The pride of poplar

World Bantamweight Champion 1927

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One of Teddy's early fights was against fellow-East Ender Young Riley, who came in a stone the heavier. It made no difference, however, because the Poplar boy's speed won him the decision. It was only Teddy's tenth paid engagement, but his potential was clear to see.

Speed was undoubtedly one of Baldock's main assets, but nevertheless he was astonished one day to find himself billed as "The Mumtaz Mahal of the Ring". The Premierland promoter had, in fact, named him after a very fast two-year-old race¬horse owned by the Aga Khan! The Poplar boy was certainly catching the eye of many followers of boxing, and after he had knocked out Young Bowler (Bethnal Green), in his fifteenth paid fight on 24 January, 1924, the weekly magazine Boxing carried the following comment:

"Teddy Baldock pleased us very much by his workmanlike dispatch of Young Bowler in a minute and a half. This kid will be a star performer before long, believe us! He is speedy, accurate, and ever ready to flash out with either hand, and he weighs as yet little over seven stone."

Baldock improved with every outing, and in 1924 he outpointed Young Bill Lewis (Bethnal Green), at Premierland over ten and fifteen rounds, in February and July respectively. In between those contests he drew with Kid Socks (Bethnal Green), at the National Sporting Club. Socks was, in fact, the first man to match Teddy in every department, and at the end the Poplar boy was convinced he had lost. Afterwards, he admitted that he had learned more from Socks than from any other opponent.

Baldock's winning run continued through 1924 and 1925. His victims included good men, such as Billy "Kid" Hughes (Maesteg), Vic Wakefield (Manchester), Ernie Jarvis (Millwall). Johnny Haydn (Tonypandy), Frankie Ash (Plymouth), and Tiny Smith (Sheffield). All were at Premierland. Against Ash and Smith there were packed houses. When he faced Jarvis, it was Teddy's first fight over fifteen three-minute rounds, despite his age being only 18! In 1925, Teddy took on Jack Lakey as his trainer, and as his progress continued he attracted the attention of the former Wonderland owner Harry Jacobs, who was now promoting at the Royal Albert Hall. He made an offer of £1,000 for Baldock to meet British and European flyweight champion Elky Clark, but Joe Morris refused, saying: "I'm nursing this kid along, and I'm content with the small-hall money he gets in the East End until he has fully matured." Jacobs, however, was not a man to give up. His persistence was eventually rewarded when he matched Teddy with Antoine Merlo, of France, at the Albert Hall in December, 1925. Baldock won a stirring contest on points, and arrived home to a hero's welcome from crowds who lined his street.

Delighted with his performance, Jacobs promptly booked him for a series of fights with a view to matching him, eventually, with Elky Clark. Although Teddy outpointed Frankie Ash in a return over fifteen rounds, the meeting with Clark never materialised, due to the champion's illness. Instead, Teddy was paired with Alf Barber of Brighton, and the Albert Hall was packed to capacity. Although many people believed Barber would be the man to halt Baldock's winning run, the Poplar man hammered out a brilliant fifth round stoppage victory. The interest in Baldock was incredible, and again the streets of Poplar were crowded with cheering fans when he arrived home. Hundreds of late-night papers were sold at around midnight to those enthusiasts who were anxious to get the result of the fight from the Stop Press column.

Just six weeks later, Teddy faced the hard-hitting French champion, Francois Moracchini, and again many fans thought Joe Morris had allowed his charge to be overmatched. It was a terrific fight, and there were several rounds of non-stop, toe-to-toe punching. The Frenchman, who was down in the twelfth, attacked throughout, and although Baldock got the decision, it was mighty close.

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