Saturday, 17 May 2014

Pride of Poplar Boxing Statue Does London Proud

A statue to honour Britain’s youngest-ever world boxing champion, Teddy Baldock, has been unveiled in east London. 

It had been 82 years since his last professional fight and 43 years since his death, but rumour had it a London boxing legend was back in town and about to make a comeback. Incredibly, the rumour was true...

Yesterday, at Langdon Park in Poplar, east London, hundreds gathered to watch the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue fashioned in the likeness of Britain’s youngest-ever world boxing champion, Teddy Baldock, a star of the 1920s ring. The statue, which is the work of expert sculptor Carl Payne, has been erected at the Spotlight youth centre, fittingly just a few hundred yards from Baldock’s one-time Byron Street home.

The boxer who inspired a generation of East Enders in the roaring 20s and depressed 1930s will now provide inspiration to 21st-century youngsters who study and practise sport at the ultra-modern Spotlight centre, which aptly enough has a state-of-the-art boxing gym. 

The statue’s creation is the culmination of years of planning and fund-raising by one of Baldock’s grandsons, Martin Sax, who was aided in his endeavour by the Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (Poplar HARCA). 

Speaking at the event, Martin told the large crowd: “A lot of people here will have never heard of Teddy Baldock, but back in 1927 he was the hero of British sport, when he beat the American Archie Bell at the Albert Hall on 5 May 1927 for the vacant world bantamweight championship. When he won the title he was only 19 years old, so he remains Britain’s youngest ever world boxing champion. Tragically, when he passed away, there were only a handful of people attending his funeral – he was a forgotten champion. 

“He was immensely proud of Poplar and he once said in an interview that Poplar was what made him the man he was. When Teddy fought he was known as the Pride of Poplar. Well, he’s back here now and I hope that the people of Poplar can be proud of him again.”

1927: Teddy Baldock (right) and Archie Bell of America shake hands before their classic Royal Albert Hall ring battle for the vacant bantamweight championship of the world.
As well as winning the world bantamweight title, Teddy Baldock lit up the British sport scene of the late 1920s and early 30s with his exciting battles with other boxing stars such as Kid Pattenden, Johnny Cuthbert, Dick Corbett, Johnny Brown, Willie Smith and the legendary Panama Al Brown. In 1926, Baldock sailed to America and thrilled US fight fans with a whirlwind four-month campaign, into which he crammed 12 fights (11 wins and a draw).

His final professional record of 73 wins, three draws and five losses from 81 fights is a superb achievement, but also proof of the gruelling regime he endured in an era when the welfare of boxers was an afterthought. Consequently, Baldock was burnt out before he had reached his peak and retired from the ring aged 24.

For anyone interested in London’s boxing heritage, the unveiling of the Teddy Baldock statue is easily the most important event of recent years. Not only does the statue symbolise Teddy Baldock’s achievements, but it may also stand as a tribute to other British boxers of the 1920s and 30s, that exciting but impossibly harsh era which Baldock epitomised.

With statues in place to honour boxing heroes Jim Driscoll, Howard Winstone, Eddie Thomas and Johnny Owen, Wales rightly remembers the men who brought it glory and entertainment while putting everything on the line. With the Teddy Baldock monument, and the prospect of a similar statue being unveiled soon for Henry Cooper, London can now do the same.

More about Teddy Baldock

To learn more about Teddy Baldock visit www.teddybaldock.co.uk.

More statue photographs

See more pictures from the statue unveiling event.

 Lightning fast: Mick Hill (Tooting) feels the effect of Teddy Baldock's rapier straight left (The Ring, Blackfriars, 1928).

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