Harrison Bergeron Meets Sergio Martinez

“The year was 2081 and everybody was finally equal.” So begins “Harrison Bergeron,” Kurt Vonnegut’s short story about a future where anyone who has a natural gift — too attractive, too fast, too strong, too tall, too talented, too smart — any kind of natural advantage is encumbered by a physical handicap that basically erases it. Too strong? Forty pounds of bird shot hung around the neck. Too good looking? A hideous mask. Too smart? Mandatory microphones in the ear that play random extremely loud noises, such as the noise of cars colliding.

Thus, nobody can ever really compete against anyone else, and normal (mediocre) people don’t have to feel like potstickers with legs by comparison. Who would want that kind of world? Nobody, that’s who. Okay, maybe me. Not maybe, hell yes, I want it. But I’m not alone. Some years back I got sucked into this cult, kind of a quasi-socialist psychiatry religion (like Scientology, but with no downpayment) where we were all bused to this camp in the Catskills at which we had to spend hours crying in front of each other until our eyes looked like poached lobster and our frontal lobes were seeping out of our tear ducts.

It was like an acting class from hell, all about how pathetic and unhappy we all were. But then, once we were all cleansed of our Satanic capitalist impulses, we played sports, but guess what: The sports were designed so that nobody could be better than anyone else! It was Vonnegut land where we played basketball but anyone who accidentally scored a basket was surrounded by “brothers and sisters” and forced… to cry! Which at that point meant basically faking it, or weeping in pain from having cried so much in the prior previous hours of the official “purge” that most of us would have to have hernia surgery anyway when we got back to the city.

My point is this: This is exactly what we need in boxing now. No, not the enforced crying, though… no, forget it. No, I mean the Harrison Bergeron world: the enforced mediocrity. Why? Because there are five or six boxers — we know who these fuckers are — who are just too good, or too advantaged, and they need to be handicapped, goddamn it. They are hurting the sport, because instead of giving us the kind of Arturo Gatti/Micky Ward, Erik Morales/Marco Antonio Barrera, Marcos Maidana/anybody battle royal in which two good fighters create something uplifting, joyous in a blood-soaked-ballet sort of way — a universal sense of the wonder of man’s ability to transcend his limits, yes, his weaknesses even — these fuckers just leave us with a sense of how weak and pathetic all of us are compared to them. It’s how we feel when we hear Tom Cruise talking about how great his life is, speaking of Scientology, or see pictures of these 20-something genius billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and we then crawl into our holes with a Coors Light and a porn video and pretend we were never born.

Yes, these five or six fighters? Why do we watch them? Yes, we want them to lose — I’ll admit it, I do. But since that’s a hopeless dream, God forbid, we watch just to see them maybe even actually get hit, just to see something, anything, happen to them that suggests they might belong to the human race instead of something that arrived from space on an asteroid fragment. “Yes, by God, I think he’s been touched! Look, is that a bruise? Has he been cut?! It’s blood. Yes, yes DEAR GOD HE’S BEEN HURT… wait, no, no, damn. No, it’s just part of Antonio Margarito’s face I think, rats. Grab me another Coors Light” You know who I’m talking about. I won’t even mention their names.

Ok, I will. Let’s take Bernard Hopkins. He’s, what, 46? I don’t want to give away my age, but when I turned his age — and I’m now like 77 years his senior, physiologically — nay, the very day I turned 46 my right knee turned to tiramisu, a disk ruptured in my lower back, and happiness was suddenly reduced to a succesful morning crap and remembering my phone number. Yet here’s this prick, this vegetarian no less (OKAY MAYBE THAT’S JUST A RUMOR, BUT I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IT BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FEEL WORSE), who just by stepping in the ring is personally insulting us. Dear Jesus, I want to see Tony Bennett stretch his ass. He needs to be handicapped. He keeps talking about his false teeth, so let’s give him a pair. Let’s make a rule that Hopkins has to eat a salisbury steak thirty minutes before his ring walk, and fight in a pair of second-hand Bates Floaters and compression stockings.

Then there’s the Klitschkos. A look at the Tomasz Adamek fight shows that these monstrous sons of bitches need to be taken down about sixteen notches and here’s how: You boys want to fight? Strap on a pair of elves ears and box on your knees like you’re playing Santa’s helpers in a children’s theatre production of Rudolph. That ought to give David “Hayemaker” Haye half a chance, even with a swollen toe. Or better yet, create an event where the Klitschkos don’t actually do the boxing at all! Picture it: They carry the actual combatants around the ring on their shoulder’s. That could be fun and educational!

Manny Pacquiao? He ought to be required to fight in scuba gear, with a pair of deep-sea air tanks strapped to his back. That should slow his reflexes just enough to keep the fight alive beyond those critical first three rounds during which he typically reduces the competition to Spam.

Sergio Martinez? Well, he’s fighting tonight, and of course he’s favored a gazillion to one. He’s too aggressive, too strong, too damned scary. Most competitors have to wear Depends just to get in the ring with the guy. He’s like an Argentinian Mike Tyson, but sane. Well, there are a couple of solutions here: gigantic rolls of Charmin toilet paper on each fist instead of gloves; a device that senses when he’s about to throw a devastating punch and then charlie horses him a little under the ribs. Or better yet, since the guy’s from Argentina, the land of steaks, force him to do the Hopkins’ vegetarian diet for a few days. If none of that works, send him to crying camp.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.