To what kind of professional athlete is the "Government Officer" compared to in Charles Dickens' Hard Times?
Ch.2 - appropriately entitled "Murdering the Innocents" - of Charles Dickens' Hard Times is a harshly satirical attack on the contemporary system of school education which cruelly snuffed out the faculty of imagination of small children in the guise of overwhelming their tender minds with useless facts. Dickens presents the schoolmaster Thomas Gradgrind as
a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.
A little later, the Government Officer is introduced as a "pugilist," that is, a boxer. Dickens mocks at him as a person who literally "knocks the wind out of common sense." Dickens sarcastically describes him using the jargon and phraseology of boxing:
The third gentleman now stepped forth. A mighty man at cutting and drying, he was; a government officer; in his way (and in most other people's too), a professed pugilist; always in training, always with a system to force down the general throat like a bolus, always to be heard of at the bar of his little Public-office, ready to fight all England. To continue in fistic phraseology, he had a genius for coming up to the scratch, wherever and whatever it was, and proving himself an ugly customer. He would go in and damage any subject whatever with his right, follow up with his left, stop, exchange, counter, bore his opponent (he always fought All England) to the ropes, and fall upon him neatly. He was certain to knock the wind out of common-sense, and render that unlucky adversary deaf to the call of time. And he had it in charge from high authority to bring about the great public-office Millennium, when Commissioners should reign upon earth.
Dickens' specific target of satire was one Henry Cole the General Superintendent of the Board of Trade's Department of Practical Art, who constantly strived to propagate the materialistic and utilitarian principles of Victorian England in all walks of life.