Boxing has an ongoing duty of care for its competitors, but an array of governing bodies doesn’t make for a unified approach to their health and safety.
One of the biggest issues the sport has had to face in recent years is controlling the weight of boxers, many of whom bulk up between bouts and shed pounds drastically ahead of their next fight.
Some need to crash diet because they want to pursue lucrative opportunities in weight divisions which are much lighter than their natural mass
As the average human body is around 50-65% water, this means fighters can risk serious dehydration, and this can be life-threatening in a long, exhausting contest in which they sweat out even more weight.
However, the World Boxing Council (WBC) has decided to lead the way in tackling the problem.
The governing body, whose belts are viewed as the most prestigious in world boxing, has introduced four new rules to control and maintain boxer’s weights. They are:
- 1. “Mandatory disclosure of both fighters weight at the at the time of agreement for a fight”- which means both boxers competing in the bout must submit their exact weight at the time of signing for the fight
- “All fighters competing in WBC sanctioned fights weight will be checked at three different check points and must weigh-in within a specific weight”.
- ‘30 days before the fight a fighter must be within 10% of the limit.’
- ’14 days before the fight a fighter must be within 5% of the limit.’
- ‘7 days before the fight a fighter must be within 3% of the limit.’
Which means if a boxer fights at middleweight (160lbs) after 30 days they cannot be more than 176lbs which is 10% of the weight limit.
- “The promoter of the bout must arrange with the WBC and the boxing commission for the fight, to have a scale at the venue so fighters can be weighed on arrival. Boxers must not be above 10% of the weight weighed-in on the official weigh in.”
Which means both boxers will be weighed again, the moment they arrive at the fight venue, and they cannot weigh above of 10% of the limit.
4. “The WBC have various sanctions and penalties for failure to oblige by these rules.” The sanctions are:
- Failure of rules 1 and 2 will result in fines up to $5,000
- Failure could result in the withdrawal of sanctioning the fight.
- Failure of rule 3 could result in fines of 30% of a fighter’s purse.
The WBC has taken action to more closely monitor fighters’ weight loss and re-hydration. Many put their bodies through unhealthy regimes, including not eating for prolong periods, just to fight at an unnatural weight, so they are dehydrated and weakened even before a punch is thrown.
In 2013, Tony Bellew took on Adonis Stevenson for his WBC light-heavyweight title. This was Bellew’s first-ever shot at a world title, so he went through an extreme regime in order to make weight. He duly suffered a devastating knock-out.
There have been several cases where fighters have stripped a ridiculous amount of weight in order to fight at a lighter weight. So, the inclusion of the first two rules ensure that fighters are losing weight at a steady level that is monitored by the WBC.
The third rule especially, has been introduced to ensure fighters are rehydrating correctly. There have also been many cases where boxers have shredded to make the weigh-in but then re-hydrate too quickly and put on several pounds between the weigh-in and fight.
In 2015, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez took on Amir Khan at a catch-weight of 155lbs. At the time, it was common knowledge in boxing circles that the Mexican could no longer comfortably make this weight. Despite this, he weighed-in at 155lbs exactly. However, it is believed that on the day of the fight, he was 20lbs heavier.
These rumours may not be true, but Canelo was remarkable bigger. So it came as no surprise when Khan was left unconscious on the canvas.
The rule aims to protect fighters in the ring, as boxers will not be allowed to rehydrate to an extreme extent, and the likes of Khan won’t be fighting guys three weight-classes above them.
It’s convenient for the ‘cash-cow’ Canelo that the WBC have introduced these rules after his move up to a higher weight division, but its probably coincidental…
Nonetheless, boxing will surely continue to have issue with fighters’ weights as many hop between the divisions in order to mop up world titles and guarantee themselves big paydays.
The International Boxing Federation (IBF) has also tried its hand at tackling this dilemma by introducing its own rehydration rule, under which a fighter will be weighed the day after the official weigh in, and they cannot weigh 10lbs over the limit.
Many IBF belt holders have been stripped of their titles due to failure to comply. However, despite the IBF’s strict policy, it is not without its flaws.
‘How can a fighter weighing 200lbs have the same rehydration allowance as a man weigh 125lbs?’
One of the biggest criticisms is the fact that a fighter was weighed on the morning after the weigh-in, which meant they still have several hours re-hydrate and bulk up before the fight.
However, the WBC seem to have tackled that problem head on by weighing fighters on arrival at the venue.
Another way the WBC seemed to have bettered the IBF, is the inclusion of a weight percentage. The IBF’s allowance for rehydration is 10lb,s which creates a even greater problem.
How can a fighter weighing 200lbs have the same rehydration allowance as a man weigh 125lbs? An additional 10lbs for a cruiserweight does not have the same effect as it will for a featherweight.
This is why the WBC have decided to have a 10% percentage weight allowance, which allows a specific amount based on the individual’s weight class.
The WBC’s new rules may have a positive impact on the sport over time, however there have been a few eyebrows raised. The biggest issue when it comes to these new rules are the sanctions.
Many fighters will not be afraid to fall fouls of rules 1 and 2 as the penalty isn’t very high. Are boxers earning tens of millions really going to worry about a $5,000 fine?