The pride of poplar

World Bantamweight Champion 1927

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It is unlikely that any London boxer has enjoyed a larger following than did the popular East Ender, Teddy Baldock. Whenever he fought coach-loads of supporters left Poplar to cheer him. When he met Archie Bell at the Albert Hall on 5 May, 1927, no less than 52 crowded charabancs chugged out of the East End, heading for Kensington like an Army convoy. Despite his popularity, Baldock's story is one which portrays the highs and lows of boxing. A world champion at the age of 19, he was burned out by the time he was 24. Despite earning big money in the ring, he died penniless at the age of 63.

Born at Poplar on 24 May, 1907, and actually christened Alfred, Teddy Baldock was destined to become a fighter. His grandfather, Jack Baldock, had been a tough bare-knuckle battler, while another scrapping relative, "Hoppy” Baldock, had been a second to many top pugilists of his day, including Charlie Mitchell, Jem Smith, and Ted Pritchard. His father, Ted, had fought at Wonderland and in the fairgrounds, and it was he who started his son boxing when the lad was just a boy. Apart from taking his son to Premierland and other East End halls, Ted used to get down on his knees in the kitchen of their little terraced house and encourage the youngster to punch away at him

At school, the young Baldock was good at football, athletics, and swimming, but it was boxing at which he excelled. He soon joined a local Boys' Club, and many of his early fights were at the St Michael's Church Hall in Poplar, against local lads. When Teddy kept winning, opponents had to he brought in from further a field. When he won an East End Boys' Clubs' five-stone championship, Teddy was presented with a medal, the first of many amateur trophies he would win.

Much of Teddy's time was taken up in working with his father, who operated as a street bookmaker. After winning one particular fight, the youngster's reward was a bicycle, which helped to get him around the streets of Poplar to collect betting slips and cash, which he then took to his father at a pre-arranged pub just before the first race each day.

Teddy had his first paid contest at the age of thirteen. He beat Young Harry Makepeace from Custom House on points, over six rounds at Barking, in 1921. He was paid seven shillings and sixpence, and it was the start of an unbeaten run, which would extend to 41 fights over more than five years.

As a teenager, Teddy was a real handful. He went to Epsom Racing Stables and became an apprentice jockey, but he was sacked after a fight with a stable-lad who wanted to sort him out. When Teddy later ran away from home, his father decided that firm discipline was needed if he was to progress as a boxer. So he took Teddy along to Joe Morris, the match-maker at Premierland, who managed former British feather weight champion Mike Honeyman.

It proved to be a smart move, because although eleven years his elder, Honeyman soon got to like Teddy. They trained together in a loft above a banana-drying shed at Dewsbury Street in Poplar, and Baldock soon became a regular performer at Premierland. He often boxed on the same shows as Honeyman, and Mike worked in his corner whenever he could.

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