Weight Class Narratives

By Boxing News - 03/21/2023 - Comments

By Alex Fesl: There’s always a narrative when it comes to big fights in boxing. Most often, these narratives are focused on the apparent weight advantage one fighter will have over the other fighter.

Seemingly, fighters are labeled either a weight bully or they are accused of using rehydration clauses to weaken their opponent. It would seem that one fighter will always have an advantage over the other, however, you spin it.

Fans will claim, “If fighter X loses to fighter Y, it will be because fighter X was weight drained.” Likewise, fans will claim, “Fighter X won because they are a weight bully and came into the ring, outweighing their opponent by 10-20 pounds.” Logically speaking, both statements mean the same thing. Fans will perceive one fighter as being handicapped by some sort of weight advantage over the other fighter.

To make things even more complicated, some fights will take place at a catchweight. A catchweight is basically an arbitrary weight between one of the weight classes that both parties agree to fight at. Most often, a catchweight is used by fighters testing the waters at a higher weight class without completely committing to or leaving their current weight class. Or better yet, a catchweight can be used when a smaller/bigger fighter is fighting an opponent in a higher/lower weight class, and the catchweight is the middle ground for both fighters. In reality, most often, you will see the same weight class shenanigans even at the catchweights. The catchweight will typically benefit one fighter and handicap the other fighter.

Key issue at hand

Perhaps the main issue at hand is the weigh-in timeline for fighters. Currently, the standard protocol is for fighters to weigh-in the day before fight night. For example, for a high-profile fight, a fighter would weigh-in around 2 or 3 pm on Friday afternoon and then enter the ring on Saturday night at around 10 or 11 pm. With this in mind, it gives the fighters 24 to 30+ hours to rehydrate. You often see fighters rehydrating 20+ pounds in the period of time before entering the ring. Not only is it temporarily dangerous for fighters to drastically cut weight before a weigh-in, but it’s also dangerous long term to severely dehydrate themselves multiple times a year. It puts significant strain on their internal systems to stress their bodies to such an extent.

At the same time, the stress associated with cutting weight often leads to fighters using performance-enhancing drugs to cope with the stress. So not only are fighters dangerously cutting weight, many fighters are also adding harmful chemicals to their bodies to aid with the weight cut.

Solutions to weight bullies

The solution that most people will agree on is a return to same-day weigh-ins. When fighters have to weigh-in the same day of their fights, they have to walk around as close to the contracted weight as possible. We still see same-day weigh-ins in amateur or Olympic-style boxing. For USA national competitions, fighters have same-day weigh-ins with zero tolerance for overweight competitors. For local competitions in the states, fighters have same-day weigh-ins but with weight range differentials. So a fighter can weigh over the limit as long as both boxers are within the mandated range for the weight class.

Another possible pragmatic solution can be to incorporate rehydration clauses more often for high-profile fights. With rehydration clauses, fighters are forced to stay as close to the contracted weight as possible. It would definitely discourage weight cutting and excessive rehydration if implemented.

It is what it is

Ideally, it would make the most sense to have same-day weigh-ins, and that would eliminate most issues associated with weight bullies. In reality, there does not seem to be any movement to incorporate same-day weigh-ins. It seems that promoters and the major boxing organizations like the weigh-ins the day before a fight with a rehydration period afterward.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, this exact situation can be best exemplified in the pending fight between Tank Davis and Ryan Garcia. Tank, who has campaigned between 125 to 139 pounds over his ten-year career, is taking on Garcia, who has weighed between 127 to 140 pounds over his seven-year career. For the fight itself, both sides have agreed to a catchweight of 136 pounds with a rehydration clause included. On the surface level, it would seem that the generally smaller Tank, who is the A-side, is using a rehydration clause as Ryan is the physically bigger fighter. Given that fact, it only makes sense that the fight is taking place at a catchweight between lightweight and super lightweight, albeit only at 136 pounds.

Biases aside, I believe we will see more of these complicated contracted weight agreements in the future. It seems that whichever fighter that is considered the A-side of negotiations will dictate the weight clauses to their advantage, respectively. At the same time, given this environment, we can pretty much consider all of the top fighters to be weight bullies, as it’s simply part of the sport at this point.