LOS ANGELES-When WBO featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez opted to fight a vastly overweight Scott Quigg of England, little did he foresee the future consequences of a broken jaw, bloody mouth and two badly swollen eyes.
His manager Frank Espinoza feared the worst for his fighter Valdez and those fears materialized in blood and pain that rainy evening on March 10.
“Quigg looked huge that night. He looked like a welterweight,” said Espinoza of Valdez’s opponent at the StubHub Center. “While I advised Valdez not to take the fight against Quigg, it was ultimately Valdez’s choice. What’s a fighter to do when they’ve worked so hard and spent months preparing for a fight?”
It took severe instances like this and countless more in the world of boxing to entice the heads of the most powerful sanctioning organizations WBA, WBC, WBO,IBO, and IBF to meet in one room on Thursday morning. The problem on their plate: unhealthy weight cutting leading to size disadvantages and unhealthy situations including the dangerous use of intravenous injections to rehydrate.
Under current rules next day weigh-ins are not mandatory and no rules exist that limit weight gains for fighters on fight day.
On Thursday morning at the offices of the California State Athletic Commission in Los Angeles, the bosses of the top boxing sanctioning organizations, plus a Showtime vice president, a leading California matchmaker, the head of the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combat Sports, members of the CSAC, and a few journalists met to discuss the overwhelming problem of unhealthy weight cutting and the problems it causes in the prize ring.
It was a meeting of the boxing bosses of the world.
Study on Weight Cutting
“We began a study of mixed martial arts and we’ve been watching it for a while since 2014. We decided to expand that to boxers,” said Andy Foster, CSAC Executive Officer. “The hypothesis we drew is that weight cutting has become a problem in the sport of boxing.”
The four-year study showed that more than 25 percent of boxers gained more than 10 percent in weight after being weighed the day before, thus leading to size disadvantages as seen when Mexico’s Valdez fought England’s Quigg at the StubHub Center. It also can lead to serious problems in the prize ring because of various tactics used to make weight limits.
It’s not just in big promoted events but even the smaller club shows.
“It’s everybody,” said Foster, adding that 164 of 754 tested exceeded more than 10 percent in weight gain and many as high as 18 percent.
Dr. Paul Wallace, who has worked in boxing for more than 20 years, said he’s seen the various tactics throughout his experience in California prize rings.
“It’s such a big problem, dehydration, 15 percent of water loss that person should be hospitalized,” said Wallace the head physician for CSAC. “Twenty-seven percent (are doing this) then regaining that in 24 hours, then fighting a championship fight? They are really putting their lives at risk.”
Power of Sanctioning Organizations
CSAC invited the various heads of the most powerful sanctioning organizations because of their influence. Most prizefighters fight to win championships or earn higher purses for their performances. Rankings are extremely important for prizefighters and each sanctioning organization such as the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council, World Boxing Organization, International Boxing Federation, International Boxing Organization, all have rankings for fighters around the world including North America.
Their cooperation is a necessity to make any important changes in the world of boxing.
The IBF said they already use weigh-ins the day before and after and are on board to support changes and share data with the Association of Boxing Commissions. The New Jersey-based IBF also penalize any fighter, including champions, for exceeding more weight depending on their weight division. For champions under 140 pounds they cannot exceed more than seven and a half pounds. For those 147 pounds and more they cannot exceed 10 percent of their weight. The IBF can strip champions if they fail to adhere to their rules. They also agreed to work together with ABC to make changes
All of the other major sanctioning groups present also agreed rapid dehydration and rehydration practices need to be addressed in prizefighting.
Dr. Wallace said a number of dangerous repercussions occur due to rapid weight loss and gain, including decreased blood flow that slows down muscle function, leads to heat cramps, decreased kidney function and it can also lead to brain injury such as brain bleeds and concussion.
But there are potholes in changing the rules.
Setting a limit and penalizing those prizefighters that fail to adhere to those limits is the tricky part, especially on a televised championship card. Losing a televised main event fight could lead to cancellation of an event and drastically impact viewership for future fight cards.
“I won’t lie; as a TV executive that is a nightmare,” said Stephen Espinoza of Showtime Boxing. “But really I’d like to look at this as not a TV issue but a fan issue.”
All of the sanctioning bodies consented to work with the ABC and look further into how to solve the problem of severe weight loss and gain. They also agree to cooperate in finding the proper remedy without drastically impairing the sport.
“It’s a one shot deal that boxing has a shot to fix this,” said Foster. “The days of gaining an advantage should be over.”
Fighters like Valdez and many others will benefit from these changes.
“This industry and our standards should never have to put our fighters in a tough spot,” said Frank Espinoza who manages Valdez and several other prizefighters. “The fighters need to trust that we have their best interest in mind.”
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