By Jake Donovan
As if the prospect of a catchweight couldn’t be disliked any more by fans, the circumstances surrounding this weekend’s middleweight title fight is making everyone dizzy and angry.
Daniel Geale set off alarms during a mandatory 7-day pre-fight weight check, tipping the scales at 167½ lbs. for his upcoming showdown with Miguel Cotto. The two are set to collide this weekend at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (Saturday, HBO, 10:30 p.m. ET).
Despite both fighters campaigning at middleweight and Cotto serving as the World lineal champion, the bout comes at a maximum weight of 157 lbs. That means Geale will have to lose more than 10 lbs. from last Saturday’s weight check by the time the official weigh-in rolls around this Friday.
Normally this would be against the rules, as the terms of the World Boxing Council (WBC) state that a fighter must weigh within 10% of the weight limit 30 days out, and no more than 5% over the limit by seven days prior to the fight.
With the weight set at 157 lbs., Cotto and Geale could weigh no more than 165 lbs. by last Saturday (sanctioning bodies will always round up to the nearest pound). The only problem is, sanctioning bodies don’t recognize catchweights when it comes to their titles being at stake.
“The middleweight division is 160 lbs. as the limit for an official (title) fight,” noted WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman when addressing concerns over the possibility of Geale coming in above the contracted weight limit. “Any weight less than 160 is official.”
A similar occurrence took place in 2011, when Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was contending for his first major title. The then-unbeaten rising star from Mexico agreed to a 150 lb. catchweight limit for a bout with Matthew Hatton, with the vacant WBC junior middleweight title at stake.
Alvarez missed the contracted weight, but was still well within the 154 lb. divisional limit. The fight went on as planned, other than Alvarez having to pay a fine imposed by the California State Athletic Commission for missing the contracted weight.
This clarification means that in the eyes of the WBC—and any sanctioning body—Geale can come in above the contracted weight limit but at or within the 160 lb. divisional limit and still be eligible to fight on Saturday evening. It also means that he is within the 5% allowable limit, which would be 168 lbs. at 7 days out for a true middleweight fight.
Cotto came in at 163.4 lbs. during the pre-fight check, well within the tolerable mark for the middleweight limit and also for Saturday’s contracted weight.
In the event he misses the catchweight mark, Geale would be subject to whatever fine is imposed by the New York State Athletic Commission, since the presiding commission is obligated to honor the weight stipulated in the bout contracts. Nothing in the language of the contract suggests additional penalties for either party in the event they miss weight.
“There is no fine in place,” confirmed Roc Nation COO David Itskowitch when asked of the consequences in such a situation.
However, Cotto himself could have final say if it comes to that. After all, it was upon the insistence of the defending champion and his trainer, Freddie Roach that Geale come in at less than the standard divisional limit.
“When Freddie made the deal for the (Manny) Pacquiao fight, and made me go down to 145 instead of 147. If I accept the deal, I have to make 145 instead of 147,” Cotto recalled of his Nov. ’09 clash with Pacquiao, agreeing to such terms despite coming in as the defending titlist. “If they want to fight with Miguel Cotto, they make the catchweight.
“If not, the fight doesn’t happen.”
For now, boxing fans just have to hope that Geale—who already looked drawn at Tuesday’s final pre-fight press conference—somehow finds a way to shed enough weight to make Saturday’s fight a reality. Should he choose to ignore the catchweight and take his chances in the fight still going through despite whatever fine would come, he has at least one friend in his corner.
“Those are commercial contracts between the two fighters which we have no control over,” Sulaiman noted of the agreed upon modified weight between the two camps. “For the WBC, (Saturday night) is a middleweight title fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox