The complicated shifts in power and status that took place between Britain, France and the United States in the years immediately preceding the First World War resulted in anxious self-examination and a series of identity crises whose social, cultural and political ramifications would be felt for decades to come. This was also a boom time for boxing, and one that was distinguished by a lively debate about the pros and cons of the “English” and “American” styles. This paper argues that these detailed deliberations about sporting technique often exposed a more general disquiet about national strengths and vulnerabilities and about the pre-war balance of power. A consideration of straight lefts and slogging ruffians tells us something about the issues at stake.