Raymond Baca and some friends started going to the police department when it was on Second Street and Garden. Baca walked into the gym and told Raymond Anaya Sr. he wanted to learn how to box at the age of 13 years old.
Baca wasn’t a success immediately losing his first three out of four fights. He felt frustrated with his losses. One of the main problems was Baca was fighting fighters that had more experience than he had.
Once he won two in a row, Baca got on a winning streak and finished with a record of (60-8). He won two Golden Gloves and one AAU title. Baca won state when he was 16 years old at 119-weight class. When he was 18 years old, he won state at 139-weight class, and when he was 20 years old, he won state at 147-weight class.
Baca never let his opponents play mind games with him, instead of sitting around with other fighters, if he was fighting that night, he would come in early and get wrapped and take a nap. Once it was time to fight his trainer, Willie Hall would come get him and wrap his hands. As they were wrapping his hands, Hall would go over strategy on how to beat his opponent.
“Mr. Hall was a fantastic man,” Baca said. “His relationship with his fighters was not only about boxing but about life. Doing the right thing, we would travel, and all the guys would be in the van as I drove, and we’d talk about what you’re doing and how to prepare yourself for life. It wasn’t just boxing but life itself.”
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Many of his fans wondered why he quit boxing, but in 1980 after a layoff, he won a regional tournament with the right to go to state. For some reason no matter how hard he trained and tried, he couldn’t get the desire to pay the price to fight again.
“I felt there was some unfinished business,” Baca said. “In 1980, I’m 25 years old, but the hunger was gone. I kept working with kids as a program director at the Boys and Girls Club. I was able to teach, not only teaching boxing but football and basketball, etc.”
Baca remembers that boxing was a big deal in Roswell and that his team used to travel all over New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Arizona. Baca was such an accomplished fighter that he won the right to go to nationals in Las Vegas, Nevada and Knoxville, Tennessee.
Baca won one of his fights at nationals and lost another, he says that fighting in nationals is another world than what he were used to. He recalled that as he fought there was three rings and fights going on besides each other at the same time. He remembers that he was used to fighting to the bell. At nationals, fighters would have to listen for a bell, whistle or horn depending on what his fight called for.
He shared how when he was at nationals he would be with the opponent he was going to be fighting that night from the time they entered the locker room, they were gloved together and sat in the dressing room waiting until they fought each other.
“You get to know the guys whole life as your waiting to fight,” Baca said. “It was a great time for boxing in Roswell and in New Mexico. Back then you had to fight three fights on consecutive nights at the regional tournament and then fight another three fights to win state. State was held here (Roswell) many years. What I liked is it was one and done. Once you lost a fight you were eliminated.”
Fights used to be held at Roswell High School and New Mexico Military Institute, with sponsorship coming from the Roswell Sertoma Club. Fights were so exciting in the ‘70s, they used to pack the high school from the top of the bleachers all the way down to ringside. Fights were broadcast on the old KGFL radio station.
As a fighter Baca credits his God-given speed and quickness for helping him win so many battles in the ring. Baca loved to run at Melendez Park and could run 5 miles a day while training for a fight. He would run sprints and spar with three different fighters while getting ready for a fight, each with a different look and style than his own. Baca was never knocked out during his career.
“I was a boxer,” Baca said. “I wasn’t a power puncher, I was quick. I had quick hands and I could move. I would stick and move. There were other times I would have to take it to an opponent because I was bigger and stronger. I knew my opponents well before I ever fought them.”
Baca feels like one of his best wins was the guy he fought out of El Paso, Texas. Baca felt like his opponent was better than him as a boxer, but Baca just wanted it more and outworked him and was better prepared. I had a better coach and used speed to win the fight at the 139-weight.
His toughest defeat was to Ernest Vann out of Clovis, for two rounds both fighters went back-and-forth, before the stronger and older Vann, 23, finally wore Baca, 18, down in the third round to secure the victory.
“Because of people like my mother, Tile Baca, Hall, Anaya, Sr., Chris Flores, and Rudy Burrola at the Boys and Girls Club,” Baca said. “They made such an impact on my life, I felt I had to make a positive impact on the Roswell community, that’s why I went into the Boys and Girls Club to give back.”
After his fighting career, Baca has spent 26 years working with the Boys and Girls Club. He credits boxing for giving him a quality start in life and direction in setting goals.
“I just want to make a positive impact in the lives of others,” Baca said.” It’s been a pleasure to work with youth, I’ve lived a good life.”
Today, he still works with youth.Some of Baca’s proudest moments have been when a former member of the club would come up to him with their family and shake his hand, telling his family, “Mr. Baca is the guy who taught me how to play basketball and to box.”
“Boxing prepared me for life,” Baca said. “You have to commit yourself in life, you have to be committed to your job, schooling or whatever you’re going to do in life. You have to know how to be a teammate as well as be on your own. Boxing is a thinking man’s sport.”
Baca, 63, is in the New Mexico Hall of Fame as a boxer and serves on the New Mexico Hall of Fame Board of Directors. He currently serves on the New Mexico Golden Gloves Board of Directors.