The tipping point
In a rather significant rule change, starting next year, boxers at the world championship level in the United States will be required to go through a second-day weigh-in, similar to the rules for IBF title fights that state boxers must be within 10 pounds of their weight limit the morning of their fights.
This new regulation was spearheaded by Andy Foster, the executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, who called for a summit of the four major sanctioning bodies, last June, to get them on board.
Foster told UCNLive.com this week, “For title fights, WBC, WBO, WBA, IBF, there needs to be a second day weigh-in. The WBC had put that in their ratings criteria guideline. If the sanctioning bodies choose not to follow that, then you’ll see me doing something else next year.
“But I suspect they will follow that because the ABC (the Association of Boxing Commissions) voted 42-to-1 pass it. Having said that, we’re going to have that, a second day weigh-in and we’ll go weigh (the fighters) in and if they’re more than 10 percent above where they fight at, the title shouldn’t be in contention because the ABC will consider them as having cheated the weight class and then, if they miss weight or something, they shouldn’t be able to fight for a world title in the next bout.”
Foster, a former combat participant himself, says the local commissions will determine what time of day these second weigh-ins will take place.
For Foster, who’s been tinkering with this idea for more than a year, the tipping point was last March when WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez faced Scott Quigg, who, in addition to not making the 126-pound weight limit, then refused to do a morning-of weigh-in with a hydration limit. By the time the two met at the StubHub Center in Carson, Quigg was technically a welterweight (142 pounds). In a physically bruising fight, Valdez sustained a fractured jaw.
When Valdez’s manager, Frank Espinoza, expressed his views on the situation with Foster, it further emboldened the latter to push for changes to this process. “Yes, it did,” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand this was already on my radar screen. You go back and look at what I was doing in MMA and I was already focused on boxing. I was starting to do all this stuff and then suddenly what you have happen is this situation happens and you have a manager calling, looking for help. I’d already been doing this in another sport I’m charged with regulating. So absolutely, it was a tipping point in the biggest way, really.”
“All I wanted to express was how unfair this was. My fighter made weight; we were more than willing to go through with the fight but we wanted Quigg to have a cap on just how much weight he could put on the next morning,” expressed Espinoza, who’s never afraid to make his voice heard. Many times in similar situations, the offending party will pay a fine and agree to weigh in the morning of the fight with a mutually agreed limit. For whatever reason, Quigg refused and Top Rank didn’t seem to really press the issue that hard.
With that, Valdez was between a rock and a hard place.
“Personally I was OK with canceling the fight but my fighter absolutely insisted that the fight goes on. My job is to protect my fighter and, really, all I was trying to do is ensure a level playing field, in that circumstance. It’s a shame that they didn’t want to comply but the problem is that there was nothing that could force them into that compromise. So the issue then became that the guy who played by the rules and made the sacrifice is the one being put at a further disadvantage,” continued Espinoza, who agrees with the new rule.
“All I’ve ever wanted for our fighters is a level playing field,” said Espinoza, who has managed a multitude of world champions in the past.
For years, Greg Sirb, the head of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission says, “It’s a step in the right direction but we need to do so much more. The whole concept seems to be, ‘We’ve got to give these guys time to re-hydrate, weigh them in early,’ and my whole thing is: Don’t let them dehydrate. that’s the problem.”
Pennsylvania has been doing the second-day weigh-in for championship bouts since 2009. For years, his state was the last to do weigh-ins on the morning of the fight but, as most other jurisdictions went to weigh-ins that took place the day before, it became harder to attract the major fights to the state. Nowadays for the big events, the weigh-in is used as a promotional tool. Sirb was the last of the Mohicans but he says now, “I’m really – and I’ve had conversations with other commissions on the East Coast – looking at going back to the day-of weigh-ins.”
However he is a realistic, adding, “You can’t afford to go on an island but if I can get four or five states to go with me…when you look at the states, particularly pre-1985, you didn’t have guys missing weight. There was very few.” Sirb believes that, under the traditional system, boxers understood that they needed to compete at their natural weight class to begin with. Now they try and game the system.
“They didn’t need to re-hydrate because they weren’t dehydrated,” Sirb pointed out.
But the genie is out of the bottle for good. Like it or not, same day weigh-ins are a long-gone relic from the sport, like having rosin on the canvas. And Foster states, “We’re not asking for the moon here, OK? A ’47-pounder can get 14.7 pounds back. If you’re more than that – you ain’t a welterweight.”
This does seem like a fair compromise of old and new.
“I believe it’s a meshing of the two systems,” opined Foster, who served on the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission from 2008 to 2012. “The first system was dangerous because people would cut a lot of weight. This system is dangerous because they cut a lot of weight and put it back fast and the (weight) cut is dangerous and the re-hydration is dangerous. The whole bit of it is dangerous and if they do it right and other guy didn’t do it, you have an unfair advantage.”
Foster admits – from his own experience – that every combat athlete cuts some weight but capping what he or she can regain will limit physical mismatches.
“It’s a reasonable compromise. We’re not going back to the same-day weigh-ins. I wouldn’t be supportive of that because my idea is that most people would comply with that but some people would still cut and then you got people getting hit in the head that are dehydrated,” Foster says.
“How’s that going to work? I don’t think that’s going to work out well.”
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