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In boxing, a weight class is a standardized weight range for boxers. The lower limit of a weight class is equal to the upper weight limit of the class below it. The top class, with no upper limit, is called heavyweight in professional boxing and super heavyweight in amateur boxing. A boxing match is usually scheduled for a fixed weight class, and each boxer's weight must not exceed the upper limit. An amateur boxer's weight must in addition not fall below the lower limit, although pro boxers may fight above their weight class. A nonstandard weight limit is called a catch weight.
A professional boxer typically weighs more between fights than at the time of a fight. Part of the process of training for a bout is "getting down to fighting weight". The weigh-in takes place the day before the fight. Boxers typically stand on the scales barefoot and without gloves. The weigh-in is often a photo opportunity and boxers or their entourage may trash talk each other. This element is such a valued part of the build-up that heavyweight boxers go through the ritual of being weighed even though there is no limit to be measured against, even where there appears to be genuine animosity between boxers.
A boxer who is over the weight limit may strip naked to make the weight if the excess is minimal; otherwise, in a professional bout, one can try again later, typically after losing weight in the interim through dehydration by vigorous exercise in a steam room. If the excess weight is too great, the effort expended trying to "make weight" will make the boxer unfit for the fight itself. In such cases, the fight may be cancelled, with the over weight boxer sanctioned; or the fight may proceed as a catch weight non-title fight.
An amateur boxer must make the weight at the initial weigh-in; there is no opportunity to try again later. There is a "general weigh-in" before the start of the tournament and a "daily weigh-in" on the morning of each of a fighter's bouts. At the general weigh-in, the fighter must be between the weight class's upper and lower limits; at the daily weigh-in only the upper limit is enforced. A fighter outside the limit at the initial weigh-in may be allowed to fight in a different class if there is space in the tournament. At major events such as boxing at the Olympics, there is a limit of one boxer per country per weight class.
A boxer may fight different bouts at different weight classes. The trend for professionals is to move up to a higher class as they age. Winning titles at multiple weight classes to become a "multiple champion" is considered a major achievement. In amateur boxing, bouts are much shorter and much more frequent, and boxers fight at their "natural" weight.
One boxer is said to be better "pound for pound" than another if he is considered superior with due regard for their difference in weight. Theoretical comparisons of the merits of boxers in different weight classes are a popular topic for boxing fans, with a similar speculative appeal to comparing sports figures from different eras; in both cases, the competitors could never face each other in reality.
In the early nineteenth century, there were no standard weight classes. In 1823, the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue said the limit for a "light weight" was 12 stone (168 lb) while Sportsman's Slang the same year gave 11 stone (154 lb) as the limit. Size mismatches were dangerous for the smaller boxer and unsatisfying for the spectators. National and world titles could only become recognised if standard weight classes were agreed upon. Important sets of weight classes were those specified in 1909 by the National Sporting Club of London, and those contained in the 1920 Walker Law which established the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC).
After the split in the 1960s between the WBC and the WBA, the divisions were narrowed, creating more champions simultaneously, and making it easier for fighters to move between different weight divisions. Among the professional bodies, the names of the new divisions are not standardized between different sanctioning bodies, although the cutoff weights are. These weights are specified in pounds, reflecting the historic dominance of America (and, earlier, Britain) in the sport.
A nonstandard weight limit is called a catch weight. A catch weight may be agreed for an individual bout—sometimes even for a championship bout—but championships are awarded only at the standard weight classes. For example, when Manny Pacquiao fought Miguel Cotto at a catch-weight of 145 pounds, the World Boxing Organization sanctioned this as a title fight for welterweight, whose limit is 147 pounds.
The date is that since which a continuous world title has been recognised by a major sanctioning body; some classes had earlier champions recognised intermittently or by minor bodies. One current weight class with only minor recognition is "super-cruiserweight"; widely used as an informal descriptor, it is a formal weight class of the lightly regarded (professional) International Boxing Association at a limit of 210 lb; the IBA's cruiserweight limit is 190 lb.
(lb / kg / stone)
|200 / 90.7 / 14 st 4||1980[t 1]||Cruiserweight||Cruiserweight||Cruiserweight||Junior heavyweight||Cruiserweight|
|175 / 79.4 / 12½ st||1913||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight|
|168 / 76.2 / 12 st||1984||Super middleweight||Super middleweight||Super middleweight||Super middleweight||Super middleweight|
|160 / 72.5 / 11 st 6||1884||Middleweight||Middleweight||Middleweight||Middleweight||Middleweight|
|154 / 69.9 / 11 st||1962||Super welterweight||Super welterweight||Junior middleweight||Junior middleweight||Light middleweight|
|147 / 66.7 / 10½ st||1914||Welterweight||Welterweight||Welterweight||Welterweight||Welterweight|
|140 / 63.5 / 10 st||1959||Super lightweight||Super lightweight||Junior welterweight||Junior welterweight||Light welterweight|
|135 / 61.2 / 9 st 9||1886||Lightweight||Lightweight||Lightweight||Lightweight||Lightweight|
|130 / 59.0 / 9 st 4||1959||Super featherweight||Super featherweight||Junior lightweight||Junior lightweight||Super featherweight|
|126 / 57.2 / 9 st||1889||Featherweight||Featherweight||Featherweight||Featherweight||Featherweight|
|122 / 55.3 / 8 st 10||1976||Super bantamweight||Super bantamweight||Junior featherweight||Junior featherweight||Super bantamweight|
|118 / 53.5 / 8 st 6||1894||Bantamweight||Bantamweight||Bantamweight||Bantamweight||Bantamweight|
|115 / 52.2 / 8 st 3||1980||Super flyweight||Super flyweight||Junior bantamweight||Junior bantamweight||Super flyweight|
|112 / 50.8 / 8 st||1911||Flyweight||Flyweight||Flyweight||Flyweight||Flyweight|
|108 / 49.0 / 7 st 10||1975||Light flyweight||Light flyweight||Junior flyweight||Junior flyweight||Light flyweight|
|105 / 47.6 / 7½ st||1987||Minimumweight||Strawweight||Mini flyweight||Mini flyweight||Minimumweight|
When the (amateur) International Boxing Association (AIBA) was founded in 1946 to govern amateur boxing, it metricated the weight class limits by rounding them to the nearest kilogram. Subsequent alterations as outlined in the boxing at the Summer Olympics article; these have introduced further discrepancies between amateur and professional class limits and names. The lower weight classes are to be adjusted in September 2010, to establish an absolute minimum weight for adult boxers.
Amateur weight classes also specify the minimum weight (which the same as the maximum weight of the next highest class). For safety reasons, fighters cannot fight at a higher weight. This also meant that even the heaviest weight class has a limit, albeit a lower bound. The lower limit for "heavyweight" was established in 1948 at 81 kg. When a new limit of 91+ kg was established in 1984, the name "heavyweight" was kept by the 81+ kg class, and the 91+ kg class was named "super heavyweight", a name not currently used in professional boxing.
Classes are as follows:
|Class name||Weight class limit (kg)|
At the Olympics, each weight-class is a separate single-elimination tournament. The competition begins with the first round of the lightest weight class and proceeds with the first round of each higher weight class; then the next round of the lightest class, and so on, with the finals of each class held over the final two days, and the super-heavyweight final last of all.