The World Series of Boxing WSB recently announced that it will move to ten weight categories from next season in a move that has been broadly welcomed by the wider boxing community.
In previous seasons WSB matches were fought over five bouts. The logic behind this was that it facilitated television production. Five bouts was found to require approximately 2.5 hours of air-time and it was felt that longer shows would not be practical on a number of levels, not least in terms of audience enjoyment.
However, limiting the matches to five bouts also meant that catch weights were required; otherwise boxers from the excluded weight groups would have been unable to compete in the WSB. This would have been unacceptable for fans and boxers alike and it would have surely deprived the world from seeing some of the most exciting bouts the WSB has witnessed.
Yet the catch weight system was hard on the boxers themselves. As our interview with Argentinian Manager Hernan Salvo (coming soon) explains, for some boxers making the cut to the catch weight group below their normal AIBA Open Boxing (AOB –formerly called amateur boxing)category was too difficult, especially for athletes who already have very low body fat percentage levels. This left some of them having to face far larger opponents than normal. This was not ideal as sometimes it could leave them up to almost ten kilograms (22lbs) adrift of the heaviest in their category and that is assuming that the boxers at the top of the weight group were not cutting weight themselves from the group above meaning the difference in reality could be closer to 13kg or 28lbs.
Consider this (overly simplistic) hypothetical example to illustrate why this is a problem. If you take two athletes competing at the old WSB weights: one at 64kg who is unable to cut to 61kg and one at 75kg who can cut to 73kg. This used to put them in the same weight group. Then (for ease of maths) give them both body fat percentages of 10%. Allowing about 2kg in each boxer for skeletal weight, and assuming both fighters are fully hydrated, then the lighter boxer is carrying approximately 55.6kg of soft tissue (muscles ligaments and tendons) and fluid. The heavier boxer is however carrying almost ten kilograms more soft tissue and fluid. This represents something like 7-8kg worth of extra muscular strength available to the heavier boxer.
Clearly, boxing is a complex sport with technique, style, timing, reach, VO2max, lactate tolerance, psychology, experience and whole variety of other issues having an important bearing on the outcome. Yet such a strength discrepancy is nonetheless significant, and it was difficult for smaller boxers to ignore.
It became obvious that a shift to ten weight groups was needed but the trouble was how to deal with the administrative difficulty for TV scheduling of having twenty fighters a match (not to mention the significant extra costs for franchises to fly and accommodate all those extra athletes).
Fortunately, the clever people in the WSB sports department came up with a solution: splitting the boxers into two categories C1 and C2. One category would contest the home leg of a match and the other would travel to compete abroad. The “where and whens” were decided automatically as the teams were announced at the Official Draw and the WSB recently unveiled which weight categories would be allocated to which C-Group (see below for details).
This plan seems to be working out well for all concerned so far. For franchises the costs of travelling to compete remain the same, more boxers will get the chance to compete, meaning that WSB boxers will also get more rest between matches. Boxers will also be able to manage their weight across the year to allow them to compete in AOB and APB events as well. Finally, fans will be able to watch more of their favourite boxers competing at their natural weights, leading to more exciting matches across the two legs and reducing the need for gamesmanship in boxer selection by coaches.
An interesting factor is that some teams have particular depth in (e.g.) the lighter weights, meaning they can unleash more of their talent to pick up wins. Argentina Condors for example had an amazing eleven boxers registered at Middleweight (then 61-73kg) last season. Others lack depth in other areas; Algeria Desert Hawks for instance only had three boxers at Bantamweight last year and will now need to adjust their line-ups accordingly.
This factor may actually have some unanticipated and surprising effects on the WSB’s pecking order. Will some teams now rise to prominence while others fall back as a result of this change? It remains to be seen, but it does add another interesting factor for WSB aficionados to consider.
Categories 1 (C1) and 2 (C2)
C1 = 49kg, 55kg, 64kg, 75kg, 91kg
C2 = 52kg, 60kg, 69kg, 81kg, 91+kg