The Weight of The Matter, Making Weight and A Case for Same Day Weigh-Ins (Repost of 2014 article)

In light of the recent dehydration incident with Danny O’Conner, I thought I’d repost an article I wrote and contributed back in 2014. Some points still relevant, some, possibly a bit outdated.

Disappointed is the fan that pays hard earned money to attend a title fight only to see one of the fighters not make weight. When this happens most of the governing bodies will, as a general rule, make the fight a “non-title” affair; however, it gets a bit more interesting from there. Generally, the alphabets are the same in that, if the champion did not make weight at the time of the weigh-in or during the two-hour extension, their title is “forfeited or lost on the scale”. The title then becomes vacant, and typically, the fight if held would become a “non-title”, “non-sanctioned”, or “overweight” fight; however, if the challenger made the weight and wins the fight, they would be awarded the vacant championship. Conversely, if the former champion wins, the title remains vacant. If the champion makes the weight and the challenger fails to do so, the fight still may be staged with the understanding that the champion will retain his title whether he wins or loses the bout. And lastly, if both fighters fail to make weight and the fight is held, the title is not on the line and remains vacant by some of the governing bodies while others choose to allow the champion to retain their title win or lose.

Making weight also carries a monetary incentive. For instance, in the WBA, fighters not making weight will forfeit 35% of their purse, 25% going to the promoter and 10% to their opponent. The penalty increases another 10% to 45%, 35% to the promoter and 15% to the opponent when the fighter doesn’t even make an effort to lose the weight prior to the deadline. Fighters not making weight are usually the exception and not the rule. When it does happen, it is disrespectful to the sport, the opposing fighter (assuming of course, that they made weight), and to the fans. A prizefighter’s job is to train, make weight, fight, and hopefully win. Their training routine should be tailored to ensure that weight will not be an issue. With the “fighter friendly” day before the fight weigh-in routine, it’s amazing that some fighters continue to not make weight. Now, let’s talk a little about that day before the fights weigh in……

Boxing weigh-ins the day before a fight are pointless, there I said it, now that the elephant is out of the room, let’s move on. Let me clarify. By pointless, I do not mean the practices and processes intended to protect the fighter’s health and safety, I’m all for that. I get it; we don’t want the fighters dropping weight and water weight so unhealthily that it could have fatal consequences. I’m referring to the pointless aspect of allowing an early weigh-in so that a fighter can simply rehydrate and gain excess weight prior to the fight only to be one, sometimes two, or in the most extreme cases three weight classes higher if not more by the time the first bell rings. What’s the worth of a championship won at 140 when the winning fighter is weighing well above the authorized limit at fight time, sometimes 10-20 pounds? Fights should be fought at natural weights because we’re not really watching a master craftsman at 140; we are watching a heavier fighter claim a title at a lower weight class against a lighter opponent. If the case is made for safety and health with regards to early weigh-ins and weight loss, the same should be made for fighters who fight a heavier opponent and suffer damage as a result.

Same day weigh-ins ended sometime in the early 1980’s. As the story goes, the process changed due to growing concern over parched fighters not properly re-hydrating which had the potential to jeopardize their health and safety in the ring. Dr. Flip Homansky was the leading advocate for the change and upon his recommendations; the Nevada State Athletic Commission changed the weigh-ins to “day before” with the sanctioning bodies adjusting their rules to conduct the check anywhere between 20-36 hours prior to the fight.

Enter the case for the return of same day weigh-ins. Hold the weigh-in the morning/afternoon of the fight. This would generally be 8-12 hours from the first bell. Understood that the same problems may exist where the weight is cut and then the rehydrating begins but it would be far less likely because it would lead to putting the onus back where it belongs, on the training camp. The preparation needs to begin the first day of camp and should be tailored with this in mind. The training and the eating plan should be coordinated so that the weight is on no less than a week before the fight and then maintained and monitored. In addition, keep some of the current practices in place such as the following rule from the WBC: “Impose a 30 day weight check where the fighter’s weight cannot exceed 10% of the weight limit for the bout four weeks out from the contest and also a 7 day weigh in where they cannot exceed 5% of the weight limit for the bout”. We want the fighters to be successful in making weight so enforcing these types of current practices will do just that.

While writing this article I couldn’t help but think of the upcoming March 1, rematch between Bryan Vera and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. In their first match up last September 28, Chavez Jr. failed to make the 168 pound limit which saw Vera receive a six figure incentive to move forward with the fight, albeit at 173. Chavez was awarded a controversial decision in the first fight to go with his excess weight. The rematch is again set for the 168 pound limit. Agreed upon by the promoters, Chavez will award Vera $250,000 if the scales go against him again.

When same day weigh-ins were eliminated, it may have been for all the right reasons but over time these reasons have been offset by the very process that it has created. What was intended to protect a fighter’s health has perhaps done just the opposite. When a fighter disregards proper eating habits and eliminates water in an effort to make a weight, it’s very strenuous on the body. Factor in the rehydration phase of the recovery and the body is again put through a taxing process.

As the saying goes, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” but something in this process is flawed and needs to be shattered. The sanctioning bodies need to collaborate on a process to successfully transition this change across all of the alphabets and move the sport in the right direction by bringing back same day weigh-ins and fights at natural weights.