Like any mother, Karin Baxter watched with a little trepidation as her sons Adam and Jacob played high school football for Severna Park and college lacrosse — the former at Towson and the latter at Maryland.
But when Adam Baxter informed his mom about four months ago that he intended to dip his toe into boxing, her concern understandably reached new heights.
“He’s very competitive and I know he’s worked very hard, and I know he’ll do very well,” Karin Baxter said. “But he’s my son. So I’m a little bit worried about somebody punching him. It’s just the physical punching where I’m concerned that he might get hurt. But I’m proud of him, and I’ll be there, and I’ll support him.”
Adam Baxter has tried to assuage his mother’s fears with a little bravado.
“She says she can’t stomach the idea of me getting punched,” he said. “So I just told her, ‘I won’t get punched. I’ll do the punching.’ ”
Adam Baxter, 39, will make his boxing debut for Haymakers for Hope, an organization that seeks to raise money and awareness for cancer research via charity boxing events. Baxter will be one of 32 fighters participating in the Beltway Brawl on Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at The Anthem in Washington.
Baxter — who is dedicating his fight to former Terps faceoff specialist Brian Carroll, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer earlier in the year — said he has lost all four grandparents and a few aunts and uncles to cancer, which is expected to contribute in 2019 to 606,880 deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. But the pervasiveness of the disease struck Baxter when former teammate and Tigers midfielder Brian Myers was diagnosed with colon cancer in September 2016.
“To see somebody my age go through colon cancer and see what it did to him, that really had a personal effect on me because if it could happen to him, it could happen to anybody,” said Baxter, who lives in Arlington, Virginia., with his wife, Katie, 5-year-old daughter, Stella, and 2-year-old son, Wyatt. “It’s kind of just changed my whole thought process. It made me want to do something, and it made me want to commit that much more to knock out cancer.”
After four operations and 12 rounds of chemotherapy, Myers, 38, has been cancer-free for more than two years. He said the physical and emotional trauma of being diagnosed with cancer was offset by the love and support Baxter and other former teammates demonstrated.
“What I went through, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody,” Myers said. “But what has come of it is pretty unbelievable. And for Adam to be doing something like this, I’m not surprised, but if that motivates people in our sphere to go above and beyond, it’s special.”
Family and friends say Baxter diving into boxing is not surprising. He relished the physicality associated with football and lacrosse, but former Towson lacrosse coach Tony Seaman said Baxter, a defenseman, did not instigate trouble with his opponents.
“But he’d hit anybody who came into the defensive area,” Seaman said. “He was never shy about punishment. He was definitely an enforcer on our team, but I never saw him fight.”
Baxter, who said he grew up watching Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield box, watched former teammate Rich Beecher take part in a Haymakers for Hope event in New York in 2017. And when Beecher called him in April, Baxter did not need much convincing to sign up.
“I’ve always thought about boxing, being able to walk down to the ring with a song and going in there and boxing someone one-on-one,” he said. “I just never thought I would do it. So this challenge for me was personal, but also a challenge to do something good and give back.”
Baxter has revamped his schedule to prepare for his match against 37-year-old Mike Dendas. A typical day involves Baxter getting to Urban Boxing in Arlington for a one-hour workout beginning 6:15 a.m., returning home from his job as an independent general contractor by 4:45 p.m. to squeeze in a 45-minute run, and occasionally adding a one-hour sparring class in the evening.
Baxter said that his idea of staying in shape didn’t match the level of conditioning needed for boxing.
“That was a rude wake-up call for me,” he joked, estimating that he trains at least 15 hours per week. “I think I spent the first month just sore. Everything was sore. My toes, my fingers, my knuckles were sore from punching so much. and I was in decent shape going into it.”
Baxter has also overhauled his diet. He has replaced ice cream (“I have a major sweet tooth,” he said. “So eliminating the sweets was really hard.”) and beer with fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. He said he has shed about 20 pounds from his 6-foot-3 frame and has lost about three inches from his waistline.
“I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said. “I might even be in better shape than I was when I was at Towson. … The transformation has been noticeable.”
Baxter said he anticipates about 50 to 75 family members and friends attending his match, and Myers will be one of them. Myers, who said he absorbed his fair share of hits from Baxter during Tigers lacrosse practices, said his former teammates will root for Baxter — with one caveat.
“We would love for nothing more than for his opponent to land just a really good one on his face,” Myers joked. “That would be sweet for a lot of us. But then we want Adam to take over the match and come out of this thing with a win.”
While many fighters involved in the Beltway Brawl are trying to raise the $5,000 minimum, Baxter is the only one aiming to raise $50,000. He currently leads all participants with more than $35,000 committed.
Reaching his goal for Haymakers for Hope is more important than winning his fight, he said.
“Their mission statement is to knock out cancer, and I would love for my kids to grow up in a world where cancer doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “It would be great if people continued to dedicate themselves to charities like this and were willing to make sacrifices and spend time and energy to raise money to find a way to knock it out once and for all so that another person won’t have to suffer — either themselves or watching a loved one ― from cancer. That’s what it’s about.”
HAYMAKERS FOR HOPE
Thursday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.
The Anthem, Washington, D.C.