For many decades, Americans of all political stripes celebrated two presidential birthdays during February. Depending on what calendar is used, George Washington was born on February 11 (Julian) or February 22, 1732 (Gregorian) while Abraham Lincoln’s birth took place February 12, 1809.
During the turbulent late 1960s, the federal government felt a need to simplify matters. A 1971 law shifted three existing holidays, including Washington’s birthday, to Mondays so they all fell on the same day of the week — and create more three-day weekends. Some states rebelled against the federal mandate and because there was no uniform holiday title agreement, some states chose to rename the third Monday in February “President’s Day,” which morphed into a marketing opportunity as much as a historical celebration.
With Lincoln’s actual birthday drawing near and the Republican race to challenge President Barack Obama in November whittling down to the Final Four, this is as good a time as any to tie our favorite sport to current events — with a twisted twist.
Forty-three men have served as president of the United States (Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms) while thousands of fighters have achieved world-class status, either as contenders or champions. Which of these presidents boast the best stable of outstanding fighters when it comes to sharing their names? For example, Woodrow Wilson shared his surname with heavyweights Darnell, Darroll and Marion Wilson while James Monroe is linked with Willie “The Worm” Monroe and Marty Monroe. Chester Arthur would have been paired with Alex Arthur, Michael Grant and Otis Grant are tied with Ulysses S. and heavyweight Amos Lincoln with Abraham Lincoln.
Many presidents’ cupboards lay empty in terms of exceptional fighters — James Madison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James A. Garfield, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge among them. Several of the best-regarded presidents are included in this group, such as Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Our last four presidents — Bill Clinton, George H.W. and George W. Bush and Obama — are also here.
There are, however, a fortunate few — especially at the top of this list — who can lay claim to formidable stables, and many of the fighters supercede their presidential counterpart in terms of greatness. From time to time the pairings actually have something in common and some of them will feature honorable mentions. So without further rumination, here are the top 10 fighters who share names with U.S. presidents.