It's Time To Re-examine The Weigh-In Day
30.10.07 - By Paul McCreath: The weigh-in has for many years been an integral part of boxing, designed to guarantee that boxers are within the limits of their weight class, it ensured that fighters were matched with others of similar size or more definitively, similar weight. Over the years, the custom became common to hold the weigh in on the day of the fight, usually around noon.
Article posted on 30.01.2007
As time passed by, some concerns arose, in particular, within the medical community, about the safety of this practice. The worry was that boxers were frequently drying out in order to make weight, and then did not have sufficient time before the fight to replenish their bodily fluids. The feeling was that this was leaving the fighters more susceptible to injury. The argument seemed valid so in time the suggestion to hold the weigh in the day before the fight was adopted by most commissions in order to give the athletes more recovery time. The results of this change which has now been in effect for at least a couple of years are somewhat difficult to measure but I would suggest that there have been at least two negative aspects to the move.
If any of you watch the HBO telecasts regularly, you will have noticed that with their tale of the tape before the fight they give the official weights of the fighters as well as their unofficial weight on fight day. The differences are staggering! This past weekend was a perfect example. Two little guys, super flyweights Jorge Arce and Julio Ler, were matched. Officially, they came in at 114 and 1/2 lbs for Arce and 114 and 3/4 for Ler, yet by fight night, they were both close to 130 pounds, a gain of around 15 pounds for these very small men.
This type of differential is very common today and suggests that fighters may be drying out even more than they traditionally have in order to gain all possible advantages from fighting in a lower weight class. They must believe that since they have more time to rehydrate they can come in even lighter and stay in a smaller division. Now, I am no doctor but this cannot be good for their health. Nearly any doctor will tell you that frequent large weight gains or losses are not advisable.
A second problem may be even more serious. Today many promoters have a stable of fighters they use regularly as house fighters. It is in their best interests to have their boxers win most of the time so they bring in opponents who are fairly sure to lose. This is done not in the old way of using bribes as the mob did, but by matching the house fighter with clearly less skilled foes or those with much less experience. Another way is to use a faded veteran who has a name but is well past his dangerous days. Now,thanks to early weigh in days, they have another very popular option. They now often bring in a much smaller fighter.
For example, the house fighter is a welterweight, weighing in at 147 pounds. They would then bring in a boxer who has campaigned mostly at lightweight (135 lbs), or junior welter (140 lbs). At the weigh-in, they both tilt the scales around 147 lbs, so it looks like an even match sizewise, yet by fight time, the house fighter is up around 160 lbs or more and the little guy, who has already built up for the fight, is still close to 147 lbs. Based on this, we have a huge and unfair difference, exactly what weight classes were designed to avoid. The opponent has little or no chance of winning, and the fans get a non-competitive fight. I feel this is very dangerous and should be stopped.
The solution, I would suggest, is not to go back to the old way of doing things but to combine the two. We already have unofficial weigh-in's on fight day much of the time. Make that one official, too, and allow some weight gain from the day before to allow for rehydration but in a limited way. Perhaps this be a percentage of the limit for the division, maybe three or four percent. This would allow a middleweight, for instance, to gain five or six pounds over the 160, he had to make the day before thus allowing for reasonable rehydration, but stopping the accesses we are seeing today.
Some fighters might have to move up a division, but I believe that fighting at closer to their natural level would be better for most fighters. Commissions might also consider putting limits on how much a fighter can gain from one fight to the next. Another good move would be the one that is gaining support now, checks on weight a month before the bout where possible.
At any rate, I do hope that the powers that be will take another look at what I see as a problem with our sport today.
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