What Is a Sanctioned Boxing Match?
A sanctioned boxing match is, put simply, a bout approved and overseen by your state commission. However, what does this entail? Well, the main points to remember about sanctioned bouts are:
Weight is strictly controlled.
For amateur boxers, this is usually within about 4 pounds in either direction, and 5 pounds for professionals. Failing to make weight can in some cases result in a loss, stripping of a title if you have one, or a rescheduling of the fight. It is also considered extremely unprofessional in both the amateur and pro-fighting scenes.
There will be a medical examination by a doctor.
For high stakes amateur events, such as the Olympics, these medical examinations can be repeated throughout the competition. All medical examinations will include a basic physical exam, as well as things that pose a unique danger to sport like blood borne diseases (as cuts are common in boxing) and heart issues (due to its anaerobic nature, boxing with a heart condition is extremely dangerous).
There will be drug testing.
In addition to the standard medical examinations, fighters will also be drug tested. These drug tests are primarily looking for PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) and other banned substances. For higher stakes contests, these drug tests may be continuous and random.
There will be a ringside doctor that has the authority to stop the bout at any time.
Their job is to make sure the fighters are safe and examine any cuts, injuries, or strange behavior (like loss of balance) to determine whether it is safe for both fighters to continue the match.
It goes on your record.
Perhaps most importantly, the results of a sanctioned bout go on your record. This is in contrast to “smoker” fights which are unsanctioned bouts usually conducted between gyms to give fighters experience without risking their record.
Now that you’re a bit more familiar with sanctioned bouts, here’s what you can expect both in the build up to a sanctioned bout and during an actual boxing match.
The Build Up
In the last few days, leading up to a sanctioned boxing match, you can expect to have a battery of non-invasive tests to determine your medical condition and make sure you aren’t using any banned substances. The number of tests and the time in which they are conducted is determined by the commission for your area. To find out if your commission has any specific regulations, you can find a list of them here.
A basic physical is required by every sanctioning body, usually on the day of the fight but sometimes the day before depending on your commission. Almost all boxing commissions use the USA boxing physical form, but it's always good to check with your commission.
Every sanctioned bout will require drug testing, usually in the form of a urine test that is included in the physical exam. The drug test screens for PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs, like steroids and stimulants) but depending on the commission, additional substances may be on the banned substances list.
Amateur boxers weigh in on the same day as the fight. This means that they cannot afford to dehydrate as much as professional boxers who weigh in the day following a fight. It is important to control your weight throughout the final week leading up to the fight so that you don’t have to exhaust yourself cutting weight the day of the match.
Any coach worth their salt will warm up their fighter before the fight. A typical pre-fight warm-up usually consists of pad work and stretching, which helps keep the fighter loose so that they don’t go into a fight “cold”.
The Match: How Is a Sanctioned Boxing Match Different From sparring or practice matches?
A sanctioned boxing match is, for the most part, the same as any sparring match. The rules of boxing still apply, and your fighting style will likely not change much. However, there are some differences to remember that may make or break your success in the ring.
This is bar none the biggest difference. For sparring, bag work, and smoker fights, you will use 16 ounce gloves to mitigate unnecessary damage to your hands and to lower the risk of concussion or broken ribs. However, in a sanctioned match, the glove size is 10 ounces. Less than half a pound of difference doesn’t sound like much until you remember that the majority of the weight removed is padding. This means that not only will your hands be significantly faster, but they will hit harder and punches will be harder to block due to the smaller surface area of the glove.
In smoker fights, the referee is usually more willing to allow fighters to continue in tough situations (such as being forced on the defensive for a long period of time) because the gloves are bigger and there is less danger for fighters. They are mostly concerned with preventing fighters from cheating. In a sanctioned bout, the referee’s main job is to keep boxers safe. If you are not fighting back, you will be stopped and you will lose the match. If you take a big shot and react badly, you will be stopped and you will lose the match. The referee is there to keep the athletes safe, and referees take their jobs very seriously.
Even though there is a doctor at smoker fights, they don’t usually get involved in the fight--that is the job of the coach and the referee. In a sanctioned boxing match, the doctor watches the whole fight very closely and can stop the fight at any time to examine fighters. They can also declare the fight over at any time.
A sanctioned boxing match can be a daunting experience with a lot of red tape, but fighting in one can be very rewarding--as can starting any boxing training program. Whether you are training for your first fight or pushing hard with the great coaches at FightCamp to be able to hit your push-up goal or learn a new punch combination, you should feel proud of all that you accomplish.
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The Author: Iain Mackenzie grew up in the middle of downtown Houston and has always been a competitor. He first turned to karate as a young child, where he got his first taste of live sparring and the thrill and discipline of combat sports. From there he went on to sabre fencing, where he competed in tournaments all throughout middle school. However, it was not until he had nearly graduated high school that he found the sport that truly spoke to him: Boxing. Training all throughout college and into his professional career, Iain has trained in multiple gyms across Texas and competed in amateur tournaments with storied histories like Golden Gloves and the Houston Open. His goal is to bring people the sense of belonging and self-actualization boxing has always given to him by explaining the tools he uses as a competing boxer to stay in shape, stay sharp, and stay motivated. As a licensed amateur boxer, Iain has the know how and drive necessary to do just that.