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Historical Celebrity Boxing

June 2024
1min read

IT’S ALMOST AS INSPIRING AS GETTYSBURG, AND MUCH LESS BLOODY


A surprise ratings winner on television this spring was “Celebrity Boxing,” the pugilistic equivalent of karaoke, which showcased such long-awaited matchups as Tonya Harding vs. Paula Jones and Vanilla Ice vs. Todd Bridges. Purists condemned the show for defiling the noble sport of boxing, something they evidently feel is best left to professionals. Yet we can’t help wondering how American history might have been different if some of our nation’s greatest feuds and rivalries had been worked out between the ropes:

Miles Standish vs. John Alden

The hotly anticipated showdown is a disappointment because of Standish’s curious reluctance to fight. His request for Alden to throw a few punches at himself is scornfully rejected. Alden scores a quick knockout and is immediately married to Priscilla Mullens at center ring.

Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr

Instead of dueling with pistols, the original Federalist-era gangsters lace up the gloves. Burr knocks Hamilton around the ring for several rounds as the latter prudently covers up. But Hamilton, who has secretly intrigued with the judges, wins a unanimous decision. A furious Burr storms off to Louisiana and starts his own boxing federation.

Abraham Lincoln vs. Jefferson Davis

The aristocratic Davis, having no wish to mix it up with a Kentucky backwoodsman, sends one of his slaves into the ring in his place. Lincoln emancipates him on the spot, and Davis is declared the loser by forfeit.

Booker T. Washington vs. W. E. B. Du Bois

A poll of spectators beforehand shows that only one-tenth favor Du Bois, who is believed to be long on theory but short on skills. This assessment proves correct, as less than a minute into the fight Du Bois drops his guard to dispute a rules interpretation with the referee and is knocked cold.

Clarence Darrow vs. William Jennings Bryan

It’s an unbeatable clash of styles: Dancing Darrow vs. Bryan the Bruiser. Darrow uses fancy footwork to land frequent but harmless jabs, while Bryan plants his feet and tries vainly to set up his haymaker. Observers swear they saw Bryan backed against the ropes, but film of the fight does not confirm this. Judges declare a draw, since one of Bryan’s shoelaces was not tied properly. After the fight the combatants shake hands and split their share of the gate receipts.

Eleanor Roosevelt vs. Mae West

West lands by far the majority of the blows, despite her odd habit of shaking her hips before and after every punch. But Roosevelt wins over the crowd with her doughty persistence, and even when West is awarded a unanimous decision, she remains unbowed: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

—F.S.

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