Now Weight Just a Minute: Comment On Jose Sulaiman Press Release

13.10.06 - By Wray Edwards - Photo © Wray Edwards. Just about two years ago I wrote here about one of Boxing’s most serious problems. The article, entitled “Micro Engineering the Weighting Game”, was prompted by the very obvious difficulties which were then being experienced by the sport’s participants as they made a travashamockery of the weight division system. On the ninth of this month the WBC issued a press release entitled “The World Of Boxing Needs To Look Into The Weigh In Situation.” YOU THINK?!!!

After at least three weigh-in disasters in the year just past, the WBC has finally turned its sleepy, little head “…to look at what needs to be done to correct the problems.” The history of the sport is replete with examples of weigh-in or weight change issues. From Roy Jones moving up to heavy, then back down to fight Tarver having had to lose not only fat but muscle to do so, to Mike Anchondo’s debacle with Barrios, Jose Castillo’s two fiascos with Corrales, and Chico’s most recent downfall versus Casamayor, the common thread was Boxing’s complete inability to control the weighting game.

If this issue is not resolved…the sport will die. Fans are getting really tired of this bait-and-switch mentality. There are, basically, two kinds of boxers when it comes to this topic. Absolute professionals who stay in shape pretty much all the time. This means that they train most of the time, even when they are not signed for a bout. They fight very near their walking around weight and do not have to endure heroic efforts to make weight in the division where they are ranked and may hold a title. Bernard Hopkins, Joel Casamayor, Randall Bailey and (you fill in the blank) are examples of such boxers.

The other type of boxer starves and steams, diets and diuretics, fasts and finagles, runs and ropes in the last week to ten days to make weight. These guys may even be champions for a while, but they habitually trim down massively before a weigh-in, then swill and gorge for the next twenty-four hours to restore some semblance of blood volume, electrolytic balance and nutritional stability for the fight. These are not professionals. They are from the yo-yo school of boxing where the students are taught that if you want, it is possible to weigh in as a lightweight and then enter the ring two divisions higher after fudging back up. Some boxers are ready-made for this hoax style. IMO Diego Corrales was one of the premier practitioners of this scam style. He was very tall (some said freakish) for his steps through the 126, 130 and 135 divisional efforts.

Chico was able to train and starve off twenty to twenty-five pounds for a weigh-in, appearing gaunt, pale and weak and then gain thirteen to fifteen pounds by fight time. Sports nutritionists have told me that this type of yo-yo existence is very debilitating to both immediate and long-term physical and mental health. This practice finally caught up with him as well as Castillo. A human’s body can only take so much abuse before it begins to consume itself in defending against unnatural nutritional rhythms. This immediate and long-term entropy also affects the emotional stability of the athlete.

At least for the present, IMO, Diego Corrales has experienced a premature disruption (if not ending) of his boxing career as a result of his weight-gaming. He is way too young to be suffering like this. Casamayor, Hopkins and others are proof that fighting more near one’s walking around weight and staying in shape often leads to a long career…even in the lighter weight divisions. The question is, “What is the optimum regimen of weight control and divisional selection for a ‘professional’ boxer?” Was Chico’s career built more on his ability to out-fox the divisional weight system better than others, or would he have been just as successful fighting closer to his walking around weight?

Of course there are somatic and metabolic differences from fighter to fighter, and somatic and metabolic differences for individual boxers throughout the course of their career. Some are suited to successfully tamper (for a while) with the vagaries of the divisional weight system as it presently stands, but is that the way things should be? Do we want a sport which calls a welterweight fight a lightweight fight? Do we want our sport’s young men and women to grow up thinking it’s OK to go to the scales after ghastly denial and purging, and then move up two or three divisions for the fight?

“As Boxing is the ultimate free agency game, it needs the ultimate in ethical and organizational controls. Otherwise, its current downward spiral will continue. This is not a pie-eating contest. It is a single combat, blood sport which operates on the bare edge of mortal survival. As such, its organizational skills are responsible for making life and death decisions. Electrolytic imbalances and blood volume swings of as much as thirty per cent, and other effects caused by the weight game, are intolerable burdens on boxer health, and threats to their safety which must be eradicated from the sport. Hey boxer, trainers and managers; just make the weight, long term. Otherwise, the whole division system is nothing more than a dangerous hoax.” (quoting myself)

Sulaiman says, “Joel Casamayor presented the corresponding requirements on the corresponding dates. Diego Corrales did not comply with the 30-day weigh-in, and the WBC sent a representative, Rudy Tellez, to weigh him in only 10 days before the bout, where Diego was found to weigh 144 pounds.” “Comply”? What an arrogant choice of word. “Was unable” was more like it and a kinder read of the facts. It wasn’t as if Chico was deliberately refusing to follow the rules. If the WBC wants to have the authority to use words like that, they better adopt a more realistic weight system based on safer observation of human factor limitations.

The WBC waited until ten days before the fight to check on him! Why did they wait twenty days? The sanctions should have an absolute responsibility to closely monitor a boxer’s weight progress, especially approaching a championship match for which the venue, the fans, the media and the other camp have made so many investments and commitments. Luckily I got back channel info on the pending disaster at Corrales/Castillo three and backed out of the travel, lodging and time expense just in the nick. Others were not so blessed and boxing suffered as a result.

The whole damned mess is the fault of the WBC, IBF, WBO, IBA, NABF and others who have tolerated and even encouraged this situation. Sulaiman also remarked, “If the promoters dedicate more time and effort to comply with the 30 and 7-day weigh-ins of fighters, it will result in a key of success.” In other words the promoters are to blame for not making more of an effort to make this corrupt and unhealthy weight sanction scam work better than it does. What are Gary Shaw, Dino Duva, Dan Goosen, Luis De Cubas, Shelley Finkel, Samson Lewkowicz, Oscar De La Hoya and others to do…abuse their fighters more effectively so they can make some absurd weight?

The answer is NO. Hopefully, when Sulaiman says,

“The World Boxing Council is very concerned with the latest example of a fighter not being able to make the official weight in a title fight. I have prepared several topics in regards to this, and hope that they are approved during the WBC's 44th Annual World Convention that will be held from October 29 to November 4 in Dubrovnik, Croatia” and,

“The WBC will look into the percentages that are currently used to have a final determination during the upcoming WBC World Medical Congress to be held in Cancun, Mexico, from January 24 to January 28, 2007.”

He means that changes will be made so that, for instance, a boxer may not gain more than five per cent of his body weight between weigh-in and fight-time. Also the WBC will monitor the weight of all boxers in the sanction by certified methods and will not allow any fighter to fight more than ten per cent below his walking around body weight. IMO boxing careers are being damaged, if not ruined altogether, by the status quo.

Roy Jones, Jose Castillo (who was lying on the stage in great agony), Diego Corrales (who thought he might have to go to the hospital as a result of his weight compliance efforts), and Mike Anchondo (who was evaluated by a pre-fight physician to have been quite ill from weight loss attempts) are all examples of the danger caused by the current laxity of the sanctions when it comes to training supervision and divisional standards. Boxing is hazardous enough without the added danger of having to first fight a battle with one’s own body, and risk medical complications just to qualify at some unrealistically low (for that fighter) arbitrary weight.

”Someday, and perhaps it has already happened, there are going to be fatal consequences from this practice, not to mention the wry joke it makes of the division system. It's scary enough that they're in there trying to hit the other guy so hard his brain functions scramble; at least let's do it under healthy conditions.” Of course the heavies don’t have to worry about weight limitations other than what it does to their fighting ability. As Kevin Kincaid remarked (paraphrase), “It was like watching the dance of The Fat Alberts” referring to Toney/Peter.

Here’s hoping that with some of the millions paid by boxers to the sanctions, some of that money is spent on close, concerned supervision of a safe, rational weight policy which justifies the sport and gets rid of the current, bogus practices. Perhaps that junket meeting in Cancun will actually make a difference for the better. The WBC might come a long way back from the terrific loss of credibility which resulted from its disastrous inability to professionally supervise its share of boxing during the last year. See you at the fights.

Article posted on 14.10.2006

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