The WBC has created a brand new weight class to a sport that already has too many weight classes.
Tired of the weight difference between lighter heavyweights and bigger guys in boxing’s biggest weight class, the WBC created a new division above cruiserweight: bridgerweight.
Earlier this week, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman announced bridgerweight, which is the new 200-224 pound division.
The purpose of the division, at least in the WBC’s eyes, is to limit the advantage bigger heavyweights have on smaller heavyweights. The WBC looked at the growing size of heavyweights over the years and thought it would be urgent “to reduce the difference in weight between divisions which demanded great physical sacrifices with dangerous practices of dehydration, or the fact that going up to the next division meant giving away a lot of advantage having to face much heavier and stronger boxers.”
The bridgerweight got its name from 6-year-old Bridger Walker, who saved his 4-year-old sister from an attack by a wild dog. While it is a nice gesture naming a weight class after a child who made a heroic deed, it still shouldn’t distract everyone from the main point.
Straight up, this is a bad idea. Not only does it needlessly create a weight class in a sport filled with too many of them, it also means the addition of yet another “world” title. Making up a new weight class isn’t going to necessarily solve this supposed issue of the size discrepancy. Not to mention that the WBC just had a heavyweight champion in Deontay Wilder who held the title for five years. He spent most of his title reign in that 200-224 pound range facing guys weighing in the 250s.
We also just had a Matchroom Boxing heavyweight main event in which Oleksandr Usyk beat Derek Chisora, who was nearly 40 pounds heavier than him.
Of course, these examples aren’t the norm when it comes to small heavyweights vs. big heavyweights. But the fact remains that the issue isn’t as rampant as the WBC makes it out to be.
The WBC said it will contact boxers this month who compete in cruiserweight and heavyweight to confirm which category they wish to be included in. That creates another issue: who would want to fight in this weight class? Current cruiserweight contenders aren’t likely jumping on board. As far as the heavyweights go, you can count the number of top heavyweights that would qualify for bridgerweight on one hand.
So how do you go about making bridgerweight a legitimate weight class? It’s a tall order and it’s one that few have faith in the WBC doing well in completing.
How’s about this author take a crack at it.
In order to create buzz for a new division, simply putting two random fighters in a title fight isn’t exactly going to cut it. Sure, there will be people paying attention to it. However, the focus will be on how these fighters didn’t deserve a “world” title fight. It’s best to create something that will keep the attention on the new weight class and the multiple fighters that will be a part of it.
How do you do such a thing? With a tournament, of course. In fact, the format is already there for such a tournament to give attention to an overlooked weight class: the World Boxing Super Series.
Despite the many logistical issues the first two seasons brought, there’s no denying the good that the WBSS has done for the sport. The first cruiserweight tournament created a lot of buzz for the division in the west. In addition, cruiserweights such as Usyk, Murat Gassive and Yuniel Dorticos became bigger stars because of it. The same could be said for the junior welterweight, bantamweight and super middleweight WBSS tournaments.
A tournament pitting eight quality cruiserweight and lighter heavyweights to crown the inaugural WBC bridgerweight tournament would at least lessen the backlash that comes with a dumb idea like this.
It should be noted that this fantasy booking would only work if these fighters come on board. What are the chances of this idea actually going through? About 0.000001 percent.
This is all just a hypothetical scenario and if boxing’s going to add yet another division, might as well have fun with it.
Without further ado, here are the eight fighters competing in my fantasy bridgerweight tournament:
- Deontay Wilder: Despite standing at 6’7″, Wilder’s weight has actually been closer to that of a cruiserweight than that of most heavyweights today. Since 2017, Wilder fought seven times and in six of those fights, he weighed in at under 224 pounds. Imagine what he can do when he is in fights where his opponents aren’t 20, 30 pounds heavier than him. Despite a loss to Tyson Fury back in February, Wilder still remains one of the heavyweight division’s best fighters.
- Oleksandr Usyk: The former undisputed cruiserweight king has done well enough as a heavyweight, going 2-0 so far since his run at cruiserweight ended. The one glaring question surrounding Usyk’s ceiling as a heavyweight is whether or not he can beat elite heavyweight while still weighing in in the 2010s. At bridgerweight, that problem is all but eliminated.
- Murat Gassiev: Like Usyk, Gassiev moved up to heavyweight, but has been having trouble getting fights and has only fought once his undisputed title loss to Usyk back in 2017. Gassiev still possesses a tremendous amount of knockout power and as a former cruiserweight, he would fit in quite well at bridgerweight.
- Michael Hunter: Out of all the cruiserweights to move up to heavyweight in the last few years, Hunter is arguably the most successful one out of the entire bunch. Hunter is 6-0-1 as a heavyweight since a 2017 loss to Usyk and his lone draw came against Alexander Povetkin, a top five heavyweight at this moment. Hunter even tweeted recently that he woke up just a few pounds above the bridgerweight limit, so it won’t be an issue for him to make weight there.
- Ilunga Makabu: The current WBC cruiserweight champion has had a rough go as world champion. The lack of any fights since his title win in January has certainly caused him to go unnoticed in many people’s eyes. His situation doesn’t help that the WBC created a new division that will surely cause Makabu’s list of challengers to go down. In this scenario, if the WBC’s new weight class negatively affects Makabu, the least that can be done is give him a chance to become the champion of that weight class as well.
- Kevin Lerena: The South African has yet to get a major fight at cruiserweight but he certainly possesses the skillset to give most, if not all, cruiserweights a run for his money. It doesn’t look like Lerena is getting a big bout anytime soon. What better way to revitalize one’s career than to compete in such a tournament.
- Yuniel Dorticos: Yuniel Dorticos has been unsuccessful in winning the two WBSS cruiserweight tournaments he competed in, but has proven that he is a top five fighter in that weight class. Although he would be considered one of the bigger underdogs in this fantasy tournament, his power is more than enough to cause a surprise or two.
- Frank Sanchez: Rounding out the tournament is Sanchez, a rising heavyweight prospect who has been getting national exposure competing on various PBC cards as of late. Sanchez is viewed as one of several heavyweights who could rise to becoming contenders down the road. Like Dorticos, Sanchez is a strong Cuban fighter with plenty of power to knock most opponents out. Sanchez has fought around the bridgerweight range, so there would be no problem with making weight. Competing in a tournament with this many good fighters will give fans and pundits a better look at his potential.
As for the bracket, it would look like this, ensuring that familiar faces don’t face each other from the start and fresh matchups are created.
Who would win this fantasy bridgerweight tournament?