Dropping weight to make a lower category gives boxers a strength advantage over their competitors. As competition draws close,they reduce from their natural weight,mostly through water loss. This gets harder as the body ages and puts on mass. It is possible that Vijender Singh,26,could have competed in middleweight (75kg) – in which he won an Olympic bronze – for a while longer. But his intention to take part at Rio 2016 makes his announced move to light heavy (81kg) inevitable. This isn’t the first time he will be moving up a category. At Athens,he competed in welterweight (69kg).
In pro boxing,dropping weight is easier,since the boxer only has a single fight with plenty of time either side for preparation. Amateurs have to fight several bouts over many days with weigh-ins at the start of each one. Losing too much weight will leave them weakened. So while pro boxers can lose a significant amount of weight,amateurs need to compete in a class that is close to their non-competition bodyweight.Vijender would have had a close look at the dangers of having to make weight to an excessively low category,when teammate Vikas Krishan had to be hospitalized with dehydration after trying to make the 60kg mark. Krishan eventually had to move up two categories to welterweight.
Vijender’s decision involves its share of tradeoffs. Boxers rarely carry their punching power as they move up. Pro boxer Manny Paccquiao,who held world titles across eight categories,found himself increasingly unable to stop heavier opponents. This will probably be true for Vijender as well,as it proved for MC Mary Kom when she went from 48kg to 51kg for the London Olympics. But considering that ring craft and speed have always been his biggest strengths,Vijender will possess the quickest feet in a category of heavier punchers but slower movers.
It shouldn’t be too hard for Vijender to make the national team since he has few competitors. Sumit Sangwan,who competed in London at light heavyweight,is expected to move up a category himself. It could get easier at the Asian level as well,since competition tends to drop off at light heavy. The price to be paid,however,is that he will have one less Asian Olympic quota to compete for.
Jonathan is a correspondent based in New Delhi. firstname.lastname@example.org