The weigh-in game: Lee & Russell on a gruelling battle
By Anthony Pyne and Eoin Ryan
Carl Frampton came in one pound overweight at 9st 1lb (57.6 kg) in Friday's weigh-in for his WBC featherweight clash with Andres Gutierrez in Belfast.
It voided the contest's status as a title eliminator – the bout was ultimately called off after Gutierrez slipped in the shower, injuring his chin, nose and teeth – but it again highlighted one of the enormous challenges of sports such as boxing and horse racing that require competitors to make strict weight limits.
"It always looks bad and unprofessional when any fighter misses the weight but we don't see what's going on behind closed doors and the limits you push yourself to," said former world middleweight champion Andy Lee on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.
"As Carl said himself, he did try really hard but sometimes it's just out of your reach.
"He might have already pushed himself to the limit where he thinks, 'if I take this pound off I won't be able to perform in the fight and it's not worth losing it'.
"Don't forget you've been training hard for eight weeks, dieting and eating clean the whole way."
Frampton had been in line to fight just his third bout at featherweight after relinquishing the IBF super-bantamweight belt to move up in weight and claim Leo Santa Cruz's WBA title last year.
"I'm sure he's tried everything to get it to within nine stone but sometimes your body outgrows the weight division," said Lee.
"I know when Carl Frampton was fighting at super-bantamweight his body fat was 4-5% and that's considered unhealthy and probably quite dangerous.
"I believe the optimum for a fighter is around 8%. So you push yourself to that extreme and then you have to dehydrate."
Lee, a veteran of 39 contests at middleweight, and two-time champion jockey Davy Russell outlined the process of making weight; a brutal, strenuous act of discipline that demands total sacrifice and commitment.
"Most boxers would be dehydrating from 48 hours before the weigh-in," said the Limerick man.
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"So if you're weighing in on Friday morning, from Wednesday morning you're drinking no fluids, no food at all. Maybe sometimes you'd suck ice cubes or rinse your mouth.
"You're also training – a lot of the time wearing a sauna suit, rubber clothing to make you sweat more. A lot of fighters would use a sauna even and really that's all you can do.
"I fight at 160lbs so I usually weigh in at 159.5. By the fight night, I wouldn't put on much weight but I would be 172. I put on 12lbs in the space of one day.
"But a lot of people would go further than that. When I fought Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, we both weighed in under 160 but the next day when we fought he weighed 185lbs.
"The best boxers know how to do it to precision but it's so fine a line that you can easily get it wrong."
"A lot of guys take it to the extreme using IVs (drips). If you don't get it right it can be the undoing of you in the ring because if you take too much out you have nothing left to fight.
"There's a science and an art to it. The best boxers know how to do it to precision but it's so fine a line that you can easily get it wrong."
A similar challenge faces jockeys, whose weight is taken into account as part of the handicap mark their horses must meet.
Unlike boxers, they are also weighed after competing, and so cannot rehydrate to the same extent.
"I came back from holidays one time and I was 11st 12lbs, and I had to be 10st 10lbs the next day," said Russell.
"Foolishly, I used sweat suits, running, then into the bath and straight to bed. I'd wake up the next morning… and this is with no food, no drinking, you might have a cup of tea, nothing passes your lips.
"I don't advise this. This is the worst thing that someone could do.
"The next morning you'd have a cup of tea, a square of chocolate, run for a couple of miles and get back into the bath again. We used to drive to the races with a sweat suit on, heaters on full blast in the car.
"You'd stop and go in a get a Mr Freeze or something in the shop. They'd be looking at you in the middle of the summer [wearing] a woolly hat, with your hood up, the sweat rolling down your face.
Russell said one thing got him through: "Adrenaline is a thing that if you could bottle it… it's unbelievable stuff."
Lee believes that in the case of boxing, the best way to ensure fighters are not putting themselves in danger is to limit the amount of weight allowed to be gained through rehydration.
"It's a sport of extremes and people are always trying to get an edge," he said.
"Everyone is doing it so unless you do it you're at a disadvantage.
"A lot of people have said that the way around it would be to weigh in the day of the fight or an hour before the fight.
"But that could also be dangerous as you'd have guys dehydrating themselves until an hour before the fight and then causing themselves damage by taking blows to the head.
"The IBF (Internation Boxing Federation), who are one of the sanctioning bodies, have a rule where you weigh in on the Friday at your weight limit and the morning of the fight you have to re-weigh and you can't exceed 10lbs (more).
"That's probably a fair way to do it and to keep it within reason."
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