Gotta Catch 'Em All: Boxing's Most Memorable Catchweight Fights

As Benn and Eubank edges towards their domestic dust-up, The Sportsman looks at boxing's catchweight history
06:55, 22 Jul 2022

The upcoming scrap between Chris Eubank Jr and Conor Benn has still not been officially announced, despite looking like the least surprising reveal since Erling Haaland’s Manchester City announcement video. The hold-up is reportedly due to the finer details of the fight weight. With Eubank having scaled as high as super middleweight in his career and Benn being a career welterweight, it is clear a catchweight will be needed. A catchweight is when a bout is set at an agreed maximum weight that does not sit neatly within one of boxing’s existing weight classes. 

As we continue the slow march towards this inevitable domestic dust-up, here are some of the most memorable catchweight fights in boxing’s rich and complicated history.

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‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns II

Coming off a bizarre win over Donny Lalonde where both the WBC light heavyweight and super middleweight titles were on the line, despite the bout being held at the 168lb limit, ‘Sugar’ Ray returned with more weight nonsense.

The WBC super middleweight strap was on the line again, along with Hearns’ WBO strap, at a catchweight of 164lbs. These icons had contested a classic bout for the welterweight championship eight years before. Now far bigger and older, they never quite recaptured the frenetic force of their 1981 bout, but this 12-round draw was still a lot of fun. Many observers felt ‘Hitman’ Hearns was unlucky not to be awarded the decision.

Arturo Gatti vs Micky Ward I, II, III

There is very little left to be said about what is quite simply the greatest boxing trilogy of them all. But one fact that does get lost in all the blood and ‘Thunder’ is the fact that all three of these classic fighters were actually contested at catchweight. 

Gatti and Ward’s thrilling three-parter was fought between super lightweight and welterweight, with a 142lb weight limit in place for the bouts. But the weight matter was trivial, the pair could have hit the buffet and fought at heavyweight and still produced pure magic.

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Bernard Hopkins vs Kelly Pavlik

170 pounds was the weight for this superfight between reigning middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and legendary two-weight world king Bernard Hopkins. ‘The Ghost’ was unbeaten and had proved a destructive force, knocking out 30 of his 34 opponents. But Hopkins would be the one to haunt him.

Many thought that the 43-year-old Hopkins’ time was up and he would fold against the 26-year-old knockout artist. But as he so often did, ‘The Alien’ made a mockery of the odds and of Father Time to dispense one of his most enthralling performances. Hopkins neutralized Pavlik and ground him down to win a dominant 12-round decision. Pavlik was never the same fighter again, while Hopkins would still be winning world titles at the age of 48.

Manny Pacquiao vs Antonio Margarito

‘Pacman’ usually got his way when it came to weight. Oscar De La Hoya had to boil back down to welterweight for the first time in seven years to fight him in 2008. In 2010, WBC light middleweight champion Antonio Margarito was made to cut down to 150lbs before Pacquiao would entertain fighting him.

While it’s unclear how much of a role the lighter weight played, on the night Pacquiao utterly dominated the champion. Margarito was sent to hospital with a shattered orbital bone and without his world title belt, as Pacquiao battered him to a 12-round points defeat.

Amir Khan vs Kell Brook

The last British fight to become embroiled in weight controversy, as Khan told us earlier this year. Explaining why the long-rumored fight had taken years to be made, Amir said, “The reason why it's never happened is because of a few little things that we've never really agreed on. The weight was one issue. Obviously, I was never happy making 149.”

But Khan did indeed make 149lb, two pounds above the welterweight limit, and the fight was on. Brook outshone Khan on the night, pounding his Boltonian rival to defeat in six enthralling rounds at the AO Arena in Manchester.

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