|Manly Men (left: from Pete Sousa, The White House File)|
Still, no American president—Obama included—has approached the manly altitudes of Theodore Roosevelt. And no president before or since has lost an eye while boxing in the White House. As president, TR also favored horseback riding in Rock Creek Park, swimming and rowing in the Potomac, jujitsu and wrestling in the White House, and tennis, hiking, and, of course, hunting. When running for president in 1912 on the Progressive Party ticket, he delivered an hour-long speech with a wannabe assassin’s bullet in his chest and blood spotting his shirt. (The 50-page speech, tucked in his jacket pocket, may have been a life saver.) Clearly, TR could take a good shot, both inside and outside the ring.
A Gentleman’s Education. TR began boxing as a student at Harvard, nearly winning the college’s championship. As governor of New York, he sparred several times each week, a habit that he brought with him to the White House, where he periodically moved furniture around his upstairs private office to create a makeshift “ring.” His regular sparring partners were typically U.S. Army officers, including one Captain (later Colonel) Dan T. Moore, who in 1917 confessed: “I boxed with the President on average, three times a week throughout two winters 1904-05 and 1905-06. . .I must have had the gloves on a hundred times.”
Gloves offered protection for the presidential hands but not for the presidential left retina, which became partly detached during one of TR’s 1904-1905 office sparathons. TR kept the incident and his subsequent loss of sight under wraps until well after his administration. But that didn't interrupt him from his weekly communion with the sweet science.
Manly Men Make Peace. In 1903 Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize for having negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War. In 2009, Obama was similarly honored. Boxing in the White House? The White House and the Nobel Peace Prize are not what they used to be.