Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On This Day: Teddy Baldock: The Pride Of Poplar Remembered

By Peter Silkov

Teddy Baldock was a brilliantly talented boxer, whose meteoric career took him from rags to riches, and then back again.  Born Alfred Teddy Baldock on May 24, 1907,  in Poplar, London,  he had boxing in his blood from the beginning. His father Ted had boxed, and his grandfather had been a bare knuckle fighter, and another relative, ‘Hoppy’ Baldock had been a second to renowned late 19th century pugilists such as Ted Pritchard, Jem Smith and Charlie Mitchell.  Baldock started boxing at school and soon started to run out of opponents amongst his peers.  Two months before his 14th birthday Baldock turned professional.  Despite his youth, Baldock made progress at a remarkable pace.  He was a very fast and technically sound boxer, with a great punch, and his busy and exciting ring style soon gained him plaudits from the fans.  Baldock quickly built up a huge following amongst the London fight followers.

Teddy shot up the bantamweight rankings, and on May 5, 1927, he beat Archie Bell on points, at London’s Royal Albert Hall, to win the British version of the World Bantamweight championship, while still three weeks away from his 20th birthday.  This made Baldock the youngest man ever to win the World bantamweight title, and an instant international star.  However, Baldock’s reign would not last long, 4 months after beating Bell, he was out-pointed by Willie Smith, losing his claim to the World Bantamweight title.

Bouncing back from what was only his 2nd defeat in 61 contests, Baldock won the British and Commonwealth Bantamweight titles on August 29, 1928, by knocking out former World flyweight champion Johnny Brown, in 2 rounds.  Nine months later, Baldock defended his British and Commonwealth titles against Alf ’Kid’ Pattenden, retaining his titles after one of the most thrilling and ferocious fights ever seen between two bantamweights.  It was the kind of fight that would leave both fighters mere shadows of their former selves.  Baldock went on to score some good victories, but he was already being plagued by hand trouble, and the ensuring spells of inactivity to rest his injured hands, began to eat away at his finely honed skills.

An upset point’s defeat to Benny Sharkey, in September 1930, was the beginning of the end for Baldock, and a move up to featherweight failed to slow his fistic decline.

On May 21, 1931, the World bantamweight champion, Panama Al Brown, in a non-title fight, stopped Baldock in 12 rounds.  Four months later, he was out-pointed by Dick Corbett, in a fight which showed that he was just a brunt out shell of the brilliant boxer he had once been.  His hands both damaged, and suffering from increasing eye trouble, Baldock hung up his gloves at the age of just 24.

His final record was 73(37koes)-5-3. He was defeated just five times in his career, and stopped just once.  

Teddy Baldock’s post-fighting life is a sadly familiar tale of someone going from fame, and fortune, back to poverty and anonymity.  He set himself up as a street bookmaker, a job he used to do as a youth with his father, but he ended up losing money heavily, as he became hooked on gambling himself.  There were also the usual failed business ventures and the over generous nature, which saw him regularly lend money to friends and strangers alike, money which he never saw again.  By the time he was broke, most of the ’friends’ and hangers-on had disappeared as well.

Baldock kept a brave face on things by working at all kinds of jobs to make ends meet, and during WW2 he joined the RAF and boxed countless exhibitions for the troops.  He also taught physical fitness.  But during the post war years, as he grew older and found work harder to come by, Baldock’s life spiraled into further decline.

Despite the familiar story, Teddy Baldock’s fate was particularly tragic.  In his last years, he was reduced to living in shabby lodgings in the East End, and at other times sleeping rough.  When he died on March 8, 1971, his death went unnoticed by the national press, the same press that had hailed him as a hero some 30 plus years earlier.  The man who had been one of London’s most popular boxers, and Britain’s youngest world champion, died penniless, and forgotten.

In recent years, Baldock’s life has been recalled in a biography by his grandson, bringing his life and fighting career back into the public consciousness.  On May 28, 2014, a life size bronze statue of Teddy Baldock was unveiled in East London’s Langdon Park, overlooking the sight of his childhood home.  40 years since his sad death, Teddy Baldock is finally getting the recognition that he deserves, and being remembered as the mercurial fighter, who was Britain’s only world boxing champion in the 1920s. 

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com

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