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Weigh – in time for the boxer

Dr. Calvin H. Inalsingh
M.B.,Ch.B University of Aberdeen
Dip. Sports Medicine

The taking of a boxer’s weight before a fight ensures that the boxer is in the weight category in which he has been contracted to fight. The times of the weigh-in has changed over the years for various reasons, from the morning of the fight to the day before the fight.

Some overweight boxers would be forced to reduce in weight before their official weigh-in. The fastest way to reduce in weight is to reduce the water content of the body by sweating or by increasing the volume of urine excreted through the kidneys by using diuretics. This is only a temporary weight reducing method, as the weight is replaced by the drinking of water.

The loss of water from the body not only dehydrated the body cells but most importantly, it dehydrates the brain cells. When the brain is dehydrated, it is more liable to vibrate in the skull than if it was well hydrated. The shaking of the dehydrated brain in the bony skull can cause severe damage to the brain. Thus a blow to the head can shake the brain causing bleeding which often proves fatal.

When a boxer dehydrated himself before a fight, it would take not less than 24 hours for him to replace the water in the body and brain cells. When a boxer is over weight on the day of the weigh-in, he will do anything to reduce in weight and will use the dehydration method. If he uses a sauna to sweat, then only water is lost. If he uses a diuretic, water and mineral salts will be lost. If he runs in a sweat suit, not only water is lost but he would also have deplete his glycogen stores in his muscles, which would cause him to get tired faster during the fight. It takes over 24 hours to replace the glycogen in the muscles.

Boxers should be disciplined enough to control their weight and not to dehydrate themselves before the weigh-in. But all boxers are not well disciplined and these are the ones who should also be protected. They should be given the time to hydrate their bodies. No one should be made to pay with his life just because he did not comply with any rules and regulations, and in this case, those of boxing.

In my opinion and that of the World Boxing Association, the protection of the boxer is of primary importance. For WBA Championship fights, the weigh-in of the boxers takes place between 4pm and 6pm on the day prior to the fight. If any change is to be made in the time for the weigh-in, then it should be based on scientific studies and not on popular opinion. The WBA rules also states that five days before the fight, the boxers should not be more than a percentage of their contracted weight according to their weight category. If this could be implemented universally, then this would be a positive step for the protection of the Boxer.

Dr Calvin Inalsingh
Chairman, WBA Medical Advisory Committee
5th March 2007