The pride of poplar

World Bantamweight Champion 1927

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In 1926, Teddy was forced to move up to bantamweight, and he had the urge to try his luck in America. His father was against the idea, but after several rows, it was arranged for him to accompany Ted Broadribb and a party including Jack Hood and Alf Mancini. Ironically, it was on the eve of his departure for the United States that Teddy suffered his first defeat. In what was his 42nd paid fight, he faced Kid Nicholson from Leeds, against the wishes of Joe Morris, but did so because he wanted some money for the American trip. Baldock had trouble making the weight, and his only success during the fight was with shots to the body. After several warnings, however, he strayed low once too often, and was disqualified in the ninth round.

The American trip was a tremendous success, and during his four-month stay Teddy had twelve contests, winning eleven and drawing the other. His greatest success was a first-round knockout of the bant¬amweight champion of Canada, Arthur de Champlaine. The fans raved over the lad from Poplar, and top promoter Tex Rickard admitted that had Baldock been old enough he would have given him the chance to fight for the vacant world bantamweight title. Baldock, Hood, and Mancini were paid good money in the States, and clubbed together to buy a car for $95. They were anxious to see the big names in action, and even drove to Philadelphia to watch Jack Dempsey training for his heavyweight title defence against Gene Tunney. They stayed there for several days, and managed to get tickets to see the fight.

When he returned to England, Teddy received a tremendous welcome, and was honoured at a dinner at a Holborn rest¬aurant by 250 admirers. While he was away, the International Sports Syndicate was formed, and took over from Harry Jacobs in promoting at the Albert Hall An offer of £1,000 had been made for Baldock to have three fights, one of which would be for the world bantamweight title, Teddy accepted the offer, and in his first contest for the new promoters he knocked out Young Johnny Brown of St. George's in three rounds. After the fight, he was asked to return to the ringside because the Prince of Wales wanted to shake his hand. Teddy was terrified, and he refused, and literally had to be dragged from the dressing-room to meet his royal admirer.

After Baldock knocked out the German Felix Friedmann, the promoters cabled American Archie Bell with an offer of £1,000 for him to meet the Londoner for the vacant world bantamweight title. Bell, a veteran of over 60 fights agreed. He travelled to London, and trained at "The Black Bull" at Whetstone. Baldock set up his training camp at Hurstpierpoint, with former British featherweight champion Johnny Curley as his chief sparring-partner Baldock had a tremendous following, and on the evening of the fight 52 charabancs, crammed with enthusiastic fans, set off from Poplar for the Royal Albert Hall. The great arena was packed to capacity, and the atmosphere was electric. The American was by far the best man Baldock had faced, and the contest was fought at a terrific pace from start to finish. It was a toe-to-toe battle, and one of the greatest ever seen in a London ring. Teddy boxed brilliantly, and with just two rounds to go he was well ahead. Suddenly, Bell launched a whirlwind attack in an effort to turn the fight around. It was at this stage that the East Ender's speed, skill, and ability to absorb a punch were decisive, and he weathered the storm to take the decision. The crowd were delirious, and at the end the organist played "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".

The whole of Poplar celebrated, and at a civic reception a few days later, Teddy was presented with an illuminated address signed by the Mayor of Poplar, and was awarded the Freedom of the Borough.

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