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Family shock at ex boxer's death

PUBLISHED: 17:21 20 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:53 03 March 2010

THE Ipswich motor industry and the sports world is reeling today from the sudden death of Geoff Baker.

Mr Baker, who owned Whip Street Motors and was a sports enthusiast involved with golf, football, rugby and was a former Suffolk boxing champion, collapsed and died on Saturday while having a meal out with his son.

THE Ipswich motor industry and the sports world is reeling today from the sudden death of Geoff Baker.

Mr Baker, who owned Whip Street Motors and was a sports enthusiast involved with golf, football, rugby and was a former Suffolk boxing champion, collapsed and died on Saturday while having a meal out with his son.

An ambulance was called to the Man on the Moon pub in Palmcroft Road, Ipswich, shortly after 9pm but there was nothing that could be done to revive the father of five.

Mr Baker's wife, Sue, still suffering deep shock at the loss of the man she had been with for almost 25 years, spoke from the family home in Henley Road with sadness at the suddenness of his death. She also said that he would be missed by the sporting community.

"Geoff was such a well-known sports personality, he always managed to devote a great deal of his time to sport as well as running his business. He was into rugby, football, golf and boxing. He was a champion many, many times in the boxing ring and he also fought Joe Bugner.

"This is so tragic, only a couple of nights before he died we sat up until the early hours, playing CDs and talking. He said he hoped when he died it would be quick but this ... you don't ever think it will happen to you, and not so soon after talking like we did.

"We often went to the Man on the Moon for a meal but on Saturday night he went out with Greg, one of our sons because I had to be elsewhere.

"I was on the train coming home when it happened. That makes it even worse," she added.

Mr Baker, 61, started his business just over 40 years ago from a hand cart. It was this fact that never ceased to amuse him and his wife said he often said businesses don't start that way these days.

He made a success of his scrapyard enterprise building it up to two branches of Whip Street Motors, one in Great Whip Street, Ipswich, and the other at Paper Mill Lane, in Bramford.

During his boxing days he won many fights as a heavyweight. He was the Suffolk and Eastern Counties boxing champion and was the last one to fight Joe Bugner.

Frany Peake has been chairman of Ipswich Boxing Club for 25 years and was friends with Mr Baker for 40 years or more. He described him as a good, all-round sportsman.

"He was an excellent boxer, a good footballer, golfer and even played tennis. He never did anything by halves whether it was cutting a hedge or playing sport. He was as strong as an ox and was never ill, this is really shocking. Geoff was well liked and people now are feeling quite down," Mr Peake added.

Builder, Noel Kearney, a friend since they met at the ages of 14 at the old Ipswich Lads Boxing Club, said nothing was ever too much trouble for him.

"Geoff always gave me time. If I went to see him over business he would always put the kettle on, make a cuppa and give me as long as it took to sort out any problem I had.

"He was a good sportsman – was Suffolk heavyweight boxing champion for four years running and played tennis for the county too. He was an all-rounder," said Mr Kearney, who was an Ipswich Town player during the early 1960's.

Mr Baker was a member of Rushmere Golf Club where friends and fellow golfers today expressed their shock at his sudden death.

And in the motor trade too, Ivan Roper, of Dales Car Centre, knew Mr Baker for many years.

"I had a telephone call from one of our mutual friends and I was devastated with the news. It was so sudden and we will certainly miss Geoff a great deal," he said.

At the Man on the Moon pub a relief manager said he was very upset to hear that Mr Baker had died.

"I did not know him personally but it was a terrible shock when he collapsed. Mr Baker was enjoying an evening out with his son and this happened," he added.

Mrs Baker said that she had been overwhelmed by the number of people who had called her to give their condolences.

"He knew so many people. We were just in to our 25th year together and were planning a holiday in Jersey for our anniversary next year. We never had time for a honeymoon and this would have been to make up for that.

"Geoff so wanted to go to Jersey but it will never be," she added.

As she and her family try and come to terms with Mr Baker's sudden death, their sons, Charlie, 22, Jodie, 21, Kevin, 20 and Greg, 19, were keeping the business running. Jamie, Mr Baker's eldest son from a previous marriage had been involved with the business since he left school.

A post mortem examination was being held to determine the cause of his death and details of the funeral will be announced later.

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