The pride of poplar

World Bantamweight Champion 1927

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Despite his wonderful achievement, Baldock was never officially recognised as world champion, because the contest was not held at the premises of the autocratic National Sporting Club. The British Boxing Board of Control, in its present structure, had not yet been formed, and boxing was controlled by the NSC. But Teddy's lack of recognition was not a problem to the great showman Charles B. Cochran, who, seven weeks later, paid him €750 to fight featherweight champion Johnny Cuthbert over six rounds at Olympia. The bout was a support to the Mickey Walker-Tommy Milligan world middleweight title fight, and the result was a draw, Baldock's purse was, nevertheless, a record for a six-rounder.

Five months after beating Bell, Teddy defended his world title against Willie Smith of South Africa, but was soundly outpointed. Down in the eighth, he did well to survive the distance. Despite challenging the South African to a return, with a side-stake of €1,000, Baldock did not get the chance to regain his laurels.

Although he eased back with wins over Len Fowler and Phil Lolosky. Teddy was not the same fighter. The flashing left hand, which had won him most of his fights in the past, was now giving him trouble. He damaged it when knocking out Fowler, but after a real war with Lolosky, further damage put him out of action for five months. When he did return to the ring in July, 1928, Teddy knocked out Pierre Calloir of France in four rounds, and three weeks later stopped Bugler Harry Lake in five rounds, before a crowd of 8,000 at Blackpool Race Course, amid pouring rain.

Joe Morris, meanwhile, was planning a big show at the Clapton Orient Football Ground, with British flyweight champion Johnny Hill topping the bill against the American Newsboy Brown. In the chief supporting contest he matched Baldock with Johnny Brown, the St. George's bantam, for the national eight stone-six title. Before a crowd of 30,000, Baldock hit Brown at will before the corner threw in the towel during the second round. Despite his claim to the British title, Teddy was yet again not recognised as champion, because the fight had not been staged at the National Sporting Club. It was further claimed that Brown had, in fact, forfeited the title because almost three years had elapsed since he last defended it. The Club therefore recognised Alf "Kid" Pattenden as champion, following his victory over George "Kid" Nicholson in June, I928.

Although he was disappointed, Baldock continued along his winning way by stopping Mick Hill (Tooting), at "The Ring", Blackfriars, and three weeks later he met Phil Lolosky in an eagerly-awaited return at the Albert Hall. Although he knocked out Lolosky in three rounds, Teddy again badly damaged his left hand. He was examined by a Harley Street specialist, who diagnosed a fracture of the left metacarpal in three places. An operation was carried out, and Teddy was out of the ring for a further five months. Meanwhile, intense rivalry had built up in the East End between fans of Baldock and those of Alf Pattenden, of Bethnal Green. Both men claimed the British bantamweight title, and the matter was in urgent need of settlement. It was, in fact, shortly after the formation of the British Boxing Board of Control, in 1929, that the two men were matched for the undisputed championship.

The fight took place at Olympia on 16 May, 1929, with a Lonsdale Belt at stake. It was later described as one of the greatest battles ever seen in a British ring. For round after round, the two little men pounded each other, with neither prepared to give way, Pattenden was hit with hooks, uppercuts, and jabs from both hands, and smashes to the chin which would have floored many bigger men. His face cut and smeared with blood, Alf was made of steel, and came back time and again. It was amazing that the fight went the distance, and at the final bell the pair fell into each other's arms. They had given everything, and although each man was only 22, there can be no doubt that this fight finished both of them. Baldock got the decision, but the cheering of the crowd, which lasted for several minutes, was for both men. Afterwards, Teddy described Alf as boxing's gamest loser.

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