A young 19-year-old Teddy Roosevelt at Harvard, 1877
As a child, he was more like Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass in “Unbreakable” than the eventual Rough Rider he would become.
Here’s how the future president describes himself as a child in his autobiography: “Having been a sickly boy, with no natural bodily prowess … I was at first quite unable to hold my own when thrown into contact with other boys of rougher antecedents. I was nervous and timid.”
And here’s how he describes the first real beating he took: “Having an attack of asthma, I was sent off by myself to Moosehead Lake.
On the stage-coach ride … I encountered a couple of other boys who were about my own age … They found that I was a foreordained and predestined victim, and industriously proceeded to make life miserable for me.
The worst feature was that when I finally tried to fight them I discovered that either singly could not only handle me with easy contempt, but handle me so as not to hurt me and yet to prevent my doing any damage whatever in return.”
In short, they toyed with the future president. This incident scarred Roosevelt and he resolved that day to do something about it.
Shortly after returning from his trip, he asked his father’s permission to learn how to box. His dad set him up with ex-prizefighter John Long and Roosevelt’s love affair with the sweet science began.
Roosevelt began his training with little natural ability, but he was eager to learn and practiced hard.
After a few months, Long entered him into a tournament in the lightweight division and to everyone’s surprise, he won.
The competition wasn’t top flight, and the title didn’t lead to any future belts, but the experience stayed with Roosevelt and he boxed throughout his college career at Harvard.
He was never a champion (even though he sparred with champions), but he was always game to fight and he made it to the finals of a recreational tournament once.