A Butcher’s Hook: Teddy Baldock

By Sean Ness on August 10, 2015
A Butcher’s Hook: Teddy Baldock
Teddy fought Mick Hill on October 8, 1928, at The Ring on Blackfriars Road in London.

Teddy Baldock made his professional debut at East Street Baths in Barking on the 14th of March 1921 at the tender age of thirteen…

In the days before Ronnie and Reggie Kray, Repton Boxing Club, the infamous Blitz from the Nazis and the famous songs from Chas & Dave, there was the 1920s in the London’s East End. The area famous for cockney rhyming slang was languishing in poverty with a serious problem of overcrowding after a surge in population and a criminal element on the rise. But despite these problems, the working class people of London’s East End looked to their sporting heroes to keep their spirits high. The Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane markets proved to be a center point that captured the spirit of the community and a young lad by the name of Teddy Baldock was about to capture the community’s spirit. He was on the cusp of delivering one of the greatest boxing stories ever told, etching his name into boxing folklore forever.

Alfred Stephen Baldock also known as Teddy was born in Poplar London on the 20th of May 1908. The “basin of gravy” entered a family of fighting men who would bestow their knowledge upon the newest member of the Baldock family, making an impression that would prove valuable in Teddy’s successful teenage years. His father, Ted Baldock Sr., was a voracious fan of all things boxing and when he wasn’t accompanying his son collecting bets as a bookmaker to bring in the “bees and honey,” he engaged in the sweet science from time to time at the local fairgrounds in London’s East End. His grandfather was also known to participate in boxing at its most brutal form, bare-knuckle boxing. It wasn’t a surprise that the son and grandson would follow in their footsteps into the world of prizefighting, eclipsing both of his elders to become an international sporting hero in the process.

Teddy Baldock made his professional debut winning over six rounds against Young Harry Makepeace at East Street Baths in Barking on the 14th of March 1921 at the tender age of thirteen. He took to pugilism like a duck to water. His second professional outing mirrored the first as Young Harry Makepeace tasted defeat for the second time in similar fashion with Baldock winning over six rounds in a home debut in his native Poplar gaining the respect of his community. Teddy’s speed and skill were accelerating at an exciting pace making the orthodox style fighter a popular draw with his peers. A boxing magazine at the time commented on the young Teddy Baldock after his win against Young Bowler at a familiar venue associated with Teddy, the Premierland in Whitechapel.

“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.”

Premierland in Whitechapel became synonymous with Teddy Baldock in the same way that Jack the Ripper had become synonymous with Whitechapel. Only this time, it was Teddy who was taking out his victims in the name of boxing with his dazzling speed, precision assaults and screaming right hooks. Premierland bore witness to the destruction of some of the most respected names in British Boxing in that era including Kid Socks, Harry Hill, Ernie Jarvis, and Frankie Ash. Teddy first fought Ash in 1925 and a rematch a year later, only this time at the Royal Albert Hall. In total, he fought 30 rounds with Ash with the second meeting resulting as the same as its predecessor. The venue hosted 25 of the Pride of Poplar’s fights becoming its main attraction. It is true that Teddy didn’t win all of his fights at Premierland, and yes it’s true that he suffered his first loss at Whitechapel, however his first loss came by way of disqualification and not a KO which is fact worth noting.

It’s a great accomplishment for anyone to earn the respect of their peers, especially from a working class community. A boxer commands respect for a few simple reasons including indomitable courage without seeking praise. He or she puts their life on the line each time they step inside the squared circle. If you’re a champion or a journeyman, you are one in the same in terms of the respect you command. Did Teddy earn the respect of his community? You better “Adam and Eve” it. As the crowds grew bigger so did Teddy’s reputation and it wasn’t long before the US took notice.

Teddy Baldock made his mark across the pond having featured in venues across New York including Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, featuring at the prestigious Madison Square Garden where he was victorious on both occasions. In fact, Teddy was victorious in almost all of the 60 rounds he fought in the Big Apple. During his trip to the States, Teddy was in the building when he featured on the undercard of Jim Braddock. The Cinderella Man was still in the infant stage of his professional career when he faced Lou Barba at the Pioneer Sporting Club, New York, on the November 12, 1926, but it was the young Teddy Baldock who grabbed the attention of the New York Times when he fought Tommy Lorenzo. Lorenzo’s grit and determination to see the fight through was applauded by the evening’s spectators after witnessing the New York native climb off the canvas twice during the six destructive rounds before losing to Baldock by a majority decision.

“Only Lorenzo’s gameness and recuperative powers enabled the east side lad to survive the six rounds,” wrote the Times. “He was floored twice during the bout, once in the second round and again in the fourth session, under terrific rights to the jaw, and several times was sent staggering around under Baldock’s relentless fire.”

Having impressed in America and dominating each of his opponents, Teddy Baldock returned home to a hero’s welcome. Shortly after his arrival on home soil, Baldock inked a deal with the International Sports Syndicate for three fights with one being a world title fight at the Royal Albert Hall. Teddy made light work of his first two opponents, knocking out Young Johnny Brown in the 3rd round and Felix Friedemann in the 2nd round of a 15-round contest. But it was the third fight at the Royal Albert Hall which would write Teddy’s name into boxing history.

On the 5th of May 1927, nineteen-year-old Teddy Baldock claimed the world bantamweight title beating the ever courageous American Archie Bell over fifteen exhausting rounds. He became Britain’s youngest world champion of all time. His legacy is still intact and to this day with the record yet to be broken.

Teddy “The Pride of Poplar” Baldock retired from professional boxing at the early age of twenty-four but he was a veteran considering the length of time he was involved in the sport. He delivered an everlasting legacy which is something ingrained in his surviving family’s minds. For the fans of boxing, he left us an inspirational story that will be remembered when punch purists are reminiscing the formidable fighters from these shores. I am aware that Teddy Baldock succumbed to life’s vices and fell from grace before passing away in 1971, but I am more aware of the positives that he left behind. I have no doubt that The Pride of Poplar will look on with pride at the work his grandson Martin Sax has done in his grandfather’s name.

“I think it’s important,” said Martin. “Not because he was my grandfather but because he is Britain’s youngest world champion and if you speak to people today, there are very few people who remember him. I think it’s important to keep his memory alive.”

Having helped raised tens of thousands of pounds, Martin Sax along with three hundred spectators including former world flyweight champion Charlie Magri and seven-time world lightweight champion Colin Dunne gathered in Langdon Park in London in May 2014 to witness the newly erected memorial statue of Teddy Baldock. The beautiful statue overlooks a local boxing gym and one hopes that the youth of today can absorb some of the spirit that their local fighting hero embodied.

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  1. SeanNess 12:07pm, 08/11/2015

    Thank you for reading the article Martin and I’m glad you approve. I am forever a fan of Teddy Baldock since learning of his story. I also purchased the book. Hopefully in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to take the trip to Poplar and get a photo took with Teddy’s statue.

  2. Martin Sax 12:00pm, 08/11/2015

    Sean great article, thanks for keeping my Grandfather’s name alive.

  3. Sean Ness 07:55am, 08/11/2015

    Thank you Mike. Appreciated.

  4. Clarence George 06:52am, 08/11/2015

    A very tough customer, Mike, though I’m sure that any halfway decent pro heavyweight would have made short work of him.

  5. Mike Casey 06:03am, 08/11/2015

    Lenny was indeed, Clarence. He came from Hoxton. I’ve got his autobiography. The Sound of Music it ain’t!

  6. Clarence George 05:53am, 08/11/2015

    Wasn’t notorious street fighter Lenny McLean an East Ender?  But, then, so is Vera Lynn (gin), still with us at 98.

  7. Mike Casey 05:39am, 08/11/2015

    Well written and well deserved tribute to a great pro. Nicely done, Sean.

  8. peter 05:33am, 08/11/2015

    Excellent story, excellent photo, excellent video. Thank you.

  9. Clarence George 03:35am, 08/11/2015

    Yes, I’ve heard of the Tobin theory.  And I think you’re referring to William Henry Bury, executed for murder in Dundee and suspected by some of having been the Ripper.

  10. Sean Ness 03:19am, 08/11/2015

    Bible John was known to frequent the Barrowlands dancing when my Grandmother used to visit the place every weekend like most woman did in that time. There is a theory that Bible John was Peter Tobin. Another theory is that he was a Policeman. I now live in the East Coast in Dundee. A book is available about Dundee’s crime including a theory that Jack the Ripper passed through Dundee. It’s called “The Law Killer’s”.

  11. Clarence George 03:07am, 08/11/2015

    Fish and chips…hips.

    Glasgow, is it?  I love mysteries, and that’s a city that’s had more than its fair share.  Madeleine Smith, for example, and Bible John.

  12. Sean Ness 02:52am, 08/11/2015

    Thanks for reading guys. I love a bit of Cockney Rhyming. It goes hand in hand with fish &a chips and all things British. Being from Glasgow myself my Grandfather would speak in rhyming Åland and I’ve since discovered that he was t the only one. Glasgow Cockney has also been on the go for years too.

  13. Clarence George 02:42am, 08/11/2015

    Well done.

    One of the best is trouble and strife (wife).  And since Sean mentioned Jack the Ripper…kipper.  Which makes me think of the Cockney specialty, jellied eel (deal), which I’ve never had the slightest desire to sample.  Do have a weakness for steak and kidney pie (fly), however.  Not really sure why stars and garters means tomatoes, but suspect it’s because the word is probably pronounced tomaters.

  14. Jack the lad 10:03pm, 08/10/2015

    Excellent piece, Sean on a largely forgotten fighter and a true champion among the bantams.
    Clarence:  China plate means mate or friend.  In cockney rhyming slang, there are normally two words with one of the words rhyming. To have a “butcher’s” (butcher’s hook) is a look.  Adam and Eve is believe.

    Jack the lad

  15. Clarence George 06:46pm, 08/10/2015

    Interesting, especially as I don’t know much about Baldock, though I’ve come across his name somewhere before.  I also like the sprinkling of Cockney.  One of my favorites is “china,” meaning friend.  Because…?

    To each his own, of course, but I would have focused on the unsolved Croydon poisonings that took place in 1928 and 1929.  The murderer must have been a member of the household.  Ah, but who?  Baldock was fighting at the time.  There’s your connection right there.

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