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Drastic weight-cutting rare among fighters

Bill Brink | Friday, March 14, 2008

In sports where matches are decided based on weight, horror stories abound. Athletes use starvation, running in place in the shower wrapped in plastic bags, obsessive workout techniques and dehydration to secure every competitive edge possible.

With Bengal Bouts athletes, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

While boxers lay off the pasta and take an extra lap around the JACC before weigh-ins, drastic cutting of weight is not common practice among boxers.

Freshman Pat O’Brien, who fought in the 130-pound weight class, said he ate lighter foods, such as vegetables and egg-white omelets, and ran more to prepare for weigh-ins. He said he only had to drop around five pounds to get in the weight class he wanted and that the drop didn’t affect his fights.

“When I was cutting, I wasn’t hungry. I was just physically exhausted,” O’Brien said. “But it was only for a few days. It didn’t affect me at all in the actual ring.”

Sophomore Bobby Hicks, who fought in the 189-pound weight class, didn’t eat for a day and a half and increased his cardiovascular workouts the week before weigh-ins.

Senior Ben O’Brien took a similar approach.

“As soon as we got back from break, I tried to eat healthier food,” Ben O’Brien said.

The idea behind cutting weight, according to senior captain Pat O’Brien, is to gain a height advantage. Shorter fighters, he said, will try to cut weight to fight other boxers similar in height. But O’Brien said that cutting weight is harmful and discouraged by the captains and coaches.

“We tell the novices, ‘If you’re trying to cut weight now [early in the season], it’s not a bright idea,'” he said. “If you don’t eat and drink, you won’t be able to complete the first two or three weeks.”

He also said eating helps increase metabolism and will help boxers lose weight the natural way.

Hunter Land, the president of the boxing club, said the club does not condone cutting weight and that cutting weight may not give boxers the advantage they hope for.

“Weight brackets are not determined until after weigh-ins, so it doesn’t make sense for boxers to shoot for that magic number because there is no magic number,” Land said.

Junior Kris Perez said cutting weight does not provide an extra leg up.

“I don’t see any advantages in cutting weight,” he said. “The real advantages come from good conditioning and perfecting boxing technique and form. The hard work in the gym is what pays off.”

Ben O’Brien said most of the boxers will work out before weighing in.

“You can probably lose six pounds of water weight during a tough practice,” he said.

Despite the preponderance of moderation in regards to cutting weight, some people took more drastic measures. Senior Pat O’Brien said a fighter during his freshman year ate such small amounts at meals that he caused problems with his digestive tract.

Sophomore Kevin Martin followed a similar pattern to other fighters, swearing off soda and desserts, but he also added harsher dietary restrictions. He ate no carbohydrates for four days prior to weigh-ins, he said, and lost 15 pounds of water. On the day of the weigh-in, he ate nothing.

“If you stop eating carbs, your body naturally gets rid of water,” Martin said. “It was awful, though – the most awful diet I’ve ever been on.”

Confidence in one’s ability, senior Pat O’Brien said, will help people keep from cutting weight. Insecurity, on the other hand, can cause a boxer to cut.

“If the kids feel like they’re not here to kill each other, they’re here to learn how to box, they’ll be less likely to cut weight,” he said. “But if they’re scared, they’ll be more likely to cut weight.”

Some boxers, on the contrary, want to gain weight. Perez, who won the 140-pound weight class last year, is fighting in the 149-pound weight class this year.

“Basically, I just felt like moving up in weight class would be a good challenge and, because I’m a competitive guy, I wanted to see if I could still compete,” Perez said.

Even when gaining weight, health must still be observed, he said.

“I didn’t go to Burger King every day and order a bacon cheeseburger,” Perez said. “I did a high protein and high carb diet which consisted of pasta, chicken, egg whites and peanut butter. I ate lots of vegetables and fruits as well.”