The pride of poplar

World Bantamweight Champion 1927

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During the first round, Teddy's left hand swelled up badly, and the right, which he had previously broken and which had never properly set, also became extremely painful. Corbett won easily on points, and with increasing eye trouble as well, Baldock knew he could never fight again. When he quit the ring, he did so with great dignity, and his fine record of just five defeats from 80 contests is a testimony of his fighting qualities. "Panama" Al Brown was the only man ever to stop him. Teddy remained a hero in Poplar and when he got married in 1931, the crowds were so dense that traffic in the area stopped for more than half an hour. People climbed lamp-posts and stood on roof-tops trying to get a glimpse of him and his bride. The reception was held in the fashionable Guildhall, and the wedding cake, in the shape of a boxing ring, was a work of art.

When he retired from the ring. Teddy had no trade to fall back on, so he turned to street bookmaking, which he learned with his father. Sadly, he soon got in with the wrong crowd, and lost as much as €100 a day gambling on the horses and dogs, 'Apart from the gambling, he was drinking heavily, and it wasn't long before his marriage broke up. He did have one stroke of luck in 1937, when a stable-lad at Epsom told him to back the appropriately-named entry Punch, in the Caesarewitch. The horse won at 50-1, and although Teddy picked up €5,000, the money soon disappeared on other "sure things", which were beaten. Apart from being a reckless gambler, Teddy Baldock was a man of great generosity. He did many people favours, but lost thousands of pounds to spongers who he thought were his friends. Many loans were never repaid, and once he was broke, most of his old pals disappeared.

In the later years of his life, Teddy claimed that his bookmaking venture and personal gambling cost him more than €10,000. Money from his boxing purses, which his father had supposedly been saving for him, also disappeared, and instead of there being thousands of pounds in the bank, only a few hundred were left. Teddy used this to get a pub, and for a while he ran "The Earl of Derby" at Forest Gate. At first he did quite well, but with the arrival of the Second World War, trade dropped off badly, and he handed the place back lo the brewers. When bombs dropped on to a row of houses near to his pub, Teddy gave all his spare clothes to the homeless. A house which he owned in Barking was also destroyed, and although he received €3,000 from the War Damage Commission, the money disappeared in no time.

During the war, Teddy served with the RAF, and was posted to Scotland, where he did numerous boxing exhibitions for the troops. In peacetime, he had jobs as a physical training instructor at Butlin's, worked as a steel erector, a labourer on the docks, and a messenger in Fleet Street. As he got older, however, jobs became more difficult to come by, and the old fighter went down hill rapidly. By the mid-1950s he had declined to such an extent that he was ashamed to let his daughter see him. When he died at Rochford Infirmary in Essex on 8 March, 1971, Teddy Baldock was penniless. The man who made more than €20,000 from boxing before he was 24, when such an amount of money really meant something, who owned a dozen suits and a couple of cars, who lived in the oyster bars and plush restaurants of London's West End, had nothing. In his prime he rubbed shoulders with dukes, earls, and their ladies in posh clubs, but when he died he didn't even possess a pair of pyjamas.

During the last years of his life, Baldock owned just one shabby suit, and slept rough on the streets or in dirty common lodging-houses in the East End of London. When he passed away, not a single national newspaper recorded the fact. The man who had thrilled packed boxing arenas for almost a decade was completely forgotten. The story of Teddy Baldock is one of the sadder sides of boxing. It reveals how the hangers-on are there when a fighter is at his peak, yet vanish into the darkness when the money runs out. Modern-day champions would do well to remember the plight of "The Pride of Poplar", The funeral of the once great champion was held at Southend, and his ashes were interred in the Garden of Remembrance at Southend - on - Sea Crematorium.

I hope that this brief insight into my grandfather's life will have been of interest to anyone visiting this site. It does however only scratch the surface of his fascinating life. My Grandfather's biography Teddy Baldock - The Pride of Poplar is now available in Hardback for €16.99 incl P&P. Please request a copy of the book via this sites contact page.

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