Mayweather’s Blunder May Put an End to Catchweights

By Michael Herron: Immediately following Floyd Mayweather, Jr’s dominant victory over WBO lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, HBO analyst Max Kellerman proceeded to ask the question that is on every boxing fan’s mind, “why didn’t Mayweather honor the catchweight agreement?” Before a suitable answer could be pried out of Mayweather the interview came to a screeching halt courtesy of an unexpected bumrush by Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins. Though Mayweather has received much criticism for weighing in at 146, two pounds above the 144 lb agreement, is it possible that his failure to make weight may have a positive impact on the sport?

Why are catchweights a part of boxing? In an era where boxing fans have become disillusioned with the high number of title belts, sanctioning bodies, and weight classes previously established, the sport adds yet another oddity called the catchweight.. Though the concept of catchweights have been a part of boxing for quite sometime this year has seen it grow into an infamous topic which has dominated headlines and soured the two most high profile fights of the year, Mayweather-Marquez and Pacquiao-Cotto. Simply put, in 2009, when we are talking about catchweights, we are talking about multi-division champions Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. No disrespect to either of these great champions but weight classes, as Emmanuel Steward pointed out during last weekend’s telecast, “where established for a reason,” to even the playing field by matching fighters of natural size and weight. The catchweight concept however defies this logic and is specifically designed to cripple the natural weight and abilities of one fighter while augmenting the other.

It seems that the current catchweight phenomena can easily be traced to Manny Pacquiao’s one sided drubbing of Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008. Though this fight did not take place at a so-called catchweight, De La Hoya was required to drain from the junior middleweight limit of 154 where he has campaigned for many years, and down to the welterweight limit of 147 to face Pacquiao who moved up from lightweight to take the challenge. Oscar, to his detriment, would weigh in at 145 lbs and suffer the worse and perhaps final loss of his storied career. Following this victory, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, feeling like a genius, decided that catchweights would be their way of gaining an advantage over the bigger and more popular welterweight titlists who represent big money opportunities for his fighter. Not to be undone, Pacquiao’s arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez, clearly wanting to make his own statement at welterweight, used the catchweight theory in an effort to outflank Floyd Mayweather Jr., who prior to retiring from the sport was universally regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing.

Mayweather, long considered a small welterweight who could easily make the catchweight agreement of 144, shocked the boxing world when he weighed in this past weekend at 146. Typically when a fighter fails to make weight they will be given an opportunity to burn off the extra pounds and step on the scales again. Mayweather, unexpectedly, opted to take a financial penalty rather than lose a few pounds. As a result, he weighed in as a true welterweight and fought as a true welterweight. In what looks like pure arrogance and stacking the deck against Marquez perhaps Mayweather by chance has made a powerful statement regarding catchweights; Catchweights are not a weight class! In retrospect, it is possible that his blunder may have a lasting impact on the sport. It would come as no surprise if more fighters expected to make catchweights simply opts to take a financial hit rather than risk a meltdown like that suffered by Oscar De La Hoya.

Mayweather’s failure to make weight will almost certainly affect the upcoming Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto fight. Like Mayweather-Marquez, this fight is also based on a catchweight. Cotto is expected to have an even tougher time making the agreed weight of 145. If Mayweather can ignore the catchweight then surely Cotto can as well. In fact it may be wise for Cotto to come in at 147 considering he is a naturally big welterweight who has often been stunned and hurt when fighting in a lighter division. Why help Pacquiao defeat you by coming in dehydrated and weak? In my opinion, if a fighter can not handle welterweight, then do not fight in the division. The limit is 147 and there is no need to change, augment, or ignore this fact. After all, in addition to the traditional weight divisions in boxing there is also “junior” and “super” weight classes placed in between. Certainly Marquez and Pacquiao could find great fights at 140, junior middleweight titlists Tim Bradley and Devon Alexander would love a shot at either of them.

How can the boxing community find fault with a welterweight weighing in as a welterweight? Neither Mayweather nor Cotto required the aid of catchweights as they moved up and contrary to what Freddie Roach may think, catchweights are not slick, smart, or genius; in reality it is a sign of weakness. Fighters looking for a challenge at higher weights should enter divisions just as fighters did in the past, with dignity. There is no greater honor than beating a world class fighter at his best, not his dehydrated worse.

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Article posted on 23.09.2009

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