In the second edition to this investigation, we speak to some of New Zealand’s key boxing figures to find out their opinions, concerns and experiences over weigh-ins as a whole leading into a fight.
One thing that rings true to fighters, both current and former, is that weigh-ins is not spoken about enough. We have recognised that a fighter must go through a mixture of intense training, strict dieting, and immense conditioning to ensure they are in prime shape both mentally and physically and most importantly that they make weight for any upcoming fight, but we rarely hear about the lengths taken to get there. You may be very surprised to hear about some methods athletes have taken for a fight and or title shot.
Firstly we asked New Zealand Super 8 Heavyweight champion Kali Meehan his thoughts ahead of his upcoming title bout against heavyweight boxing champion Joseph Parker, “So many fighters have to make weight in their careers that more information and knowledge should be shared around regarding this topic, mainly because I believe it can be a dangerous part of Boxing if not done right. This is a sensitive topic that's why I think as much knowledge, experience, and information should be learnt and shared so fighters go into their weigh in on top of the world, confident, ready for battle, feeling strong, so when you look at your opponent face to face you feel invincible, like a warrior knowing the next time you see your opponent it will be in the ring.”
Many will say that although morally this rings true, in reality this is the nature of the beast in fight sport and that it is very normal for fighters to work hard, train hard and become “zoned” to make weight. But what many don’t realise is that sometimes these weight restrictions are not a comfortable fit for the fighter in question, even if they fought in that division before. The reality is, weight fluctuates for a fighter as it does with any mere mortal. Age, stress, injury, emotion affects us all and in these cases, even some of our stars in boxing go that extra mile to win their belts. Former Female IBF World Welterweight champion Daniella Smith exclusively shares a story with us on a time she went to drastic measures to make weight. “Vs Kelly Halling 2003: I decided to go down two weight divisions to fight the current NZ light weight champ. This was a big fight in NZ women's boxing. I had to lose 7kgs in one day. As an amateur boxer you fight the same day as the weigh in and in this case a couple of hours after weigh in. After spending the whole day in the sauna, I went straight from the sauna to the venue to weigh in. No food or fluid for 2 days totally dehydrated and looking like death I finally made weight. As fighters we can't show weakness or let our opponents know the torture we went through to make weight. We put on a 'Poker Face' and act like we don't have a worry in the world.” Smith explains, “Straight after the weigh in I stupidly gorged myself with food and skulled litres of fluid as my mouth was so dry from not drinking any fluid for the last two days. Three hours later I was in the ring fighting. I felt like crap, my legs were heavy and I was still bloated from eating so much. I won this fight, not in great style or anywhere near my best, however this is boxing and a win is a win.”
A great way in educating the issue to fighters (in any code) is to share those stories and experiences. Former K1 fighter and current fight sport commentator Mike Angove also touches base on this topic stating, “As a fighter I always fought at my fit walk around weight and only cut in my 3rd fight when I arrived at a venue and was offered a title fight against an opponent with 18 more bouts, so I skipped off 300 grams to make the title weight. Other than that I fought at 86-87 kilos my whole career including when I fought Super Heavyweight - in fact I gave away 32 kilos in one world title fight. In my opinion fighting people above your natural weight and testing your skills against them is far braver and more of a challenge than cutting to beat up on smaller fighters. Jason Suttie and Ray Sefo are both examples of fighters who started at a lighter weight and fought up - Sefo started at Light Heavy and Suttie at Super Middleweight and almost always gave away physical advantages - which earn my respect more than significant weight cutters.”
Interestingly enough as this piece was being written; rules have come into effect under the US Anti-Doping Agency that as of October 1st 2015 they are banning IV Intravenous rehydration methods in the UFC after weighing ins. This is a common way in which fighters replenish the body of fluids after weigh in. In terms of food and water intake however – seems like our experts all support the age old way of nutrition. Angove says “I have no issues with a fighter dieting to reach an optimal body fat ratio using healthy nutrition. However when it comes to the final week before a weigh in I have issues with extreme calorific restriction, water loading, diuretics, saunas, salt baths, sweat suits among other practices to make a weight category.” He explains, “UFC commentator Joe Rogan has recently called the practice legalized cheating and I agree.”
Smith reflects back on her fights and the preparation methods and says, "I wish I had the nutritional knowledge I have now."
In closing many fighters have endured many challenges, as we move more towards the modern age of boxing and fight sport in general. Resources, advice, methods by way of science in particular has become more accessible and "normal" via the internet and various other avenues.
Aged 45, Meehan will once again set foot on the scale for the 45th time in his professional career October 14th in Auckland, New Zealand and will come face to face with New Zealand’s world heavyweight champion prospect Joseph Parker. As a current professional both boxing in the ring and training other fighters, he calmly accepts the challenge and has this advice for any fighter coming through the ranks, “Weighing in should be a beautiful place, as it’s the beginning of fight time. To any fighter struggling to make weight I recommend only doing it if you can do it while still drinking adequate water. So many fighters go without water to make weight. I believe it's better to fight up a division fully hydrated, than to go into a fight dehydrated.”