing though about Bob…..for a top ten fighter there are some notable absences on his resume.of guys who were active during the Fifties….Charles, Walcott, Folley, Patterson and even Liston in the latter part of the decade. He was a good fighter for sure and it’s an absolute that Satterfield was a bomber but these guys could crack too. So it’s one thing that he didn’t get his shot at Rocky but just maybe he was lucky that he didn’t run that gauntlet. I came up in Pittsburgh and my vice was a shot of Corby’s chased with an ice cold bottle of Duquesne….like just about every one else at the bar.

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