In modern boxing, more is often less. More “World” titles detract from the achievement. They dilute what should be the pinnacle of the sport. There is no logical reason to have more than one world champion at any time – in each weight class anyway.
At least weight classes have a degree of logic behind their inception. Fighter safety. As much as many would like to see Anthony Joshua take on Canelo in some sort of popularity contest, denying them their wish is a very sensible call. We as fans call for evenly matched bouts across the board and one method – which we often may take for granted – is ensuring both combatants are a similar size and weight.
The weights currently range from Minimumweight (Strawweight) to Heavyweight. That is a difference of 95 lbs. ranging from 105 lbs to anything above the Cruiserweight limit of 200. The range includes 17 different weight classes with the limits increasing by a slightly larger percentage as the weight size of the fighters increases. For example, the difference between Super-Bantam and Featherweight is 4lbs, Lightweight to Light-Welter is 5lbs, and so on. This culminates in a 25 lbs difference between Light-Heavy and Cruiserweight, before the upper limit is removed for the glamour division: Heavyweight.
Herein lies the bone of contention. Even for the big men, is that gap of almost 2 stone, too much? Compared to other boxing weight classes, the breadth here is unparalleled. From Light-Heavyweight down for example, the gap is approximately one third the size.
The issue has come to light as “natural” light-heavyweight prospect Nathan Thorley was outmatched and outgunned by the cruiserweight Commonwealth champion, Chris Billam-Smith. “CBS” was too big, too strong and ultimately too good. Even without the size disparity, the champion would likely have retained his title. The safety of fighters is the fundamental issue, and has been highlighted, because of how dominantly Thorley was dispatched inside 2 rounds. Thorley’s problem is that he is left with a lose-lose decision. His team have deemed it more unsafe for him to make 175 lbs, than fight men with a sizable weight advantage. They may be forced to rethink that decision following last night’s performance.
Now, what can be done to rectify this situation? A lot of speculation seems to be gathering pace – on social media at least – about a potential new weight class to bridge the gap. On the face of it, this seems a sensible suggestion. Especially for the crazy world of boxing! Introduce a 185 lbs division (I’d re-brand this as Cruiser) and keep the 200 lbs division as it is (Super-Cruiserweight sounds pretty cool to me). This would allow those struggling to make light-heavy healthily to move up with a cap of 10 lbs. By more than halving the weight gap Thorley, for example, wouldn’t have to meet someone who naturally weighs 2 stone more than him. In theory.
In reality, many bigger many would simply strive to cut more to make the new lower limit. Using Tony Bellew as an example. This is man who starved himself to tip the scales at 175. He did this to gain a supposed advantage. Weigh in lower, re-hydrate higher and be the biggest light-heavyweight on the planet. Unfortunately for him, this horrendous weight cut was to his detriment. He looked much healthier up at cruiser and captured a coveted World title with less of a size advantage. He even moved up to heavyweight to put the final nails in the coffin of David Haye’s career and then came back down again. It is uncertain just how much weight Bellew cut to make 200 lbs but it isn’t out of the realms of possibility to imagine him attempting a cut to 185 – if it had been an option for him at the time.
As with everything in boxing, there is a sensible solution available that will be taken advantage of, and twisted, beyond all reasonable means. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be implemented. At first glance, an extra weight class further dilutes the sport. On closer inspection however, it actually makes a lot of sense.