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Original Issue

He Got Gain

When a fighter quickly packs on 20 pounds after the weigh-in, two people can get hurt

John Duddy, d/b/aIreland's John Duddy, chugged into the ring in Madison Square Garden on St.Patrick's Eve, weighing 168 pounds. Yet he fought--and won--as a middleweight,a division that maxes out at 160 pounds. More boxing subterfuge? Yes and no.Duddy wasn't doing anything illegal; he was simply bobbing and weaving his waythrough a glaring loophole, engaging in the increasingly popular practice ofballooning during the 30 or so hours between weigh-in and fight. "I wouldsay it's a dirty little secret," says Greg Sirb, executive director of thePennsylvania commission, "except everyone does it."

Weigh-ins arescheduled the day before the fight so the principals have time to rehydrate.That's the rationale. But fighters use the interval to add 10, 15, sometimes 20pounds--mostly water--to their bodies, rendering weight limits irrelevant. Lastmonth former fighter Joey Gamache filed suit against Arturo Gatti, who savagedGamache in their 2000 bout. Gamache claims that when Gatti went from 141 poundsto 160 pounds between the weigh-in and the fight, he had effectively breachedtheir contract.

This practice ofadding weight obviously imperils the undersized opponent--Gamache, who says heweighed 145 pounds when he fought Gatti, still suffers migraines from thatbeating. But it's also dangerous to heavier fighters, who sometimes take enemasand diuretics to make weight and then undergo IVs and even blood transfusionsto bulk back up. "Aside from being generally sluggish, you lose reactiontime, balance and reflexes when you put on weight so fast," says Dr.Margaret Goodman, chairman of the medical advisory board of the Nevada boxingcommission.

Proposals to movethe weigh-in to the day of the fight have been met with opposition, largelyfrom promoters who enjoy the added hype of the weigh-in day. Calls to reducethe number of weight classes--thus blunting the incentive to bulk up--areanathema to sanctioning bodies seeking to hold as many championship fights aspossible. An obvious compromise: Emulate Pennsylvania and hold a secondweigh-in, the morning of the fight, permitting gains of no more than, say,eight pounds. (The abuse of the current weigh-in system is high on the docketat the Association of Boxing Commissions' July convention.)

The irony is thatthe benefits from inflating like Sherman Klump often don't outweigh the costs.According to Goodman, the Nevada commission recently conducted a study,cross-referencing fighters' weigh-in weight with their fighting weight. Moreoften than not, the boxer who added less weight was more successful.



BIG PROBLEM Gatti beefed up between weigh-in and the Gamache bout (right).



[See caption above.]