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"I don't train for the fight," Roger says. "I train for the party after it. But I'm changing. I'm beginning to get a little more settled. Maybe I'm growing up."
"Roger's come a long way," Jovanovich said the other day. "He's not near as bad as he used to be. I keep telling him, it's not that you couldn't be as good. It's that you'd be that much better that much longer. But then he gets around these orangutans. Well, you walk the ice and hope she's solid all the way across."
Roger Rouse started boxing at the age of 9 when his father gave him and Don a pair of gloves for Christmas. They learned the principles from Nat Fleischer's How to Box, and to this day Roger has a move called the Fitzsimmons Shift, which is described in Fleischer's book.
Mr. Rouse told me: "Don would say, 'Come on, Babe, let's go out in the barn and spar a little.' Roger wasn't too keen. He'd come in every night, bawling, pull the gloves off and say, 'Sonofabitch, I ain't going to fight anymore.' But the next night...."
"I wasn't persistent," Roger says. "Don was. I said I didn't want to box, so he'd beat the hell out of me. I figured I might as well box."
Roger got his first formal instruction in boxing from a reformed alcoholic who was training fighters in the back of what is now the Wonder Bar. "He worked on my jab, started on my hook a little bit," Roger recalls, "but then he wouldn't be there. He went on a drunk, picked up a deaf-and-dumb girl and got 50 years."
Roger was an all-state fullback at Anaconda High and went to the University of Montana on a football scholarship; however, he injured his knee and never played. Fortunately, he didn't care that much for football. "When he was not even 16 or 17," his mother said, "he wrote down on a form where it said Highest Ambition 'to be champ of the world.' I said, 'Oh, no, you're not handing that in. It's too fantastic'. 'Yes, I am,' he said. 'That's what I want to be. Why shouldn't I?' "
When he lost his football scholarship, Roger attended Idaho State on a boxing scholarship, but a horse fell on him, injuring his ankle. "He said if his ankle was broken he would become the world's champion bronc rider," says Don. "He even bought a $25 hat and spurs." As it happened, his ankle was only sprained and Roger was twice NCAA 165-pound boxing champion and a member of the 1956 Olympic team; he lost a split decision to Gilbert Chapron of France in the quarterfinal round.
After Roger's eligibility expired he accepted a scholarship as a student boxing coach at Montana State, but the school discontinued boxing and Roger dropped out and turned pro under Sid Flaherty, who is best known as the manager of Bobo Olson.
"I was pretty discouraged at school," Roger recalls. "I was having a hard time with my studies, I was married, my wife had a baby, we didn't have any money. I was going to the store with a quarter in my pocket for a can of soup."