Boxing has a litany of problems. Too many weight classes, too many belts, too many promotional companies, not enough good fights on free TV, and a host of others. The WBC’s newest weight division adds to them but may ultimately be good for the sport, and most importantly the fighters.
The new Bridgerweight division will serve as a “bridge” between cruiserweight and heavyweight. It ranges from 200 to 224 pounds. It is named after Bridger Walker, a 6-year-old boy who showed selfless heroism by saving his younger sister from a wild dog. Currently, the WBC is contacting boxers in both the heavyweight division and the cruiserweight division and asking if they would like to be classified as “bridgerweights” in the future.
Right now this is exclusive to the WBC. Ring Magazine seems to be keeping a close eye on things. Contributor Michael Woods posed the question to the editor in chief Doug Fischer who answered “That’s a really good question, Michael, one that I’ll pose to the Ring Ratings Panel. For the time being, however, the answer is no. It’s brand new and the WBC has yet to arrange a bout for their inaugural title. But if the WBC is able to put together a credible top 10-25 of small heavyweights that are cool with being ranked as ‘Bridgerweights’ and if the concept catches on with the other major sanctioning organizations, who knows? Maybe we’ll have to recognize it.”
The WBC is no stranger to adding new divisions. Straw 105, Light fly 108, Superfly 118, Super Welter 154, Super Middle 168, and Cruiser 200 are all ones with original ties to the WBC. Mauricio Sulaiman is the man in charge there and can be one of the more progressive sanctioning body heads, but his move here has been widely unpopular. It’s a winning deal for the WBC. With more sanctioning fees, it can poach fighters from multiple divisions and gets to hand out more belts it makes sense as to how it could be a bit self-serving.
Yet this could become a very interesting division. With the heavyweight landscape now occupied by giants like Anthony Joshua (6’6″ 245) and Tyson Fury (6’9 275) the days of the heavyweight champ weighing 210 are likely over. Short of making an unlimited division, it will be very hard for a fighter who is more closely proportioned to believable human sizes to beat one of these uber-talented giants. They have to overcome some pretty substantial odds just to survive the fight not just win.
We’ve seen fighters make the jump from light heavyweight and cruiserweight before. The latest attempt is coming from Oleksandr Uysk, former unified cruiserweight champion. He looked pretty good against Derek Chisora, but he’s only 6’1″. It was noticeable though that Uysk seemed as though he wasn’t close to putting Chisora away even though he was clearly going to win the fight. Chisora weighed 255 pounds and Uysk only 217. Against a giant like Joshua or Fury, Uysk would have to box the best of his career, and then the reach and weight might still prove too big a hurdle. Maybe his best fights are with tweener fighters yet to be uncovered.
For a more local example, take Philadelphia fighter Sonny Conto. The 24-year-old fighter is 6’4″, but is very lean. He’s weighed in between 214 and 218 in all six of his fights, which were all wins. He could easily pack on another 7 to 10 pounds to be at the top of the division, but to compete with the largest members of the division he’d need to pack on 15 to 20. At what point would a fighter like Conto see diminishing returns from that?
Perhaps this new class could encourage continued movement through the upper divisions. We could see more multi-weight champions moving up from light heavy to cruiserweight and then bridgerweight. Canelo’s jump through the higher weight classes has been exciting, and the idea that with a new weight class open other fighters might have the option to do that should provide endless matchup options and speculation, which every boxing fan loves.
More fights and more possibilities. If it is done right the bridgerweight division could become a fresh new perspective on the upper weight classes. With fighters coming down from heavyweight or moving up from cruiserweight you clear new paths in both of those divisions for fights and futures. Maybe for once, boxing can get something right.