Moving Up In Weight Class Can Be A Dicey Game

Moving up in weight class in boxing
The Sweet Science

There's been many great champions throughout boxing's long, rich history, who've moved up the weight division's successfully - one at a time.

But the road to doing so is not an easy one and usually comes through years of hard work to do so, as well as needing to possess some serious 'cojones' as they say in the trade.

It is a task fraught with ample danger along the way, with many a fighter down through the years paying the price for sometimes moving up and then after moving, trying to go back down again, only for the effects it took on the body to have drained everything from a boxer physically.

An example that springs to mind in this regard is Roy Jones Jr.

Roy Jones, what a fighter of course, that every well schooled boxing fan fondly remembers for his explosive talents in his prime. 

He's still only one of two men in professional boxing history to ever win a recognized world title at both the middleweight and heavyweight limits.

But it came at a price.

When he moved up to heavyweight to defeat John Ruiz for a version of the heavyweight title, it was a crowning achievement of a glorious career, but when he moved back down the weights to try to regain some of his old belts, he was never the same.

His reflexes were much slower, his punch resistance had badly eroded, his timing and speed was a shell of it's former self, and many within the game credit his dramatic weight moves through the divisions as being a major contributing factor to a lot of the subsequent knockouts that he incurred post Ruiz.

He was never the same fighter in truth and still to this day, he finds himself not retired as of the time of this article in March 2016.

But there's also stories closer to present day fighters in the sweet science that have rolled the dice with weight jumps, too.

For me, moving up one weight at a time can be fine, but when it involves going up an entire two weight categories at once, that's when problems can occur.

A shining example of this would perhaps lay in recent times when Adrien 'The Problem' Broner ironically found problems when moving up from 135lbs at lightweight to welterweight at 147lbs to take on Argentinian Marcos Maidana (after a less than inspiring win over Paulie Malignaggi at 147lbs).

The result was a man that he met who was a strong welterweight in Maidana, that could take his punches and give his own firepower back in spades, ultimately dropping Broner on route to beating him.

Since then, Broner arguably has never looked the same and when you look back to how he was so dominant, powerful and ferocious at lightweight, you could say the Maidana loss had a massively detrimental impact on his career, at least to date.

Even looking at other combat sports further afield like mixed martial arts and specifically within the sport's premier franchise the UFC, there is warning signs about moving up too much weight, too soon.

Irish UFC superstar Conor McGregor found out against Nick Diaz that moving up from 145lbs to 170lbs was an extremely different test all together.

He eventually got submitted in the second round by Diaz but notably his power didn't carry up with him, particularly given the fact he hit Diaz with plenty of punches in the first round, only for the bigger man to prove more durable and be able to sustain his attacks.

McGregor admitted to as much straight after the fight.

It's a dicey game no doubt about it, but there has been some big success stories in doing it the right way too (lest we not forget).

Names in modern boxing history that pop up in this regard are the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who both very successfully went through the divisions in their glittering careers.

But perhaps the biggest factor any boxer usually considers before making the decision would be the whole risk versus reward ratio.

If it makes sense financially, inevitably fighters make the move but sometimes a boxer might just naturally grow out of a given weight class, too.

There is cases where fighters are cutting way to much weight, also, and moving up a weight is something that they can no longer avoid and if anything is a health decision.

One particular image that I always recall of a fighter draining himself on the scales is that one of Brandon Rios, who looked like an almost skeleton figure when he cut down on that occasion.

Sticking with 2016 and as we edge closer to what will be one of the biggest fights of the year between Canelo Alvarez and Amir Khan in May at the newly constructed T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, weight is something that is being widely discussed ahead of the fight.

And it's the jumping up of weight by Khan to 155lbs to take on Canelo for the WBC middleweight title is the main talking point.

It is a weight Khan has never fought anywhere remotely near at and will see him go from welterweight right the way through super-welterweight to middleweight and compete with a young man who on the night after weigh-in re-hydration could weigh an almost colossal 190lbs (some have suggested).

Considering that Khan will at most weigh 160lbs for the fight on the night, but more than likely will come in around 155lbs or so, he could literally be giving away an astonishing 30lbs in weight when the first bell rings.

It would almost be like a three weight division disadvantage.

This for me will be probably the most dangerous immediate weight jump attempted by a top level boxer in recent times.

Khan's main advantage will be his speed, but with pictures of a much fleshier and bulkier Khan circulating recently, many have speculated that his speed might not be what it used to be.

Hardly anyone in boxing is giving Khan a chance, but perhaps he'll prove everyone wrong. Time will tell.

As things stand in boxing's history, when you really look back at the best fighters who have moved through the weights to win titles over the years, they nearly all to a man, did it gradually. One division per time, year after year.

But it is a dicey game, no doubt about it.