By Don House
So you want to become a professional boxer and possibly the next world champion. Well great! But slow down. There are some essential ingredients you must have to achieve this goal.
1) Good health
4) Healthy weight
5) Strong desire/heart
6) Training and safety equipment
Also just as important are the people behind the scenes.
1) Good trainer/teacher/manager/family and friends
2) Access to good medical care
3) A strong and fair Athletic Commission and, of course, the fans.
Periodically, I will be writing articles on the essential ingredients and giving some examples of how they can make or break a boxer.
The first of the series will be on the healthy weight.
As a young boxer some 20 years ago. I began my career on the U.S. Army boxing team. Being a boxer was something I loved and at the same time something I hated.
I had most of the essential ingredients listed, good health with youth, some level of skill, while developing the experience. Always in great shape, and a burning desire to become Inter service and National champ. What I didn’t have was a coach who would allow me to fight at a healthy weight. I had a coach that was more concerned with filling a vacant slot on the team, than the health and welfare of the boxer.
At that time I was nineteen years old, 5ft 7ins, with a 74-inch reach. My normal weight was 135 pounds, it would have been reasonable to have fought at 125 pounds. Because at that weight class, I was strong and I felt comfortable. Due to military politics, I had to drop to an even lower weight class of 119 pounds.
By losing the additional weight my performance was terrible, injuries were rampant, everything from headaches and joint pains to bruised ribs, just to name a few. Although I won the majority of my fights, the real battle was making the weight. And in the end it took its toll. I tore ligaments in my knee and five operations later my career was over.
As a coach, I understand that too much weight loss can be detrimental to your health. Many boxers and coaches think that cutting back on liquids, the use of diuretics, and wearing plastic will aid in weight loss. In fact, they contribute to the loss of electrolytes like potassium, sodium and other vital nutrients. That can weaken a fighter and eventually cause long-term kidney problems, fluid loss to the brain, dizziness and nausea.
Ideally, you should not lose more than 8 percent of your normal weight and that should be your fighting weight. You also should not gain more than 8 percent in-between fights. The question is what is your normal weight and how is it determined?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) one must calculate their Body Fat (BF). This is done by the Body Mass Index (BMI) formula, which calculates body fat according to the relationship of weight and height. BMI= x 703.
Example: My walk around weight was 135lbs and I was 67 inches tall. BMI= <135 divided by 67 divided by 67> x 703. BMI =21: I was well within tolerance of a healthy weight. So, if you allow no more than 8% loss of weight for athletes I should have fought at 125lbs. 135 x 8%=10.8, 135-10.8=124.2: therefore it was safe for me to lose these additional pounds.
Going down to 119lbs took me well below the healthy BMI. A BMI less than 20 is considered to be a low BMI for most people. A low BMI may indicate being underweight and may be associated with health problems for some people.
A BMI of 20-25 is considered to be good. It may indicate a healthy weight for most people. A BMI of greater than 25 is considered to be high for most people which is considered to be overweight. I would advise that children 18 and under should consult with a physician because the calculation for weight is so complex due to the growing factor.
The key to losing weight is to create major loss of calories in the body. In other words, the body has to burn more calories than it takes in. Your diet should be well-balanced, consisting of lean meats, low carbohydrates and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugar, sodas and alcohol. Drink lots of water before, during and after training.
This along with exercise should make a difference. Use common sense and always consult with a physician. Our athletic commission has a list of professionals you can use. They can help you with any questions dealing with weight loss. So as you see dropping weight more than 8% below your normal healthy weight is not an advantage, may cause low performance and possible long-term health problems.
Until next time, keep your hands up, protect yourself at all times, in and outside the ring
Don House has been involved in the sport of boxing since starting as an amateur at age 12. He continued as a boxer in the military. After accumulating over 60 wins, he graduated from college and decided to continue in the sport as a trainer. He has worked with champions including: Diego Corrales, Frankie Liles, Derrick Harmon, and UFC Champion Tito Ortiz.