Should Boxing Weigh-ins Be Held The Day Before The Fight, Or The Day Of The Fight?
An independent study by Scott Whitney
“It was during the mid 1980’s that the Nevada State Athletic Commission, advised by Dr. Flip Homansky, began having fighters weigh in 24 hours before a fight. Previously, fighters weighed in the day of the fight, but Homansky was concerned about light-headed, dehydrated men competing mere hours after being weighed”, (Stradley, 2009 : 82). This statement shows that the advice of a ringside doctor; Dr Homansky led the Nevada State Athletic Commission to move the weigh-in forward purely for health related reasons. De La Hoya (2010 : 51) believed that losing weight by dehydrating down to 135 lbs was partly to blame for his loss in his final fight against Manny Pacquiao stating “Two months before the fight I was weighing 142. I felt weak. I had no energy. Again I was fooling myself, telling myself it was going to be okay. I was full of myself but the weight just killed me”. De La Hoya fought fights where the weigh-in limit was 160lbs so although nearly thirty years after the weigh-in was moved forward it shows that dehydration can affect performance which in a sport such as boxing would also have an influence on the fighter’s health from being unable to defend incoming punches as well as damage caused to the body by weight fluctuations.
This assignment will investigate whether the decision to move the weigh-in forward was the correct decision. It will investigate whether boxers abuse the system which may provide a greater health risk to the boxers. Ringside doctor, Dr Goodman believes that a two weigh-in process should be adopted to avoid fighters gaining too much weight between weigh-ins which may make the fight one-sided and potentially dangerous, (Stradley, 2009). Dr Homansky also believes the system should be updated as some fighters are abusing the system in order to gain an advantage over their opponent, (Stradley, 2009). Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer believes having two weigh-ins or weighing in on the day of the fight would have a detrimental effect as the boxers would lack sleep the night before the match and he actually encourages the boxers to gain as much weight as possible so the fighters are fully hydrated, (Stradley, 2009). Gaining as much weight as possible after the weigh-in would not be an issue if every fighter gained the same amount of weight however as everybody is different some people may gain more weight than others which does not give each fighter a level playing field. Kizer however believes that the fighter’s have the level playing field albeit 24 hours prior to the fight, (Stradley, 2009). This assignment will investigate nutritional and health reasons surrounding both arguments surrounding weight loss prior to the weigh-in, look at the advantages a fighter can gain by rehydrating over a fighter who does not and examine example of fights where their has been a large weight difference. In addition this assignment will investigate if money has more of an impact when the weigh-in takes place instead of the fighter’s health and investigate if there is any added danger resulting from a knock-out caused by a heavier fighter.
It is common practice for boxers to compete at the lowest division possible as it is believed by many fighters that this gives them an advantage as they will have longer arms than their opponent, (Hall and Lane, 2001). If boxers fight in a weight division where they have to lose lots of weight through diet and dehydration prior to the weigh-in it gives the boxer less opportunity to rehydrate before a fight if the weigh-in is two hours before the fight instead of 24 hours before. When training extensively the body may use more nutrients and drinking plenty of fluids will help to restore these nutrients, (Ryan, 2002). Prior to a fight boxers train for a number of weeks at high intensity whilst dieting and drinking less fluids to achieve the lowest possible weight for the weigh-in, (Hall and Lane, 2001). This means that if the weigh-in is two hours prior to the fight the fighter will start the fight dehydrated lacking nutrients which may have a detrimental effect on their performance and health. When the fighter trains in the weeks approaching the fight they often wear sweat suits which increases the amount they sweat which further dehydrates the body, (Katch and McArdle, 1993).
If the weigh-in is 24 hours or more prior to the fight it allows the fighter to replenish some of the nutrients that were lost when training. To be appropriately hydrated it is suggested that the night prior to extensive exercise such as a fight the boxer should drink 16 ounces of fluid before sleeping, 10 ounces of fluid during the day and 16- 32 hours of fluid in the hour prior to the fight, (Ryan, 2001). If the weigh-in was just two hours prior to the fight this would not allow the boxer to drink this fluid and they may suffer from dehydration. There is a worry that some fighters rehydrate more than others which may lead to boxers fighting in the wrong weight division to gain an advantage. The result of this is that fighters are being hit by punches that are too heavy and powerful for their body weight which gives one fighter and advantage over his opponent as well as potentially placing the opponent’s health in danger. This happened when Arturo Gatti fought Joey Gamache in 2000 when Gatti weighed 160 pounds during the fight when the weigh in limit was 141 pounds, despite the rules of the fight stating that no more than 12 pounds should separate fighters in the welterweight division, (Woods, 2010). It is hard to imagine that 19 pounds can be gained overnight by rehydrating the body with further fluids and normal eating, (Stradley, 2009). Allowing fighters to weigh-in 24 hours or more prior to the fight without any further stipulations allows fighters to abuse the system when fighters slim down to fight at an unnatural weight for their body.
To enhance reputation and legacy many fighters fight over numerous weight divisions which raises the questions that some fighters may rehydrate in between fights and spend some time fighting in lower weight classes to gain an advantage. Other reasons could be that the older fighters get the less their body can take constant dehydration and dieting to make the lower weights or because they like the challenge of fighting a bigger opponent, (De La Hoya, 2010). James Toney weighed 157 pounds when he competed at middleweight and 237 pounds when he fought in the heavyweight category, (Fischer, 2010).
Chart One. Chart showing the weight difference’s between some fighters lightest and heaviest weigh-ins, (Fischer, 2010).
All the fighters in chart one fought in numerous weight divisions, however many fighters choose to stay in the same weight division for many years. “Homansky was hoping fighters and trainers would use the extra time to properly re-hydrate. What we’re seeing on a regular basis, however, are fighters trying to “work” the system. They’ll use the extra 24 hours to replenish after draining themselves to make a weight class they should’ve abandoned years ago”, (Stradley, 2009 : 82). Dr Goodman suggests piloting a two weigh-in process where the fighters are given a secondary weight to make on the fight day allowing for hydration, this may also assist when fighters do not make the initial weigh-in as the secondary weigh-in will still allow the fight to continue as long as the second weigh-in is met, (Stradley, 2009). Homansky disagrees believing that if the initial weigh-in is not met then the fight should be called off with the fighters, managers and promoters fined however what is common practice is the fight still continues with the fighter losing some of their purse, (Stradley, 2009).
On February 25th 2000 two fighters, Aturi Gatti and Joey Gamache weighed in for their fight that took place 29 hours later, (Woods, 2010). The fight taking place was a welterweight fight which has a weigh in limit of 141 pounds and there is a law in the rule book that the fighters weight must not be separated by more than 12 pounds difference, (Woods, 2010). Joey Gamache weighed in at 140 ¼ pounds however the controversy started when Gatti stepped on the scales. With the marker set at 141 pounds when Gatti stood on the scales it appeared that the needle rose past this marker at which point Gatti’s was instructed to raise his arms which made the needle jump and the weight was called at 140 pounds, (fightnews, 2010). As soon as Gatti jumped off the scales he started drinking fluids which ruled out the possibility of a re-weighing him despite heavy protests from Gamache’s camp led by his advisor Johnny Bos and trainer Jimmy Glenn, (Woods, 2010). Bos and Glenn wanted Gatti weighed again but the response from the New York State Athletic Commision’s executive director Tony Russo who supervised the weigh-in was unsavoury and put Gamache in an awkward situation of fight or lose his money, (fightnews, 2010). Gatti entered the ring at 160 pounds and Gamache at 144 pounds which is a weight difference of 16 pounds which defies the law of no more than 12 pounds separating these fighters, (Woods, 2010).
After hearing what happened with the weigh-in of this fight Dr Flip Homansky said “It was originally always less than 24 hours before, but now promoters have the weigh-in up to 34 hours earlier to help their fighter, or for TV. I did this to help them replenish fluids and electrolytes but it is abused. The fighters us it as a crutch. If the boxers fought in the right weight class for their body size it wouldn’t matter. The weigh in could be anytime. Going back to the morning of the fight would be more uniform. It would decrease abuse. A welterweight should not go into the ring weighing not much more than 147 it is a crime when a kid weighs almost 160 pounds”, (Stradley, 2009 : 84). It is interesting to see that Dr Homansky was the man who instigated the move of bringing the weigh-in forward but is now one of the main people battling against the abuse of the system.
Gamache was knocked down twice in round one and suffered a violent display in round two that Woods (2010) believes he was lucky not to of die from. During the fight it appeared that Gamache’s punches had no effect on Gatti in contrast Gatti threw punches that would not normally hurt a fighter but they hurt Gamache, (Youtube, 2009). The ringside commentators commented on Gatti’s weight and physique as it was evident from just looking at the fighters that their weight difference was more than would normally be expected, (Youtube, 2009). Gamache’s injuries were permanent and he never fought again after suffering brain damage as a result of the fight, (Woods, 2010).
Gamache wanted justice as he believed that the controversial weigh-in and the amount of weight gained by Gatti was the primary cause of his permanent injuries, (Woods, 2010). Ten years of legal battle against the New York State Athletic Commission resulted in the Judge Melvin Schweitzer ruling in favour of Gamache believing that the New York State Athletic Commission were negligent at the official weigh-in and by not enforcing the 12 pound limit rule for welterweights, (fightnews, 2010). Although Gamache won the court case he did not seek any compensation from the athletic commission which meant the commission did not suffer any punishment and weigh-ins continue to be handled in the same manner the day before the fight, (Woods, 2010).
Ali Funeka has twice been placed into the situation that after months of training and intense weight loss his opposing fighter has failed to slim down to the correct weight and he has gone ahead with the fight, (Willinger, 2010). February 14th 2009 title-holder Nate Campbell failed to make the weight when fighting Ali Funeka however as it was the main-event he was allowed two hours to lose the three pounds in which he lost just six ounces, (Stradley, 2010). The boxing commission ruled that if Campbell won the fight then the belts would become vacant however if Funeka won the fight then he would win the titles, (Stradley, 2010).
In March 2010 Joan Guzman weighed in at 144 pounds against Ali Funeka when the weight limit was 135 pounds, (Willinger, 2010). Funeka was placed in a situation that if he did not fight then he would not get paid as all ticket sales and viewing subscriptions would either be refunded or go to the bout moved to the main event slot, (Goodman, 2010). Despite this fight taking place less than two months after the court ruled negligence against the New York State Athletic Commission the same commission allowed this fight to continue amending the rules so that Guzman could not rehydrate higher than 150 pounds whereas Funeka was only allowed to rehydrate to 145 pounds, (Willinger, 2010). This meant that Funeka was unable to start the fight on the same terms as Guzman. Dr Goodman (2010 : 122) believed that the commission placed Funeka’s health at risk also stating “ I do not dispute the discipline needed by a boxer to make weight. But if a fighter uses a dangerous means to drop weight or competes in the wrong weight class, it contributes to poor performance, dehydration, slowed reflexes, and possible susceptibility to brain damage”.
The fight between Funeka and Guzman was a rematch from their November 2009 fight that ended in a draw, (Willinger, 2010). Willinger (2010) believed that in the second fight Guzman was able to brush off punches that seriously affected him in the first fight also stating “Fighting as a welterweight, the lightweight punches of Funeka just didn’t have the same effect as they did when they both weighed in as lightweights”. Funeka has been knocked down just three times in his career, ironically all by opponents who have failed to make the weight but have still been able to earn money despite failure to comply with the weight limitation rules, (Willinger, 2010).
The difference in boxing between a knockout and a technical knockout is that a knockout is the result of one punch where the fighter cannot or chooses not to beat the count whereas a technical knockout is when the fighter can beat the count or the fight is stopped due to one boxer taking too much punishment. Quite often in fights with a heavier fighter the result is decided by a technical knockout or a series of knockdowns before the final knockout which has the same effect.
Knockouts are caused by the head either accelerating or being decelerated for example when Hasim Rahman knockout out Lennox Lewis his fist hit Lewis head which accelerated his head sideways, (Goodman, 2009). In contrast Samuel Peter’s punch knocked down Jeremy Williams but Williams was knocked unconscious by the rings canvas stopping his head suddenly as he fell, (Goodman, 2009). Goodman (2009 : 123) defines the health differences between the two as “ With a blow to the head, the brain is compressed, and blood flow is disrupted. If significant, the individual passes out. This allows the brain time to reboot and re-establish complete blood flow while stopping further punishment. In a technical knockout, the initial blows are not severe enough to result in loss of consciousness. Nonetheless, the fighter’s defences are lessened, which increases their susceptibility to chronic irreversible brain damage”. Dr Margaret Goodman’s comments suggest that a much heavier opponent could increase the likelihood of permanent injury.
It is widely perceived by boxers that performance is increased by fighting at the lowest weight that the body can decrease to. However studies performed by Hall and Lane (2001) show that this is not the case, although there is also not a significant decrease in performance either. To evidence this Hall and Lane experimented with amateur boxers asking them to perform tasks at their training weight and their chosen championship weight which they compete at and found that the number of repetitions slightly decreased at their championship weight as shown in chart two. To ensure that weight loss is achieved it is common for boxers to do extensive training consuming just one meal a day, train daily wearing sweat suits, no food or drink for two days prior to a weigh-in and use sweat suits whilst performing low intensity exercises in the hour prior to the weigh-in, (Morton, Robertson, Sutton and MacLaren, 2010). With the assumed view of trying to make the lowest possible weight to fight lies a lot of the problems surrounding the weigh-in for boxers. This opinion is shared by Dr. Goodman who states “The weigh-in was changed for the right reasons to the day before, but the fighter have abused the system. As a result many have permanently abused their bodies and metabolisms. Many have eating disorders from all the yo-yo dieting started in the amateurs, and consider eating their reward, like Ricky Hatton”, Stradley (2009 :83).
Chart Two – Comparison of performance and self set goals at training weight and championship weight, (Hall and Lane, 2001).
More severe punishments may need to be dealt to those responsible for the fighter entering the ring overweight. The issue that the authorities face is that by cancelling the fight it also means no money for the innocent fighter. However would the innocent fighter be able to sue in this instance for loss of earnings through no fault of their own? In theory this seems a viable option however it may taint the innocent fighter’s reputation as it would be him that pulled out of the fight although fighting the fight may present more of a risk. Dr Homansky states “If a fighter doesn’t make weight, cancel the fight. Fine the fighter, manager, and promoter. Give the money to the opponent”, (Stradley, 2009 : 83).
If Homansky’s opinion came true then this may eradicate the issue in the long run as a fighter who does not make weight will not only not earn any money but will lose money despite three months training. This will also ensure the television subscribers and spectators who have purchased their tickets will be able to have a refund of some of the money they paid.
This however does not answer the original question of whether weigh-ins should be the day before or the morning of the fight although it may start to educate boxers. Homansky’s idea of moving the weigh-in forward was to help replenish fluids and other minerals that may have been lost whilst weight was rapidly lost as it was dangerous for fighter to fight dehydrated, (Stradley, 2009). This would still be the case if the fight was moved back to the morning of the fight again so potentially Goodman’s idea of the second weigh-in should be trialled, (Stradley, 2009).
This would allow for rehydration and can allow the commissions to control the fighters ring weight more. An example of this could be if the initial weigh-in limit was 141 pounds sports scientists may determine that reasonable hydration and weight increase would be six pounds allowing both fighters to rehydrate to 147 pounds.The commission would not want to call the fight off just hours before a penalty could be enforced if the fighter weigh’s in within certain limits, for example if the fighter weighs at 148 pounds they surrender 25% of their purse and 50% of their purse if the weigh in at 149 pounds. Anything above 149 pounds could be deemed to high and then the fight should be called off. This should not present a problem for fighters as there is a significant enough of an increase which may solve Nevada State Athletic Commission’s Keith Kizer’s argument of “I’ve spoken to fighters who say they can’t sleep before the first weigh-in. To have a second weigh-in means you’ll have fighter operation on no sleep for two or three days”, (Stradley, 2009 : 84). It could be assumed that if a fighter is gaining more than six pounds in 24 hours then they are either fighting in a weight they should not be allowed to fight in or are trying to gain an unfair advantage by doing more than rehydrating.
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