Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Exclusive Interview - PART TWO: Martin Sax talks about the career and life of his grandfather, and Britain's youngest World champion, Teddy Baldock

Following on from yesterday's first part of this two-part interview detailing the life and times of one of Britain's greatest boxing heroes, this second part of my exclusive interview focuses on the highs and lows of Teddy Baldock's life from the moment he captures the World bantamweight title in 1927 until his retirement, death and eventual statue unveiling.

Part one can be read here:


Baldock wins 
world title
No Holds Barred: Teddy became Britain’s youngest ever World champion when he
England's hope
defeated Archie Bell of New York at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1927 aged just 19. How big was the event at the time? Did it make him a household name?

Martin Sax: Most of the national newspapers ran articles leading up to the contest and The Daily Sketch reported it as the greatest event held in London since the War. On the night the Albert Hall was filled to capacity; a reporter from the Daily Telegraph wrote "There never was such a gathering at a boxing contest in this country". The Daily Express even noted that there were more women present than had ever been seen before at an Albert Hall boxing event; he was quite a celebrity! The fight itself was described as one of the finest battles witnessed in a British ring and one that may not be forgotten! After the fight my grandfather became a national sporting celebrity. The Daily Express ran an exclusive story: "Thrills in my Life by Teddy Baldock". He was swamped by admirers at West Ham’s final match of the season against Liverpool. He boxed exhibitions at the Astoria in London and his fee worked out as £10 a minute, a huge sum for the 1920’s

No Holds Barred: Do you know how the news was reported in the USA? I know he was considered to be the World champion in Britain but perhaps not elsewhere.

Martin Sax: I haven’t read reports from the American newspapers of the time, however I do have a copy of Ring magazine from November 1927. Archie Bell is featured on the front cover with an article inside titled "Archie Bell Claims Bantamweight Championship". It claims that with Tony Canzoneri, Bud Taylor and Teddy Baldock unable to make the bantamweight limit, Bell should be crowned the champion. The article emphasises how the Americans believed they had the
The new champion
monopoly on World Championships at that time.

No Holds Barred: So, did boxing have issues with boxing orgs even back then with regards to who the "Real" World champion was?

Martin Sax: Yes, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it is today. Back then you had two governing bodies in the United States: The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), which today supports the WBC, and The National Boxing Association (NBA), renamed now as the WBA. In Europe there was the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) and the International Boxing Union (IBU) formed in Paris in 1910, now known as the EBU.

No Holds Barred: Teddy would fight the great Panama Al Brown at the Royal Albert Hall in 1931 in a bout he would lose via a twelfth round stoppage. Should he have perhaps fought Panama a few years earlier, perhaps in 1927 or 1928?

Martin Sax: At the end of August 1929, my grandfather actually travelled to the States to fight Al Brown for the World Bantamweight title at the Ebbets Field Stadium in New York. He was just rounding off his training when he learned that the fight had been re-scheduled for October 2nd due to Al Brown’s late departure from Paris. This was without doubt my grandfather’s biggest fight as contracts had already been written up by his American promoter Jess McMahon to meet the famous Kid chocolate should he beat Al Brown. Unfortunately his quest for the World title crumbled when Brown’s manager requested a second postponement, claiming that his fighter was suffering from neuritis. Joe Morris, my grandfather’s manager, was unwilling to agree to the fight being delayed by another two weeks and booked return tickets back to England. My grandfather was totally disillusioned with the American fight scene. However, before he left the States, he did get to sit ringside along with Jimmy Wilde and Jack Kid Berg to watch English Heavyweight Phil Scott beat Vittorio Campolo at Ebbets Field. Another highlight was meeting and sparring a number of rounds with Jack Sharkey who went on to become World heavyweight champion in 1932.

No Holds Barred: It was Teddy's penultimate fight. Was he still in his prime that night or was he past his best?

Martin Sax: He was certainly past his fighting best. He had already had a bone removed from his right hand and his nose had been operated on after his return from America; fighting as a professional since the age of thirteen had taken its toll. Despite this, he was still confident he could beat Al Brown and even told his manager to put up a side-stake of £250. He was disappointed that they would not be fighting for Brown’s title but took his training seriously. He was well aware that he was facing the stiffest test of his career and for the first time would not have a height and reach advantage.

No Holds Barred: He only lost five times in eighty-one fights, three of which were in his last six bouts, and one of which was a disqualification. Was he renown during his career as being a man almost impossible to beat in the ring?

Teddy in his prime

Martin Sax: He wasn’t renowned as being impossible to beat but, due to his status in British boxing, he was the man that all the up and coming fighters wanted to fight as to defeat Teddy Baldock would without doubt elevate them into title contention.

No Holds Barred: Teddy fought many greats of his era including Panama Al Brown, Archie Bell, Dick Corbett, Alf Kid Pattenden, Johnny Brown, Emile Pladner, Benny Sharkey, Johnny Cuthbert, Ernie Jarvis and many more. Which fight was he most proud of and why?

Martin Sax: I couldn’t really tell you which fight he was most proud of, but I should imagine it would be the fight with Archie Bell for the World title as it was such a huge event. I do know that when he was living on hard times and staying in Southend he would tell stories about his fight with Al Brown; the Panamanian was the only fighter to stop him and was also a great champion so I’m sure my grandfather had a certain amount of respect for him.
Baldock wearing Lord
Lonsdale NSC
Challenge Belt
No Holds Barred: What did he consider to be his biggest accomplishment in boxing?

Martin Sax: I would have to say winning the World bantamweight title at the age of nineteen. This made him the only British fighter to win a World title during the 1920’s and Britain’s youngest World boxing champion of the modern era. I do know he was also very proud of winning the Lord Lonsdale NSC Challenge Belt [the British Title].

No Holds Barred: He retired after eighty-one fights at the age of twenty-four. Did he retire 
so young because of the amount of fights he had already had? 

Martin Sax: Yes, without doubt. He was a burnt out fighter at the age of twenty-four. In March 1928, he’d had bone fragments removed from his nose to correct an injury sustained in his World title fight with Archie Bell. Later that year he had another operation carried out on his left hand which he'd damaged in his fight with Len Fowler at the end of 1927 but continued to fight on regardless. It wasn’t until his contest with Mick Hill at The Ring in Blackfriars, London, that he started having serious problems, but even after his manager suggested he see a specialist he decided that his return match with Phil Lolosky should go ahead just over two weeks later. He stopped Lolosky in the third round and the following day visited a specialist in Harley Street who diagnosed that his left metacarpal bone had been broken in three places and that gangrene had already started to set in; he had fought five contests since first sustaining the injury. It makes David Haye’s broken little toe look pretty insignificant. He admitted himself "I have had serious trouble with my nose and my ailments, together with the many fifteen round fights I had when I was a growing boy which must have taken a great deal out of me". The retina of his left eye had also been damaged in his fight with Al Brown so he was concerned about his eye sight yet he was just twenty-four years of age".

No Holds Barred: What did he do after retiring? Did he remain in boxing?

Martin Sax: He never lost his fascination with the sport. He tried his hand at promoting but lost a lot of money on the Walter Neusel vs Jack Pettifer heavyweight clash in June 1933. He continued to box exhibitions for charity events and would often captain the boxer's team in the annual boxers vs jockeys football match at West Ham’s stadium. For years he hoped to find an East End boy to work with, develop and turn into a champion. In the early 1950’s, he worked with a former lightweight boxer Tommy Newton who was a licensed BBBofC Manager. He would attend many of the big fights around London. I have a letter from Reggie Kray saying that Teddy had been at ringside for his and Ron’s first pro fights at Mile End Arena, and out of their five pounds fee they gave him two shillings and six pence as they knew he was skint.

No Holds Barred: Did he ever plan to return to the ring?

Martin Sax: There was a report that appeared in the Daily Express in August 1932 that Teddy Baldock would be at ringside for the Dick Corbett vs Young Johnny Brown bout at Southend on Sea to challenge the winner, but I could find no further mention of it. However, in 1933 it was announced that he was making a comeback and would fight a series of six contests before challenging for a new title. His first contest was a four round warm-up against Billy Reynolds of Newcastle which took place on the undercard of the Jack Kid Berg vs Louis Saerens fight at Lea Bridge Speedway on May 28th 1933. It was recorded as a no decision and I could find no other references to any more contests so can only assume that he decided after the fight that a comeback was not an option.

No Holds Barred: Your grandfather is one of the greatest British fighters in history, yet it's very difficult for fans to find information on him. Do you have any theories why that is?

Teddy in fighting stance
Martin Sax: I suppose it’s because it was so long ago. I'm a keen boxing fan and grew up watching Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Barry Mcguigan etc. When I joined the London Ex Boxers Association I met fighters such as Sammy McCarthy, Bobby Neil and the late Terry Spinks. These were names I was not familiar with as they had fought in an era before I was born. I knew a lot about fighters from when my grandfather was fighting because of all my research, but then there was a gap between when my granddad was fighting and when I started taking an interest in the sport as a twelve year old. These days kids don’t read so many books so unless the information on these old fighters are uploaded onto the internet their stories will remain hidden in second hand book shops.  

No Holds Barred: I've seen footage of him performing tricks on motorbikes. What was that about?

Martin Sax: I’m not sure that it was him performing the tricks, but I think the footage is from an 
event held at Crystal Palace. My grandfather is seen sparring with his former opponent Kid Nicholson. 

No Holds Barred: I read that your grandfather had a rough time later on in life. Could you tell us about that?

Martin Sax: Unfortunately without the strict regime of training he soon acquired a taste for the good life which ran hand-in-hand with his celebrity status. He was now drinking and socialising with high society in the West End of London. When he got married to my grandmother, thousands of well-wishers crowded the streets. The wedding made many of the national newspapers and was filmed by three different film companies. For a short time he managed the Earl of Derby pub in Forest Gate but this came to an end with the onset of World War Two when he enlisted in the RAF as a physical training instructor. During the war, a number of businesses he had invested his ring earnings in were bombed, so there was no longer the money to support his playboy lifestyle. He was drinking and gambling which had an effect on his marriage and in the end my grandmother left him taking his only daughter Pam. After the war, work was harder to come by; his brothers set him up with a job as a labourer in Millwall docks but he had to give it up due to the injuries he had sustained in the ring. In 1956, he admitted that he was almost in the gutter; the Sunday People ran a couple of features "The Daughter I Dare Not Face" and "The Mug who Couldn’t Say No". In the first article he would explain how he would sometimes travel to South Woodford in the hope of seeing his teenage daughter. My Mum was living there and working at a stables. She would often see him hiding behind a tree on her riding route, hoping to get a glimpse of her as she rode past. He never had the courage to talk to her and she just saw him as a down-and-out; an embarrassing figure who had never been a part of her life while she was growing up. Sometimes he would travel to Southend where he would be put up in the boiler room of one of the local pubs. People would buy him drinks and in return he would tell them stories of his fighting days. In 1971, aged 63, he ended up dying penniless after often living rough on the streets of London. He died in Rochford Infirmary, Essex and his ashes were scattered in the Garden of remembrance at Southend Crematorium. Not a single National newspaper reported his passing. One of Britain’s boxing heroes, who had packed boxing arenas for the best part of a decade, had been forgotten. For years there was nothing to mark my grandfather’s resting place in Southend, so I have had a plaque made which I am hoping the crematorium will erect in his memory.

No Holds Barred: He survived two World wars and lived to tell the tale and I read that Teddy's pub he had invested in was blown up in World War Two. They must have been difficult times?

Martin Sax: They were without doubt tough times, but more so for less privileged people living in Britain’s cities who were trying to make a living whilst also trying to survive the horrors of the Blitz. My Grandfather had already made a lot of money by then, the trouble was he lived for the now, which I suppose is how many people lived in the War years.

No Holds Barred: Did he ever talk to the family about how life was during the two wars? Presumably times were even tougher then than they were for him in the ring.

Martin Sax: I’m not aware that he spoke much to the family about life during the two World Wars. Of course life as a fighter during the 1920’s & 1930’s were tough, but during WW2 my grandfather was working as a physical training instructor in the RAF based in the UK, so for him life must have been pretty cushy compared to the hundreds of thousands who were fighting the War abroad.

No Holds Barred: Brian Belton authored the book "Teddy Baldock: The Pride of Poplar". Did you or any family members have any input in the book? 

Martin Sax: I have spent the last twenty years researching my grandfather’s career as a fighter, 
just for my own interest in the sport of boxing. I did however think that it would make a great story or even film. Brian Belton contacted me a few years ago with an interest in writing Teddy Baldock’s story. He already had a publisher interested, so with my research and knowledge and his literary skills we put together the book "Teddy Baldock: The Pride of Poplar". I asked Duke McKenzie if he would write the foreword, being Britain's last World bantamweight champion, which he kindly did, and The Lonsdale Sporting Club hosted a fantastic book launch in London which was attended by quite a number of past and present British champions. 

No Holds Barred: Should fans rush out to the shops and buy it?

Teddy's career told in detail
Martin Sax: If you are a boxing fan then I can highly recommend it and I’m positive you will not be disappointed. For those who have seen the film "The Cinderella Man" it is a similar story but without the happy ending. It would now probably be quite difficult to find the book in the shops as it was published in 2008. So anyone interested can contact me through my website www.teddybaldock.co.uk. I sell the books at £15 including P&P with the money now going to the charity I have set up called The Teddy Baldock Sports Benevolent Fund. 

No Holds Barred: Can you tell us a little about your charity?

Martin Sax: I started the Teddy Baldock Sports Benevolent Fund charity with the aim to help people who have been severely injured while competing in sport and also to assist youngsters from underprivileged areas get involved in sport so that perhaps they won’t end up in a similar situation as my grandfather. The charity has already helped boxer Jonjo Finnegan, who tragically suffered bleeding on the brain while fighting for the English Masters Super-Middleweight title. 

No Holds Barred: A statue of your grandfather was unveiled in Langdon Park in Poplar, East London on May 16th this year. When did you think of the idea to have a statue of your grandfather erected?

Martin Sax: After the success of the book "Teddy Baldock: The Pride of Poplar" in December 2008, I thought that there should be some sort of lasting monument to commemorate his achievements in British Boxing. I looked into a Blue Heritage Plaque but didn't meet the criteria as the building he was raised in doesn't exist now. I thought about a statue and coincidentally a friend of mine Tommy Mellis introduced me to the sculptor Carl Payne, the artist responsible  for the Randolph Turpin Statue. After hearing his story he was keen to produce the statue.

No Holds Barred: After putting your idea forth what reactions did you get?

Martin Sax: Everyone was supportive but I think that most people, including my mum, thought that it was far too ambitious and that realistically it wouldn't happen.  

The statue close to completion
No Holds Barred: How did the idea get off the ground and how did you raise the money? 

Martin Sax: I opened a joint account with London Ex Boxers Secretary Charlie

Wright for money raised, then sent out emails to all my family, friends and contacts in the boxing world. I remember walking into the Poplar Boys and Girls boxing club and as luck would have it they were chairing a meeting about the new £4 million Spotlight Youth Centre. I explained what I wanted to do and all the committee members agreed that the statue would look fantastic outside the Youth Centre. After raising approximately four thousand pounds myself by running the London Marathon etc, I needed a further six thousand pounds before the artist would start on the life-size model. Poplar HARCA agreed to put up the money so that we could start the project. Carl Payne also produced an 18-inch miniature of the life-size statue that could be re-cast to sell as limited editions to assist in raising the money for the life-size version. Donations, fundraising events and the selling of the miniature statues helped, and having the charity status helped in raising funds for the statue and I hope that now the statue has been erected it will give the charity a focal point for further fund raising.

No Holds Barred: When did the statue look likely to be erected?

Martin Sax: I was pretty positive that with Poplar HARCA behind me that the statue would definitely happen. It really hinged on planning permission and support from the Tower Hamlets Parks Department who own the land that the statue sits on. Once that was granted it was really just a case of waiting for the statue to be cast in bronze and for Carl to put all the pieces together, as the statue comes back from the foundry in pieces which must then be welded together.

No Holds Barred: The statue unveiling was a fantastic event that I'm delighted to have attended. How did you find the time to organise such a great event? 

Martin Sax: Having retired from the Royal Marines, I am now working in the Maritime Security Industry and spend weeks at sea working on board merchant ships so I spent most of the time I was back home organising the event, which isn't easy when trying to balance my time at home with my wife and two boys. I spent the two weeks leading up to the event either sending emails or on the phone.

The statue in Langdon Park, Poplar
No Holds Barred: How proud were you of the great turnout at the unveiling?

Martin Sax: I'm extremely proud of the statue and turnout. Carl Payne has done a fantastic job, especially when you think he has only had black and white images to work from. When I visited his studio to view the completed clay model, my biggest concern was what if the profile doesn't look right? But I must say I couldn't have wished for a better likeness, it was just as I imagined it should be. As for the unveiling, it was a wonderful day. There must have been approximately three hundred and fifty people there as well as all the former British boxing champions. As I said in my speech, there were probably no more than a dozen people at my grandfather's funeral in Southend in March 1971, as the hero of British boxing during the 1920's was completely forgotten. Yet, on the 16th May 2014 there were hundreds of people present to celebrate the unveiling of his statue; it was certainly a fitting tribute. I hope that the statue will now serve as an inspiration to the Spotlight Youth Club members and also the students attending the nearby Langdon Park Sports Community College, highlighting the achievements of a local youth who, through hard work and determination, rose to the very pinnacle of his chosen sporting career.

No Holds Barred: Do you have any final words?

Martin Sax:
At the height of his career, Teddy Baldock once said "I'm proud of Poplar, it made me" and now, immortalised in bronze, the former World Bantamweight Champion stands once again in the East London borough where I hope once again he will be known as "The Pride of Poplar".

No Holds Barred: Thanks for giving your time up and sharing your grandfather's story with us all. It all makes for an interesting read and I hope people go visit the statue as it really is a magnificent piece of work.

Meeting Martin Sax (left) and I (right) at the Teddy Baldock statue unveiling event

Footage from the statue unveiling:

Monday, 2 June 2014

Exclusive Interview - PART ONE: Martin Sax talks about the career and life of his grandfather, and Britain's youngest World champion, Teddy Baldock

I recently attended the Teddy Baldock statue unveiling on Friday 16th May in Poplar, East London where I met Martin Sax for the first time, although I have spoken to him many times since meeting him online two years ago. He gladly gave up his time, despite his busy schedule, to share the story of his grandfather Teddy Baldock with me. Teddy Baldock won the World Bantamweight title on May 5th 1927 and to this day is still the youngest British world champion of the modern era. He was one of Britain's finest boxers, and at the height of his fame was one of Britain's most celebrated sportsmen. Martin Sax talked me through the life and career of his grandfather. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as i enjoyed doing it.

Part two can be read here:


No Holds Barred: Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself Martin?

Martin Sax: Well, I joined the Royal Marines at seventeen and had a career with them for twenty-five years. When I was a young kid I had an interest in boxing; I would watch fighters like Frank Bruno, Barry McGuigan, Tony Sibson and Mark Kaylor. I always watched boxing on TV but there was no way my mum would take me down to the local boxing gym because she was dead against boxing, mainly because of what had happened to her Dad I think.

No Holds Barred: Twenty-five years in the Royal Marines! That must have been a very tough job?

Martin Sax: It definitely had its moments. I suppose as a young lad you look forward to new adventures and I’ve certainly been to quite a few places and done a fair bit with my life. I enjoyed it but at the age I am now and with a young family, it’s now about paying off my mortgage and I’m looking forward to moving on and doing something different.

No Holds Barred: Are you much of a boxing fan today?

Martin Sax: Boxing is my passion. The only reason I subscribe to Sky Sports is for Ringside and the Saturday night fights. I used to make up scrap books from the fights each week using newspaper cuttings etc. I love the historical side of boxing. As I did research for the book I helped write about my granddad, I’ve got to know a lot of people in boxing. A good friend of mine was Bob Longhurst, the British Boxing Board of Control official. He used to ask me if I fancied going to weigh-Ins for fights or press conferences. I also joined LEBA [London’s Ex-Boxer’s Association] as well. That was a great time of my life.

No Holds Barred: I heard that you’ve appeared on Prizefighter shows. How did that come about? 

Martin in uniform

Martin Sax: A few years ago a good friend of mine [ring announcer] John McDonald asked if I’d mind presenting the Prizefighter trophy in my Royal Marines dress blues uniform. It meant a ringside seat, so of course I accepted. I was based in London at the time so it was perfect to go to York Hall or Olympia etc. Most of the Prizefighter tournaments have a Marine present the trophy to the winner. I think I must’ve done about nine or ten of them.

No Holds Barred:
Did you ever take up boxing?

Martin Sax: Yeah, I started boxing at about twenty-one years old when I was in the Marines.
I began at Exmouth ABC and then moved to my local club Watchet ABC. I had a couple of fights as an amateur but I found making the weight and the discipline a bit difficult. I remember the first fight I had was at Butlins holiday camp in front of all of my mates and I knocked the guy out in the first minute of the first round. Barry McGuigan presented me with the winner's trophy and people came up to congratulate me. I felt like Champion of the World for weeks afterwards, at least until I lost my next fight! After fighting in the ring, I got my assistant ABA coaches award and became a coach at Minehead ABC.

No Holds Barred:
Did any other family members take up boxing?

Martin Sax: Teddy's father Ted was a professional who used to fight at the Wonderland Arena in the East End of London and his grandfather Jack was a bare-knuckle fighter. Obviously my Mum wasn't going to get involved in the sport because she had witnessed firsthand what had happened to her father and she felt that boxing was to blame.

Teddy as a young professional
No Holds Barred: Do you know much about Teddy's grandfather Jack's career?

Martin Sax: I really have very little information on Teddy's grandfather unfortunately, only snippets of information from when he was mentioned in the press alongside my grandfather.

No Holds Barred: How did you come to know about your grandfather's boxing past?

Martin Sax: My first memory of finding out about his career was when I was about twelve years old. My grandmother had just died so my mum had cleared out her flat and had come across a couple of old scrap books that my grandmother had made and kept. My mum gave me the books. They charted my granddad’s first trip to America and included photographs, newspaper cuttings etc. I was fascinated by it all. I was already interested in the sport and found out the grandfather who I’d never met had been a World champion, so naturally I wanted to find out more. So that was when I first found out about my granddad.

No Holds Barred: Did you know much about him growing up?

Martin Sax: My Mum never mentioned her dad’s boxing past, mainly because he had walked out of her life when she was just a young girl. As a father he had only ever been a failure, but to me he was a boxing hero.

No Holds Barred: When did you start finding out more about him?

Martin Sax: After I joined the Marines at seventeen, I think I had a certain amount of confidence so I wrote off to a lot of the newspapers asking if they had any information on my granddad in their archives. Some of them would send back some little snippets of information. My first big break was when I spoke to the late Harry Mullen, then editor of Boxing News, over the phone and explained to him who I was and asked whether he had any information of my granddad. He said he’d have a look and it turns out he had a portfolio of about seventy or so black and white photographs of my grandfather. He said to me if I wanted to go to London and have a look I was welcome to, so I got on the next train I could and went there.

No Holds Barred: Did he give you the photographs or make copies of them

One of Teddy's many
appearances in Boxing
for you?

Martin Sax: At that time nobody had laptops or printers really. There was a Ryman’s stationery 
shop just down the road and he allowed me to take ten photographs at a time to get them copied. I’d laser copy them then go back to his office. I think I managed to do them all in about two visits; to have those photos was just fantastic. After that, I started going to the Colindale Newspaper Library and read through every copy of Boxing, the forerunner to Boxing News, from 1921 to 1931. I photocopied every article I could find featuring my granddad then I put together a scrap book of all the photo stats in chronological order. Then I’d go through the national newspapers like the Daily Mirror and the Daily Sketch, which was a big boxing newspaper. I’d look through the news from about a week or two before one of his fights so I could read the build up to his fight and his training, then I’d read about his actual fight and the news in the days following his fight because it would have the after-fight reports. I’d put all of this in my scrap book in chronological order. I spent a long time in the library; I’d get there as soon as it opened, I’d miss having lunch, and the time would just fly by. 

No Holds Barred: There must have been hundreds of articles on your grandfather during that period considering how famous he was at the time?

The Mumtaz Mahal of the Ring
Martin Sax: Well, when you read through Boxing, from 1921 you see small snippets talking of a young, undefeated Teddy Baldock, then you see a sort of rise to fame. For example, in about 1925/26 he’d be in Boxing nearly every week, then you start seeing the slide where he wasn’t quite getting the results he was used to. He wasn’t the same fighter who had won the World title in 1927. Here’s another example of how famous he was: You can do a search for "Teddy Baldock"of a PDF document in the Express newspaper and you find all sorts of news about him. For example, there was a report about my grandmother and how she had gone to watch him fight at Premierland without him knowing because he didn’t agree with women watching boxing, and I think his parents had a bad car crash, and that made the Daily Express news because of who their son was. It’s quite amazing to see just how popular he was back in those days. 

No Holds Barred: He was born Alfred Stephen Baldock. Where did the name Teddy come from?

Martin Sax: His Father was called Edward and had boxed as Ted Baldock. He boxed at fairs and 
also fought a number of contests at the old Wonderland Arena, a legendary boxing venue that stood on the south side of Whitechapel Road in East London. I think matchmakers gave my granddad the name Teddy because his backers were people his father knew, so they probably gave him that name because it was the same name his father had fought under. In one of his early appearances at Premierland, he was billed as "The Mumtaz Mahal of the Ring" after the Aga Khan’s record breaking racehorse!

No Holds Barred:
Is it true that before becoming a boxer your grandfather was an apprentice jockey but was fired after he had a scrap with a stable boy?

Martin Sax: Yeah, I think it was at a stable in Epson. He was sent down there as an apprentice jockey but within a few days of being there one of the head stable boys had called him out, so to speak, and my grandfather ended up flattening him and so he was fired. I think at that point his father told him he’d blown it as an apprentice jockey so if he wanted to become a boxer they’d have to go get some professional training and I think that’s how he found the professional ranks.

No Holds Barred: He turned professional at just thirteen. Why did he make his debut so young? 

Martin Sax:
My granddad had eight siblings so the money he earned in the ring obviously went a long way to helping put food on the table in the Baldock household. Although he came from Poplar, which was a pretty rundown area of East London, the Baldock family wasn’t poor by East End of London standards but every penny counted nonetheless. It wasn’t a case that had my grandfather not fought they wouldn’t have eaten though. I think the reason he turned professional so young was because as a young kid he was brought up on the stories about his grandfather who had been a bare-knuckle fighter in his day and his dad who had also been a boxer. Also, at school my granddad had excelled at most sports like athletics and football and because of his father’s own interest in boxing he was steered towards that.

No Holds Barred: Did he have any amateur bouts before turning professional?

Martin Sax: I have never seen his amateur record, but I did read that he had won an East End Boys Championship at five Stone, so he must've been active as an amateur.

No Holds Barred: Do you think he may have benefited from a longer amateur career and perhaps turned pro at a later age?

Martin Sax: No doubt what amateur experience he had prepared him for the professional ranks. His father taught him how to box from an early age while growing up in the Baldock household and there were always plenty of opportunities to practice these boxing skills on the streets of Poplar. On one occasion, Teddy’s older brother came home having taken a beating from a kid from a nearby street. A few days later my granddad bumped into the kid and set the record straight. The boy’s mother turned up at the Baldock’s front door demanding an apology, but when Teddy stepped forward and she saw just how small he was, she gave her own son a clip around the ear for being bettered by a boy half his size. Maybe an extended time as an amateur may have given him a longer career as a professional. Those early years as a teenager fighting fifteen rounds against grown men must have taken their toll.

No Holds Barred: How would you describe his boxing style?

Martin Sax: Teddy was an old-school fighter competing in as many as a dozen fights a year.

No Holds Barred: After he lost for the first time in 1926 to George Kid Nicholson, he traveled to the USA to fight a dozen times in New York in just four months. Had the trip to the USA been on the cards all along or did his defeat make him take that decision?

Baldock, Mancini and Hood
before trip to USA in 1926

Martin Sax: He had already made the decision to travel to America a few months before meeting Kid Nicholson. Ernie Jarvis, the Millwall flyweight, had first given him the idea when, after their contest at Premierland, he said that he was going to try his luck in America. He said Teddy should join him. The fight with Nicholson was a chance to earn some extra money for the trip.

No Holds Barred: Why did he decide fighting in the USA was the right decision for him?

Martin Sax: He decided that fighting in American rings would help him to gain new skills and would therefore improve his ring-craft. If he was going to become World champion one day it would be an advantage to experience how the Americans fought. He heard that fight manager Ted Broadribb was taking Jack Hood and Alf Mancini to New York, so he approached Broadribb and made arrangements to travel with them. Both his Father and manager Joe Morris were against the idea, but he eventually convinced them to let him go despite him only being nineteen at the time.

No Holds Barred: He fought in some very prestigious arenas in New York, including Madison Square Garden, Broadway Arena in Brooklyn and the Pioneer Sporting Club. What sort of reception did he get from the boxing-mad New York fans?

Martin Sax: In his first fight at the Steeplechase Athletic Arena, Rockaway Beach, New York he only had three supporters: Ted Broadribb, Alf Mancini and Jack Hood. But as he left the ring he was given a standing ovation; his style of fighting had been an instant hit with New York fight fans. A local newspaper report read: "Wizardly boxing skills combined with blinding speed and aggressiveness marked the debut of Teddy Baldock. It will take nothing less than a champion to beat him".

No Holds Barred: He appeared on cards featuring such legends as Tony Canzoneri, Billy Petrolle, Maxie Rosenbloom, Phil Kaplan, Joe Lynch and even future World heavyweight champion Jim Braddock. Do you know if Teddy left a lasting impression on them due to his talents?

Martin Sax: Jess McMahon, the matchmaker for Madison Square Garden, had been at ringside for Teddy’s debut at the Steeplechase Arena. He had been so impressed that he immediately signed him up to appear at New York's famous fight arena on the undercard of Tod Morgan’s Junior Lightweight title defence against Joe Glick. Teddy was likened to a young Jim Driscoll, combining hitting ability with bewildering speed and baffling cleverness. Ring magazine described him as "the most sensational fighter sent to this country in many years". This praise was backed up when, at the start of 1927 Tex Rickard, the promoter at Madison Square Garden, rated Teddy Baldock twelfth in the bantamweight rankings which, considering he wasn’t European or British champion, was a great accolade. In less than four months he had taken part in twelve contests winning eleven and drawing one.

No Holds Barred: Fellow Londoner Alf Mancini also featured on many of the same cards as Teddy. Were they close friends?

Baldock and Mancini on
board Berengaria
Martin Sax: Alf Mancini, Jack Hood, Teddy Baldock and Ted Broadribb all travelled to America on Cunard’s RMS Berengaria. My Granddad shared a cabin with Alf Mancini. They also trained together and often boxed exhibitions for the Ship’s passengers. Alf Mancini was held up on Ellis Island due to a technicality with his visa so Teddy stayed with him until the problem was sorted out. They then both stayed with a German family in Woodhaven on Long Island just outside New York. When they were not in training they would often go to one of the many cinemas to watch a film and relax. During their stay they met up with Ernie Jarvis who suggested they put their money together to buy a car and drive to Philadelphia to visit the training camp where Jack Dempsey was preparing for his forthcoming fight with Gene Tunney. They ended up staying there for four days and saw the World Championship fight in which Dempsey lost the heavyweight title to Tunney.

No Holds Barred: Was it a common occurrence at the time for fellow Britons to travel to the USA together to fight?

Martin Sax: British fighters from that period would often travel to America to learn new skills and styles of fighting. If they performed well they could build a reputation resulting in a possible shot at a World title. It would make sense to travel together as they would be able to continue training and sparring during the passage. There were already a number of British fighters campaigning in American rings when my granddad arrived; among them was his former opponent and friend Ernie Jarvis, as well as Pop Humphries and Johnny Sullivan. When Teddy sailed to the States for a second time in 1929 to fight the famous Panama Al Brown, his travelling companions were Archie Sexton and Jack Harris. As luck would have it Packey O'Gatty, an experienced American bantamweight, was employed as the SS Leviathan’s fitness instructor and took on the role as my grandfather’s trainer. He was so impressed with his ring-craft that he took time to write to his friend and boxing celebrity: none other than the legendary Jack Dempsey. The first my granddad knew of this was when a letter addressed to him arrived at his Orangeburg training quarters. The letter started "Packey O’Gatty has written to me saying what a clever kid you are, and if Packey says that you must be the real goods". Dempsey went on to explain that he was busy film-making in Los Angeles, but intended to travel the 3000 miles to New York to watch the contest with Al Brown and, if possible beforehand, visit Orangeburg to watch Teddy train.
Teddy Baldock & Packy O'Gatty
sparring on Leviathan in 1929
No Holds Barred: The fight with Panama Al Brown was eventually cancelled, but did Teddy get to meet Jack Dempsey nonetheless?

Martin Sax: 
Martin Sax: I really couldn't say whether my grandfather met the great Jack Dempsey, it would really only be speculation. However, the extract below from his life story makes it seem that it was a strong possibility, perhaps not in 1929 while he was training to meet Al Brown in New York, but perhaps during his first visit to America in 1926: 

"With a roll of dollars in our pockets we decided to buy a car. I believe it was a bright idea of Jarvis’. It cost us ninety-five dollars, and we had our money’s worth out of it. As the brakes weren’t too reliable, it was safer to run it alongside the kerb to bring it to a halt. As we hadn’t got another fight for a few days we thought we’d run over to Philadelphia to see Jack Dempsey training for the coming defence of his title against Gene Tunney. Mancini drove, and I remember that Jarvis’ brother Joe came along to. Gus Wilson, who in days gone by had been trainer to Georges Carpentier, was in charge of Dempsey’s camp, and he made us very welcome. With him was Johnny Sullivan, the Covent Garden middle, and of course he was delighted to see us. We stayed there four days and saw the World’s championship fight in which the old Manassa Mauler lost his title in a downpour of rain. Although he lost and was obviously ring rusty, I thought Jack Dempsey, the greatest fighter I’d ever seen and I still hold that view, had he been given a warming-up fight and the ring hadn’t been so slippery, I’m sure he would have retained his title. How we got back to New York, I don’t know. We gathered a puncture on the way, and it is a wonder that we didn’t finish up in a heap. We kept the car for a while, until it wasn’t safe to drive for another mile, then we parked it by the side of the road one night, got out and tip-toed away. It was gone the next morning and we never saw or heard about it again."

This concludes PART ONE of my interview with Martin Sax. Be sure to come back to read PART TWO tomorrow as Martin details the life and career of his grandfather from his days as World champion, to his retirement and finally to last month's statue unveiling.

Teddy Baldock Statue unveiled in East London

A statue commemorating Britain's youngest World champion of the modern era was unveiled on Friday 16th May in Langdon Park, Poplar, East London.

Teddy Baldock was one of Britain's finest boxers of the 1920's and one of its most loved sportsmen. Teddy won the World Bantamweight title on May 5th 1927 at the Royal Albert Hall in London beating America's Archie Bell on points over fifteen rounds. 

The Pride of Poplar
World title victory propelled him to stardom in Britain, as his grandson Martin Sax attests: "There was a report about my grandmother and how she had gone to watch him fight at Premierland without him knowing because he didn’t agree with women watching boxing, and I think his parents had a bad car crash, and that made the Daily Express news because of who their son was".

His world title shot didn't come easy. By the time he fought Bell, he had been a professional boxer for six years and had competed in fifty-seven contests, compiling a record of 54-1-2. Another four years passed with some further success, but by 1930 Teddy's best days were behind him. He retired in 1931 aged 24 with a final professional record of 73-5-3. 

Archie Bell (left) shakes hands with Teddy Baldock (right) ahead of their world title fight

The event was made possible by the hard work and dedication of Teddy's grandson Martin who campaigned tirelessly to have his grandfather's achievements remembered. Martin's efforts were made a reality thanks to fundraising, donations and the Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (Poplar HARCA). Sculptor Carl Payne's craftsmanship must also be recognised as his work now sees Teddy immortalised in bronze.

"I hope that the statue will now serve as an inspiration to the Spotlight Youth Club members and also the students attending the nearby Langdon Park Sports Community College, highlighting the achievements of a local youth who, through hard work and determination, rose to the very pinnacle of his chosen sporting career", says a proud Martin Sax.

Martin Sax with his mother and two sons
When Teddy died aged 63 in 1971, only a handful of people attended his funeral. On 16th May 2014, this was put right as over three hundred people, including over a dozen former British boxing heroes, turned out to pay tribute to this once-great hero of the ring. 
Many of the former British boxing heroes who showed up on the day including Nobby Clarke, Vernon Sollas, Sylvester Mittee, Gary DeRoux, Charlie Magri, Sammy McCarthy and others
The statue now sits just a few hundred yards from where he grew up in Byron Street, next door to the new Spotlight Centre, within which can be found a boxing gym. Perhaps Teddy can once again inspire local youths to achieve the lofty heights of this once great East Londoner. As Martin said on the day: "When Teddy fought, he was known as the Pride of Poplar. Well, he's back here now and I hope the people of Poplar can be proud of him again".

Plaque below the statue
Immortalised in bronze

Martin Sax's speech from the event can be viewed here: