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FALKENTALK: Toe-to-Toe Edition – A Debate on Weigh-Ins

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Saturday’s upcoming super middleweight bout between Canelo Alvarez of San Diego (sure, Mexico, but I’m claiming him for my hometown) and Caleb Plant of Las Vegas (right, from Nashville but he lives and trains in Sin City) is hailed as the first unification fight in the division in the four-belt era. Notable to be sure.

Notable in a more meaningful sense for fans: Friday’s weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena will be the first allowing fans to attend since the start of the pandemic 20 months ago. The last was for Fury v Wilder 2.

Weigh-ins are a vital cog in the boxing machine for obvious reasons. Making weight frequently becomes the focus of training rather than honing skills. Debates rage on about the tactics and safety surrounding the scale, including right here at NYFights.com.

Colleague Abraham Gonzalez and I decided to have a go at the eternal questions surrounding weigh-ins: Public admitted or not?

Same-day or day prior?

Where does business outrank safety?

It’s a three-round fight, no headgear. Let’s go.

ROUND ONE: Party on?

Abe Gonzalez says the Pacquiao vs. Ugas weigh-in suffered due to a lack of fans. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

ABE: When it comes to public weigh-ins, I am all for it. It is a more significant part of the promotion than what people may think it is. The days of high-volume ticket purchases in advance are long gone.

The hype for the fight begins the week of, and the ticket sales spike before and after the weigh-in.

The wrestling sports entertainment business puts on events before their PPV called “The Go Home” show which drives the purchase of the upcoming PPV.

The weigh-in is the “go home” show for boxing, and when the fans are in attendance for these, it brings a certain level of energy to it. When the fans aren’t around, it gives the library vibe, and I’m almost expecting someone to walk by the stage with a book cart. That’s how I felt during the Pacquiao vs. Ugas weigh-in. It was so quiet that I could almost hear my thoughts.

The sport as a whole needs public weigh-ins as they drive the interest and business for the cards that need support. Support means asses in seats, and energy, because there are so many entertainment/distraction options, that people need consistent and firm encouragement to choose boxing over PlayStation, crypto, porn, etc.

Jose Zepeda (left) and Josue Vargas got into it during their face-off and had to be pulled apart by security. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

GAYLE: The great boxing hype machine must believe letting in the fans helps sell a big PPV fight. It creates a festive atmosphere in the arena the boxing media covers and fans watching live at home get to see, generating enthusiasm for slapping down $70 or more. Eh, I’m not so sure.

It might be fun for the few thousand fans who show up, but it’s a PITA to staff and open the arena and manage the crowd.

It’s free to the fans, but it’s not free to the venue and promoters who have to pay for security starting hours before the fight as people clog the hallways to stand in line. Worse, the unruly types egg on the fighters. Cool characters ignore them. Hotheads do stupid things like throw punches.

Eventually, a big money fight’s going to get canceled because someone gets injured as a result of this unnecessary circus.

If you really need a public weigh-in to hype a fight, you haven’t done your job the previous two months. I wouldn’t care if we ever had another public weigh-in.

ROUND TWO: Hitting the scale

debate on weigh-ins

Fans cram a Mandalay Bay ballroom for the Canelo Alvarez vs. Miguel Cotto weigh-in. Photo: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal

ABE: This brings me to the topic of same-day weigh-ins. For the reasons I previously stated, same-day weigh-ins would not be suitable for the business of boxing. You need those twenty-four hours for the bookies, ticket and merchandise vendors to get those last-minute purchases from the fans.

I reached out to veteran ticket seller Jim Boone, and he had this to say about the current market. “Boxing has always been an event that people wait until the last minute to purchase. Anytime there is a decent or big fight, literally minutes after they get off the scale, we see a spike in ticket purchases,” Boone said. “The public is smart enough to ensure that the fighters are going to make weight before purchasing a ticket.”

Same day weigh-ins would hurt the business of boxing these days but more importantly, would put fighters at more of a risk as some will still try to cut weight at the last minute the wrong way.

Canelo Alvarez flattened Amir Khan in 2016, helped by a 20-pound weight difference. Photo: Tom Hogan. Golden Boy Boxingv

Canelo Alvarez flattened Amir Khan in 2016, helped by a 20-pound weight difference. Photo: Tom Hogan. Golden Boy Boxing

GAYLE: Same-day weigh-ins bit the dust because of HBO Boxing. In 1983, Eddie Mustapha Muhammad blew through the light heavyweight limit for his fight against Michael Spinks. Muhammad proposed making it a non-title bout. Spinks said oh hell no – because he’d done the work to make weight. HBO was left holding the bag. Along with the sanctioning bodies and commissions, the shift was made to weigh-ins the day prior.

Fighters quickly learned they could game the system. Training camp turned into The Biggest Loser. Athletes dehydrate themselves to make weight, then blow back up to (in theory) have an advantage over an opponent who is a more “natural” fit in the division.

Canelo has done this himself. Recall his fight against Amir Khan at junior middleweight. Canelo weighed every bit of 180 pounds the day of the fight, Khan perhaps in the low 160s at best. Canelo drilled Khan to the canvas in the sixth round. Khan is fortunate he wasn’t permanently injured.

Same day weigh-ins still exist in Pennsylvania, except for title fights. In title fights, the athletes weigh in the day before, and again the day of the fight. They can’t gain more than 10 pounds over the fight weigh-in. The participants seem to handle it without a problem, which tells me all fighters could adjust to a new reality.

If we really need the hype, I’d like to see weigh-ins one week prior to fight night, and a fighter must then be within a specific percentage of the weight limit, say 15%. The “official” weigh-in takes place the day prior, and the final weigh-in takes place the morning of the bout with an upper limit on the weight gain.

Currently, the IBF requires the same-day weigh-in for title fights. If fighters can’t conform, they’ll need to move up a division, which is exactly what needs to happen for everyone’s safety. Why bother with weight limits when we really have no control over the weight of the two fighters as they step into the ring?

I’m backed up on this by noted boxing medical expert Dr. Margaret Goodman, veteran ringside physician and founder and chair of the Voluntary Anti- Doping Association (VADA), who backs same-day weigh-ins. In an interview in RING Magazine, Goodman says she’s not as concerned about dehydration as about the abuse during training camp to make weight through starving, diuretics, or overtraining.

Fighters who game the weight situation cheat the sport, cheat the fans and cheat themselves. I don’t want to see it.

ROUND THREE: The money team

Fans jammed the MGM Grand Garden Arena to see the Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. weigh-in. How many bought tickets or the PPV? Photo: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal debate on weigh-ins

Fans jammed the MGM Grand Garden Arena to see the Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. weigh-in. How many bought tickets or the PPV? Photo: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal

GAYLE: Boxing is in the entertainment business. I’m fully aware of this. Boxing promoters believe the public spectacle of the weigh-in the day prior to the fight makes for better profits. It’s not likely to change anytime soon. But I’m not sure there’s all that much revenue to be gained. How many fans really decide to buy a ticket or the PPV based ONLY on the public weigh-in the day prior?

I’d love to see the analytics on the bump in PPV sales on Friday afternoons. I doubt it happens. So if there’s truly no money bump, why not make fairness and safety a priority? Oh my LORD, I wrote that out loud. What a concept.

At the least, boxing commissions and sanctioning organizations need to institute the same-day rehydration check-in as a mandatory requirement.

Let’s try to prevent watching a 180-pound fighter cheat the scale and flatten a guy he outweighs by 20 pounds.

Fury and Schwarz face off at their weigh in, the day before they fight at MGM.

Tyson Fury and Tom Schwarz face off at their weigh-in on June 15, 2019.

ABE: The business of boxing would suffer, and as a sport, same-day weigh-ins may decrease the number of fighters who squeeze down to a lower weight class to have an advantage. However, it could also potentially increase cases of brain damage from dehydrated fighters.

The current process allows for 24-hour rehydration, and even then, that isn’t enough for certain fighters. I don’t know if there is a perfect scenario, but the current way of doing business is probably the best way for now.

You’re the judge, NYF reader. Ten-point must system, score knockdowns and fouls at your discretion. Post your scorecard on Twitter!

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