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1689Re: [tr-m] Boxing in the White House

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  • John Willson
    Jul 4, 2007
      Hi Jim:
      In TR's Autobiography, he notes that: "After a few years I had to abandon boxing as well as wrestling, for in one bout a young captain of artillery cross-countered me on the eye, and the blow smashed the little blood-vessels."
      In a letter to Michael Donovan (ex-middleweight champion), dated 12/13/04, TR writes that: "A couple of days ago I spent a good afternoon with Ted and one of his football friends and a couple of young army officers sparring, playing singlestick, etc., and I am sorry to say I have wrenched my thigh again and succeeded in breaking a blood vessel in one eye, while Ted put his thumb out of joint."
      William Roscoe Thayer, in his biography of TR, states that: "It was in a boxing bout at the White House with his teacher that he lost the sight of an eye from a blow which injured his eyeball."
      In John J. Leary's, Talks with T.R., he devotes a short chapter to the incident in which he quotes TR as saying: "I used to like to box, but I had to stop when I hurt my left eye in the White House. You know it is blind: a loss, but not nearly as bad as if it were the right one. It happened this way: I was boxing with a naval officer, a husky chap and a cousin of Mrs. Roosevelt. He countered a hot one on the side of the head - right over the eye. One of the hardening arteries ruptured. Then the eye gradually began to film over. Soon all the sight was gone. That's how I lost it."
      Finally, regardless of how he lost the sight in his left eye, he must have been quite a boxer. The afore-mentioned Mike Donovan in his book, "The Roosevelt That I Know," states that: "I've hit him many times as hard as ever I hit a fighter in the ring, without stopping him, and thousands know how hard I can hit. I want to say, now, that I never saw him wince or show even by an involuntary sign that he was discomforted in spirit, no matter how severe the bodily pain. On the contrary, it met with only that characteristic turning of the head a bit to the side, a grim smile and a determined setting of the bulldog jaw, followed by another rush.Theodore Roosevelt is a strong, tough man: hard to hurt, and harder to stop." Even if we assume that there is a bit of hyperbole in Donovan's remarks, TR clearly must have been able to hold his own in the sport of boxing.
      John Willson
      Jim Wiedman <jim@...> wrote:
      I've got a friend who asked me for details about TR boxing in the East
      Room in the White House. I had remembered that he lost the use of his
      left eye in one of the fights, and I was able to find a reference to a
      young artillery captain who was the boxer, but I can't find his name.
      Does anyone know who it was that TR was boxing with?

      Does anyone have any other details of boxing matches in the East Room?


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