The Unspoken Truth: Weight Cutting

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The Daniel “Miracle Man” Jacobs and GGG were part of one of the most controversial decisions in boxing this year, with one of the major talking points not only being the result itself but the fact that Daniel Jacobs missed the IBF next day weigh in, which meant he was not eligible to win the red and gold belt if he defeated Golovkin. This is also evident in the David Lemieux fight when the next day weigh in was avoided and ended in a spectacular but yet brutal knockout. Weight classes and weigh ins exist for a reason and they are in place to protect fighters, as Paulie Malignaggi has stated “Fighters are not action figures, you can’t just pull one guy from one weight class to fight another”. Adrien “The Problem “Broner was under immense scrutiny when not making weight against Ashley Theophane for the WBA light welterweight title.  Armchair champions of the world are very quick to judge fighters who don’t make weight and in some circumstances they are right. But weigh cutting is, for some fighters, more dangerous than the fight itself. It is a grey area that goes on behind closed doors. In studying sports science, in this article I will try to explain the sacrifice fighters make in weight cutting and the risks that are being taken with their lives.


The Cut

In the past when fighters leave weight classes and move up, the uneducated boxing fan will laugh or criticize when I say a fighter cannot make weight anymore or the fighter naturally grows out of the weight class. The usual moronic comments such as “He has made the weight his whole career so he can still make it” or “It’s not that difficult, he just needs to stay lean in off season” by people who have never laced up a pair of gloves or witnessed a fellow competitor cut for a fight. Regardless, if you are Floyd Mayweather or a local fighter, weight cutting is weight cutting and still holds the same dangers regardless of your ability as a fighter, pedigree and form of combat. Granted there are fighters who miss weight through incompetence or lack of discipline, but at one point in a fighter’s career they will be forced to move up in weight. Any veteran of the sport if you look at their resume has most likely been in at least 2 weight classes beforehand. But why is that?


Imagine you are keeping your body fat at 12%, year round, watching every meal you eat and training 3 times a day. You are weighing 163 pounds and about to fight at 147 pounds the next week. There is no fat to be lost and you are trying to hold as much muscle as you can. Now there is a serious problem.  So how does the weight get lost? WATER!!!! For heavier fighters, losing water weight is easier, as you can easily lose 10 pounds of water weight or even more. This is because so much more water covers much more muscle mass within the body. The highest areas of risk are at the lower weight classes and this is where there have been deaths with fighters making extreme weight cuts. When a smaller fighter (e.g. welterweight 147lbs) gets down to a certain weight after dehydrating themselves through water loading, saunas, towel rapping and hot baths they will reach a certain point where they have depleted their muscles of water. Some fighters will even go as far as colonic irrigation to clean out all the food in their intestines to get another pound off. At this moment, 5- 10 pounds of water must be lost and to dehydrate any further, this is when you are forced to dehydrate water from the vital organs start to lose water and bring your body literally to deaths door.  Outside boxing, you only have to look at Conor Mc Gregors post weigh in interviews against Chad Mendes that he is not in a healthy state.

Drug tests a lot of the time are not failed because of performance enhancements but because the fighter is taking illegal fat burners and diuretics to make the weight cut easier.


The Dangers


When weight cutting gets this extreme the liver becomes dehydrated, and the kidneys start to suck up and shrivel. Long term many fighters have had issues with their kidneys and had to receive treatment for the rest of their life. Within the skull there is a very small film of water surrounding the brain. This is also lost within the process, and studies have shown that after 48 hours of re-hydration the last area that becomes hydrated, is this area of the skull. Furthermore meaning you could be entering the ring without this film of water around the brain, in a sport were once again the objective is to get punched in the face.


Short term dangers are in abundance, you have fighters dying from severe heat stroke like 22 year old Jordan Donald 6 days ago in Thailand wearing a sweat suit trying to make weight. In BBCs documentary “The Weight cut” there was the mention of Brazilian MMA fighter Leandro Souza died after suffering a stroke in a sauna while trying to lose 15 kg in one week as well as China’s Yang Jian Bing was only 21 years old when his weight cut led to a fatal heart attack in 2015.


Why try and cut down to such a low weight class then?

This is the unfortunate and sad part of the fight game. Some of the most competitive and focused athletes in the world are boxers and will do anything to become a world champion. For example, if you walk around at 175lbs, weigh in at 147lb weight division, then the day of the fight you will most likely rehydrate to 160lbs. This gives you a massive advantage when fighting someone naturally smaller, but in most cases the guy/woman you’re fighting will be weighing the same as you come fight night. If these warriors where to fight at their walk around weight, they would be fighting opposition weighing in 10/20 pounds heavier than them i.e. a fully hydrated Kell Brook weighing in at 160lbs, and a GGG weighing in dehydrated 160lbs and rehydrating to 165/170lbs on fight night. 10 pounds might not seem like a lot of weight, but in a ring it is. Being the smaller guy, skill can carry you over for a certain amount of time, until eventually the bigger man will start to break you down, like the above fight mentioned.

What can be done to solve this?

The IBF have applied the next day weigh-ins which basically is making sure fighters don’t gain more than 10 pounds between the before day weigh in and when they walk into the ring, to protect both fighters. This should be applied across all weight classes and belt organizations in my opinion. Another option is having hydration tests at the time of the weigh ins. Meaning no fighter can weigh-in dehydrated, protecting themselves and others in the long and short term.

In conclusion, weight management in a fighter’s career is definitely a 52 week a year process. And all part of being a professional. Sometimes meals are all perfect, training camp is perfect and weight cutting is perfectly monitored. But, after this brutal process taking place multiple times a year, the body fights back and tries everything to prevent the vital organs getting damaged anymore. Furthermore, before you judge a fighter not making weight for a fight, understand the process before you make a comment.


One thought on “The Unspoken Truth: Weight Cutting

  • April 2, 2017 at 6:30 am

    Brilliant article

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