At the ongoing Asian Championships at Jordan,boxer Dinesh Sangwan is competing in the heavyweight category. This is the second tournament in the 91kg weight class for 25-year-old,who until last year was a 81 kg category boxer. Dinesh isnt the only top Indian boxer to move up in the weight division recently. Vijender,27,who had started his senior career in welterweight (69kg) had won his Olympic and world Championship bronze in middleweight (75kg) before had shifting to light heavyweight category (81kg) after the London Olympics. Vikas Krishan too moved up two weight classes from lightweight (60kg) to welterweight (69 kg) a couple of years back and then subsequently hinted at making the step up to middleweight.
Gaining weight as boxers mature is normal. It becomes harder to cut weight ahead of a competition. But it isnt inevitable. Mickey Ward (on whom the film The Fighter is based) fought at light welterweight (64kg) right from the start of his career as a 20 year-old 1985 till when he retired in 2003. Ward went on record to say that the only reason fighters go up in weight is because they do not work as hard as they did when they were younger.
Ward is partially right in Dineshs case. After missing out on the Olympics,he had taken a break from boxing to complete his police inspectors training and recover from injuries. But to be fair to Dinesh,his choice of category may also have something to do with medal winning considerations for the team as well. If two talented boxers are fighting in the same category,it makes sense to split them up into two categories rather than only send one of them for a competition.
The choice to move up weight categories makes sense at least at the Asian level where the level of competition in higher weight category is far less intense than at lighter weights. At the world stage however with better number of competitors at the heavier weights,it will be an uphill challenge. While you usually tend to retain your speed,you dont carry the same punching power. You also dont have an increased ability to take punishment which will naturally come from heavier boxers.
Jonathan is asenior correspondent based in Delhi