1984: A boxing odyssey
November 28, 2005
(What would it be like if Winston Smith, George Orwell’s protagonist in “1984,” were a boxing writer in 2005? Using some tongue-in-cheek narrative I decided to blend some fiction that was true to the book, my own views on boxing and Saturday’s pay-per-view fight between Ricky Hatton and Carlos Maussa, all expressed through the “voice” of Winston. I hereby assure you and my editor that I wasn’t on acid and had a clear mind when I wrote this column.)
Big Brother – whose black mustachio’d face adorned the poster across the street – seemed to stare in contempt at Winston Smith as he darted through the glass doors out from the chill of the icy November night into the Victory Mansions.
As he returned home from the Ministry of Truth, where he worked in the Records Department, Winston tried to disguise his exhilaration and twisted his features into the recommended look of quiet optimism.
After he downed a shot of Victory Gin and lit up a Victory cigarette, Smith sat down in the little alcove, just out of range of the telescreen and the prying eyes of the Thought Police, and began to write in his diary.
Although it wasn’t illegal to keep a diary (there were no laws), it was punishable by death. But this thought once again didn’t deter Winston, who ignored the little blue helicopter that had just zipped past his window and began to write.
“Today I was once again obligated to change history,” Winston wrote. “Rather than write World junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton successfully defended his title Saturday with a nine-round knockout over challenger Carlos Maussa,’ in Oldspeak, I had to change the facts into Newspeak.
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“‘Ricky Hatton knocked out Carlos Maussa with a left hook in a unification bout Saturday,’ I wrote. ‘Hatton, who entered the ring with the plusgood IBF championship, added Maussa’s double plusgood WBA belt to his laurels with his win.’
“Of course, I went on to finish the story in the required Newspeak, but I could barely contain myself long enough to get home, where I could write the truth. Although I know such thoughtcrime means death, I shall nonetheless record history in the hopes that another someday reads it, one who seeks to know how things really are, not how Big Brother wants them to be.
“Of course, we all know there is only one world champion in the 140-pound division: Ricky Hatton. But for some reason all of us sports writers seem to fall in line and write what the Associated Press, promoters, television networks and sanctioning bodies – the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO – want us to.
“Hatton, who improved to 40-0, with 30 knockouts, really didn’t unify the titles. He didn’t need to. He actually just retained his own championship by knocking out Maussa. We all know that Hatton stopped the real junior welterweight champion, Kostya Tszyu, earlier this year to lay claim to the throne.
“Those of us who aren’t brainwashed remember that Tszyu once beat Miguel Angel Gonzalez and Julio Cesar Chavez to win the actual title – even though the WBC claimed it was their championship.
“And when Tszyu stopped Sharmba Mitchell the first time and then Zab Judah (the WBA’s and IBF’s respective ‘champions’), he alone was the world champion.
“Then the WBA recognized Tszyu as its ‘super champion’ and Vivian Harris as its ‘regular’ world champion. And after he was twice injured in training, the WBC named Tszyu as its ‘champion emeritus’ and recognized Arturo Gatti as its ‘regular’ world champion.
“Of course, the WBO says Miguel Cotto is the world champion, and I’m sure we all believe that since all of us sportswriters are always sure to do as we’re told and bring you ‘the truth.'”
Winston felt a sudden unease and turned to the telescreen, which took up one side of his living room wall. It was an exercise program, but the instructor seemed to be eyeing Winston as he instructed his viewers to continue their isometrics.
But the truth has to be told, Winston thought, and continued his writing, oblivious to the group of vans that pulled up silently outside the Victory Mansions.
“It is axiomatic to believe that in order to become the champion, you must beat the champion. And this is what Hatton did when he beat Tszyu. But when Floyd Mayweather defeated Gatti and Maussa stopped Harris, the WBC and WBA went on as though each was the legitimate champion, and not Hatton.
“Doesn’t it make sense then, that when Hatton defeated Maussa he was defending the world championship and not merely reinventing the wheel by winning a title that had already been won and never lost by Tszyu?”
Just as Winston was about to write more about how reality had been twisted and distorted by the sanctioning bodies and the promoters and the television networks, an iron voice rang out from the telescreen.
“We can see what you are writing, Winston Smith,” the metallic voice intoned. “You are writing Oldspeak and committing thoughtcrime. Stay where you are and stop what you are doing. The Thought Police are coming and you have nowhere to run.”
Winston knew he’d soon end up like the others, toothless and thin and soundly defeated, and doomed to spend his final days with the other criminals who repaired to The Chestnut Tree, where they believed that two plus two equals five.
“I must go now, but remember this,” Winston wrote as he heard the sound of the Thought Police’s heavy boots rumble through the hallway.
“Ricky Hatton is the real junior welterweight champion of the world. And even though Mayweather, the former world junior lightweight and former world lightweight champion, is probably the best pound-for-pound boxer in the game, he must first beat Hatton before he moves up to welterweight and calls himself a three-division champion.
“Until then Mayweather is still the division’s No. 1 contender and Cotto is the No. 2 contender. Hatton should forget fighting the WBA’s and the IBF’s mandatory challengers, Souleymane M’Baye and Naoufel Ben Rabah.
“Hatton should fight Mayweather next and Cotto should get the winner. And the pay-per-view should cost only $19.95, like it did Saturday.”
The Thought Police kicked in Winston’s door and the next time he was seen – in The Chestnut Tree – he was a broken man. And he really believed that two plus two equals five and that – even though there is only one world – there really are four world champions in every division.
n Contact Mike Houser at firstname.lastname@example.org