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Dehydration: Breaking the Last Taboo in Boxing

Glenn McCrory on the potentially fatal risks of improper refuelling.
John Portch


From Birmingham to Kiev, Glenn McCrory walks and talks with a missionary zeal on the subject of dehydration in boxing. “I saw a documentary one time that detailed a guy losing seven kilos in the 24 hours leading up to a fight,” he tells the Leaders Performance Institute. “We have a weight battle in boxing but it’s usually over a couple of weeks or the last couple of days – if you try to lose a stone on the last day you’re literally playing Russian roulette with your life.”


By John Portch

McCrory, a former IBF cruiserweight world champion who now works as both a trainer and a pundit, explains that dehydration has been responsible for some of boxing’s biggest tragedies, citing examples such as Paul Ingle, Spencer Oliver and Michael Watson, all of whom sustained career-ending, life-changing, near-fatal injuries in the ring. He has also witnessed others lose their lives, including English boxer Scott Westgarth, who collapsed post-fight in March of this year and never regained consciousness.

These infamous fights are fresh in McCrory’s mind as he states his case: “When fluid comes out of the body too quickly, one of the areas affected is the brain and the fluids that cushion the brain. If you lose that fluid the temples start to dip and it is almost like a biscuit in a tin – that’s very dangerous.”

He sees misguided attempts at weight-cutting in the final stages before a fight as a major contributing factor. “Fighters are still turning to sports drinks, but they just provide a quick hit of sugar.” What is needed, says McCrory, is greater education, awareness on diligence on the topic: “People will still risk a lot to try and make the weight and cutting weight is a very serious risk if not done properly.”

Boxing is not alone amongst combat sports. A recent UFC special report described the deleterious effects of cutting corners to make the weight. ‘Difficult weight cuts at the end of a calorie-restricted fight camp take a toll on a fighter’s body; particularly on their metabolic health,’ it said. ‘This becomes a critical issue when you consider that a blunted metabolism chronically impairs numerous biological systems and ultimately induces a more extreme weight-rebound.’

His message detailing the risk of dehydration in weight-cutting is one McCrory brought to a meeting of trainers at the British Boxing Board of Control [BBBC] in Birmingham earlier this month and plans to share at the World Boxing Council’s annual convention in Kiev next month. “Boxing recognises there is a problem here, a lack of education in that department. I’m really happy that Robert Smith, the General Secretary of the BBBC, has jumped onboard and said ‘go get ‘em, Glenn. Go and try to help’.”

McCrory is speaking in his capacity as a brand ambassador for Totum Sport, a natural sports supplement made with all 78 natural minerals and trace elements. He insists that boxers need Totum Sport every bit as much as their gum shield to ensure better hydration and readily recommends the product to young boxers before, during and after training, as well as in their post-fight recovery. He says: “So many boxers care more about the tassels on their shorts or the music that accompanies their ringwalk than their health – it’s madness. You need to make sure you’re going into that ring prepared.”

Preparation starts with education, which is something he felt he lacked during his boxing career. “I was barely educated. I walked into a gym at 15 and the teachers never came to take me back; a lot of boxers are like that, they come from less affluent families with different social problems. They love the fight, they love to keep fit, but it takes people around them to protect them.”

Education around dehydration is particularly pertinent. “You see boxers dry out for a day and a half leading into the weigh-in to get rid of the final two or three pounds – that’s normal, even if it sounds quite extreme. The first thing they then do is put a couple of litres of water back in their body; what they don’t know is when you do that you wash out those minerals that allow the body’s cells to function at their best. How are you going to replace them? Not with an energy drink, that’s for sure.

“Fighters need to be true to themselves and trainers need to be honest with them. They have to know what their weight is, what’s their best competing weight, what they’re comfortable at. Any good trainer is thorough with their boxers, weighing them week in and week out; a trainer needs to get a fighter on the scales because all too often they end up lying. If your boxer is ten pounds overweight with a week to go he shouldn’t be fighting.”

McCrory says the post-fight is equally important. “Boxers are so thrilled after the fight that they forget everything at a time when their body is going through a full recovery process. Aftercare is very important after a fight when those minerals have been washed out at a time when the muscles are fatigued and the fighter is likely to be suffering from a degree of concussion. Yet after a big fight they’ll often go away with their families, with a bit of money in their pocket, and enjoy the things they’ve missed out on over the previous ten weeks; eating bad food, drinking bad drinks, and staying up late.

“It’s understandable but in the cold light of day but the truth is that you’re throwing total abuse at your body, which is another thing it has to deal with.

“My job is to make as many people aware as possible; if one boxer who goes in the ring and comes out with his life when he might not have, then I’ll be a happy man. I’ve been to my last funeral for a young boxer who, because of a lack of knowledge or education, died before his time.”

Totum Sport is the only sporting supplement that provides your body with the complete 78 electrolytes in the correct proportions that your cells need to function effectively.

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