Welsh Bantamweight Champion

Born: 19th August 1907

The Toy Bulldog
The Rock of Gibraltar 



Nobby Baker didn’t train in an up-to-date gym with lockers and hot and cold showers, but he
The Toy Bulldogaveraged a fight a week for years clocking up over 600 fights during his boxing career. His first training sessions were at the Colliers Arms, Trealaw with the legendary fighter John T. Alsop who won a Lonsdale belt. Nobby used to say he was an ‘absolute masterpiece’.

While working as a collier at the Glamorgan collieries, in Llwynypia, he frequently took part in two or three bouts in ten days. He worked hard and fought enthusiastically over 12 and 15 rounds against the best in Britain. Baker boxed novices, upcoming, present and future champions during his career. He appeared at boxing booths, small workingmen’s clubs, at open air shows and at best, halls in the country. A real crowd pleaser, The Toy Bulldog purveyed his fistic talent for small purses, but also for some really good money for the days in which he boxed.

During the depression era, he fought in top-of-the-bill contests for the equivalent of £10-£25 and took the attitude that it was better to box regularly for purse money like that than to remain idle and to pay sparring partners when he had to get boxing fit. One of Nobby’s most sensational feats was acting as a substitute for Selwyn Davies and going to Premierland to defeat London’s Nipper Pat Daly, (then looked upon as a future champion) in the 13th round.

Between the two world wars, Nobby fought David Wilde, the son of the great Jimmy Wilde at a Cardiff show. It was Jimmy shouting instructions to David, which gave Nobby tips on the right way to handle David. Think of any prominent featherweight or lightweight of the 1930’s and it’s even money that Nobby met them at least once. Nobby was a big favourite at Judges Hall, Trealaw and the skating rink in Tonypandy. He always seemed to have a rival; there was Gordon Cook (Penygraig), Walt Saunders (Clydach Vale), Donald Jones (Penygraig & London) and the Trealaw pair, Ivor Drew and Dick Owen to name a few. Nobby must have had great satisfaction in knocking out Matt Powell (Penygraig) who was billed as the knockout king and who could really punch.

Nobby had also won the greatest battle of his career. He went back to work at the surface of the colliery after medical opinion thought he would never do so again. He sustained a spinal injury while working underground in 1946 and was encased in plaster of paris for a long time. This cut short his boxing career even at the age of 39.  A benefit fund was opened for the Trealaw battler, who used to fight to help the soup kitchens in the Rhondda’s grim days of 1926 by using the spectators money to buy food.

Nobby used to say of his boxing days that Billy Quinlan (Ammanford), a lightweight champion, was the best man I ever fought in Wales. He was really smart and knew all the moves.’ Then Arnold Kid Shepherd (Ferndale) and Walt Saunders, were pretty useful too.’ He also said that the best masseur and trainer to get you fit in the Rhondda was Rees Henry (Trealaw) and that Swansea’s Ronnie James (also Australia), was the best puncher he’d met. ‘I never saw his punch which put me in queer street’ said Nobby.

The Trealaw boy was a popular performer in fight venues throughout the mining valleys. In one hectic fortnight, Nobby defeated George Francombe, Tommy Williams and Curly Edwards. Shared honours with Billy Granelli and Tommy Edwards and then fought Darkie Williams to wind up a busy fortnight. No wonder Nobby declared, ‘It’s better to keep busy and to remain at peak form rather than to rust away and lose all form.’


Images and text supplied by Mrs Sharon Liddon (Beddau).

Limited Edition print


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