Are Catchweights Problematic?
Catchweights have been around in boxing longer than most fans realize. In this era, because we’re in the “Information Age”, we can find out more about the details of a fight negotiation. Thus as fans, when competitive advantages are baked into the cake, we scrutinize it. What many miss is that because boxing primarily functions as a business more than a sport, sometimes certain aspects of a fight change to either equalize or handicap fighters.
The first thing we must address is that weight manipulation has always been an aspect of boxing. If you have a large man able to fight at smaller weights you can bake certain advantages into every fight he has at that particular weight class. There are a few fighters that embody this today. Among those would be Jarrett Hurd, Sebastian Fundora, Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (depending on what division he fights in), David Lemuiex,and David Benavides.
These fighters come in at sometimes a one or two weight division advantage over their opponents after re-hydration. Many fans feel that this is “weight bullying”, and being that it creates a competitive advantage it’s hard to argue. The counterpoint to this is if a fighter is safely making weight, is this truly a problem?
Next let’s talk some actual catchweights, whereby contractual obligations dictate a fighter must make a certain weight requirement different from the divisional limits. Oscar De La Hoya vs Bernard Hopkins would surface at a catchweight of 158lbs.
It was very interesting that Hopkins weighed in at 156lbs and De La Hoya weighed in at 155lbs. It’s awfully suspicious that Hopkins, the undisputed middleweight champion at the time, would just opt to lose two extra pounds when he didn’t have to. He claims that it was purely voluntary but, many pundits are skeptical about this claim.
Another catchweight bout Oscar De La Hoya participated in was against Manny Pacquiao. When the fight was originally announced, it was stated De La Hoya would fight at the 147lb welterweight limit, a weight he hadn’t made in nine years. Manny Pacquiao had only fought once at lightweight and would be jumping two weight classes to meet the Mexican legend.
Strangely though, De La Hoya would weigh in at 145lbs and Pacquiao would weigh in at 142lbs. De La Hoya would look completely emaciated, and being that he fought at 150lbs in his previous fight versus Steve Forbes, it seemed implausible that he’d just shed that precious weight. Pacquiao weighing in at 142 made sense, being that it’s the most he’d ever weighed in at. Needless to say Pacquiao, would demolish De La Hoya and achieve the rare transformation from superstar to global icon.
The next fight we’ll look at is Floyd Mayweather vs Juan Manuel Marquez. What’s most notable about this fight is that the original contracted weight was for 144lbs. Floyd opted to pay a $300,000.00 penalty to weigh in at 146lbs.
Mayweather would go on to dominate Marquez in a comically lopsided romp. Another notable catchweight fight Mayweather would fight in was against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at super welterweight. They would meet at a limit of 152lbs. There was some controversy regarding the catchweight in this fight because Mayweather had fought both Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto at the full 154lbs limit. Floyd Mayweather took advantage of Alvarez’s claims that he’d be willing to go down to 150lbs.
During negotiations, they ended up agreeing to 152lbs, which is one pound less than what Canelo weighed in at against then WBC champion Austin Trout. Canelo would followup with five consecutive catchweight fights at 155lbs against Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara, James Kirkland, Miguel Cotto, and Amir Khan. You can put an asterisk on the Cotto fight because Miguel Cotto chose their weight. He was the WBC middleweight champion. Cotto allowed his two previous opponents to come above the 155lbs (159lbs for Sergio Martinez and 157lbs for Daniel Geale). Alvarez would then fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr at a contracted weight of 164lbs.
THE CATCHWEIGHT KING
There’s one fighter who could be the unofficial catchweight king, and that’s David Lemieux with seventeen catchweight fights.
- Lance Moody 158lbs
- Martin Availa 162lbs
- Bladimir Hernandez Cezares 162lbs
- Donny McCrary 162lbs
- Alfredo Contreras 163lbs
- Jason Naugler 166lbs
- Walid Smichet 164lbs
- Purnell Gates 163lbs
- Jaudiel Zepada 162lbs
- Alvaro Gaona 164lbs
- Albert Ayrapetyan 161lbs
- Robert Swierzbinski 164lbs
- Marcus Upshaw 162lbs
- Jose Miguel Torres 162lbs
- Christian Fabian Rios 164lbs
- Marco Reyes 163lbs
- Karim Achour 162lbs
This is starting from his tenth fight because most fighters, when they start their careers, don’t fight in the divisions they end up competing in. What’s really unsettling about this is David Lemieux has been a fixture in the middleweight rankings while rarely fighting within the middleweight weight requirement (155lbs-160lbs).
In conclusion, catchweights have been manipulated to create competitive advantage rather than the original intent of giving fans inter divisional fights.
By: Corey Cunningham