By Bobby Franklin
Fighters have always weighed in before a fight. This ritual used to take place the day of the fight, usually in the early afternoon. With heavyweights it wasn’t as important as with the other divisions as there is no limit on what weight the big guys can fight at. In the other categories it used to be watched closely because if a fighter did not come in below the limit for his division he would be forced to shed the extra pounds within a couple of hours. If he didn’t, the fight could be canceled, he could agree to pay a fine, or, if it was a title fight, the two camps could agree to go on with the bout without having the championship on the line.
With the heavyweights, it was more of a case of seeing what kind of shape the fighters were in. It was a bit like predicting earnings before a company makes its quarterly financial report. If a company exceeds expectations, its stock will rise, if not, the stock will take a hit. In a heavyweight fight a fighter coming in overweight, or even too light, could have an effect on the odds.
Today, the weigh-in is quite different. While in the past it was expected the fighters would enter the ring weighing pretty close to what the scales said earlier that day. Now fighters step on the Toledo a day or two before the bout and can put on as much as ten, fifteen, or more pounds by fight time. Quite often you will see one fighter who looks much bigger than another. That’s because he is.
Another difference is in how the ritual of the weigh-in is conducted. Throughout most of boxing’s history it was a fairly serious affair. Both fighters would appear and take turns stepping up to be weighed while the other looked on. A doctor would give each a brief examination, and then the two would shake hands and wish each other luck while photographers snapped pictures. With rare exception, great sportsmanship was displayed as each showed respect for the other.
Somewhere along the line, probably starting with Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston in 1964, this ritual began to take on a circus atmosphere. While what happened that day in Miami was very unusual for the times, and remained rare for a number of years, it has now gotten even worse and has become the norm. Fighters hurl obscenities at each other while pushing, shoving, and throwing wild punches. It has devolved into something more like pro wrestling. It’s also interesting to see today’s fighters standing on the scales and striking body builder poses, another thing taken from wrestling. At its best it is silly, but it is more often childish and demeaning to the sport and its participants.
I suppose it is just another reflection of the changes we see in society. As for me, I would like to see a return to the old decorum that made us look with respect upon the athletes who were going to step into the ring that night. Clowns may be funny in a circus, but for those of us who looked at boxing as a serious profession, it is depressing to witness. Could you imagine Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Ray Robinson, or the hundreds of other great champions behaving like that?