“THE Wrecker of Champions” – as boxing epithets go it isn’t a bad one. The owner of that sobriquet was a fighter from London’s East End called Kid Socks. His career stretched from 1922 to 1934 and took in over 200 pro bouts – an eye-watering tally, yet Socks was no journeyman. At various times in non-title fights, he beat the reigning flyweight champions of Europe, Britain, France, Belgium and Ireland, plus the reigning bantamweight titlists of Britain and France.
This, of course, was in an era of eight universally recognised weights with one world champion at each, when holding a British title was akin perhaps in terms of kudos to holding a world crown today. Socks’ traceable record is 107-77-25 but he never won a title of any sort, which says much about the calibre of the fly, bantam and featherweights competing in Britain at the time.
The Kid was born in 1904 in Bethnal Green, East London. His real name was George Stockings but he changed it for boxing purposes to the more suitable Kid Socks. After boxing as an amateur for the Webbe Institute, Socks turned pro at 18 and was matched hard from the outset. Some of those early fights were losses, but as he developed the ‘Ws’ soon outstripped the ‘Ls’.
In March 1924, just 18 months after turning over, Socks faced future world bantamweight champ Teddy Baldock (then 17-0) at British boxing’s HQ, the National Sporting Club (NSC). “I learnt as much off Socks as anybody,” remembered Baldock. “He could match me for speed, but carried no dig. I found it hard to hit him flush… and when the last bell sounded I went back to my corner fully satisfied that I’d been beaten for the first time. But the referee made it a draw, and my supporters said I was robbed, but I was sorry for Socks, all the same. He taught me that you can be fast and efficient without being flashy.”
A year later, Socks was storming through the country’s best flyweights. He whipped the reigning British and European champion, Glasgow’s Elky Clark, in a 12-round non-title fight at the Royal Albert Hall, then 10 months later got a title match with Clark at the NSC. BN called it “one of the speediest, cleanest and hardest-fought battles one could hope to witness between little men.” But the championship limit of 20 rounds against the hard-hitting Scot proved too much for Socks, who as BN observed “assimilated terrible punches with indomitable courage” in the last few rounds. The Kid lasted until the 20th when the ref intervened. That and a losing Empire bantamweight title battle in Australia, in 1928, were Socks’ only title fights.
Many other outstanding names grace his record – world champions Panama Al Brown, Victor “Young” Perez and Emile Pladner (with whom Socks drew), and British titlists Len Harvey, Nel Tarleton, Kid Pattenden, Dick Corbett, “Spider” Jim Kelly and Johnny Brown (who lost to Socks when he was reigning British bantamweight champ). In 1929, Socks lost a 15-rounder to 16-year-old boxing wonderboy Nipper Pat Daly who, although victorious, described the Kid as “one of the cleverest fighters I met.”
Although small, even for a fly or bantam, Socks fought up to featherweight. He was uncanny at anticipating his rival’s moves, smart at countering and exceptionally fast with his feet and fists, but lacked a damaging punch. Bethnal Green featherweight Ted Kirkland, who was managed by Socks in the 1930s, recalled: “He was kind and considerate and put far more into boxing than he ever got out of it. I remember one night he promoted at Hoxton Baths, topped the bill himself, yet the show lost money. This was the story of George’s life. He was a most unlucky man.” The Kid died in 1972, aged 68.