JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 358
I've made several posts on images of large crowds (most recently on the incredible aerial photograph of the crowd of 100,000 spectators at the Dempsey-Carpentier fight), sometimes using the crowds to put a fleshy face on an otherwise forensic statistic, and sometimes because, well, the photograph is simply beautiful or extraordinary (or both). The later is the case here with this news service photo from Underwood & Underwood (NYC), titled "Boxing Contest Viewed by Twenty Thousand Soldiers", and published in the middle of 1918. It depicts a fight between featherweights Hank Schroeder and Jimmy Smith, with the referee being the legendary fighter, Benny Leonard. (The way that the news photo service worked was that if a newspaper needed a picture, say, of
American soldiers watching a boxing match to illustrate a story they would have contracted with a company like Underwood and Underwood who would supply the photo and the caption.) It looks as though Schroeder (who must've had a hard time during the war with his name) fought and was defeated by Johnny "The Kid" Troy for the American Expeditionary Force featherweight title--which means that Schroeder may have been the champion, or perhaps not, if the title was vacant). I couldn't find anything out about Jimmy Smith, though I did uncover many other Smiths who were boxers in the 'teens and 'twenties, including Cyclone Cy, Sgt. Ray, Willie, Petey, Frankie and Buggy.
The text that accompanies the image states that "this was one of the most picturesque boxing tournaments ever held", and I don't doubt it, as the composition of the crowd, the closeness of the soldiers, and the numbers contained in such a small area, are all pretty singular factors making this an extraordinary photograph. The fight took place at Camp Upton, ( Suffolk County, Long Island, and named for the great American western explorer and Civil War general), which at the time was still processing troops for the fight overseas. (Camp Upton would be laid to rest after the war until it was reactivated for training for WWII, eventually winding up as part of the Brookhaven National Lab grounds.)
This is a close-up of the ring itself, where we see Bennt Leonard as the ref with his back to the camera, with the two fighters mixing it up in a tight little one-man ball. I reckon that there must be 300 soldiers in the background of this tight view.