George, 29, was convinced he could drop eight pounds south to middleweight, a weight he hadn’t been since he was 17 years old. His career depended on it, suffering two losses to substantially bigger fighters in his weight class. He and his 6-foot frame would have a much better advantage taking on fighters more of his size at 160 pounds.
Over the course of half a year, George gradually took fights to get closer to middleweight. In March 2013, he fought to a questionable draw against David Lopez at 163 pounds.
Wanting a quick turnaround, George, 24-4-2 (21 KOs), signed to fight middleweight prospect Caleb Truax last June. The fight was contracted to take place at 161 pounds, George’s first real test at making the weight class.
June 20, 2013, the day before the Truax fight…
George awoke at 6 a.m. the morning of the weigh-in with the same lightheadedness and grumbling in his stomach that he had grown accustomed to for the last week.
George got off the bed and dragged himself to the bathroom to pop himself a sleeping pill. He filled a glass with just enough water necessary to swallow the pill. It was one of the few sips of water he could have. Anything else could add ounces he had spent weeks trying to shed.
George hadn’t eaten in five days.
“Hunger goes away,” George said. “The worst thing is the thirst. I would have given $1,000 for a Gatorade.”
George lay back in his bed and looked at the clock again. 6:02. He prayed, hoping for sleep.
June 7, Florida
George spent the previous five weeks preparing in the heat of Florida. He came into training camp around 180 pounds, still in shape from his fight against Lopez.
George’s training routine would consist of sparring three times a week. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, George sparred with high-quality opponents. The other two days, George spent two-and-a half hours hitting the heavy bag, doing pad work or working the heavy bag. Mixed into all of this was cardio, in which George says he would run on the treadmill eight to nine miles a day.
His then-fiancé, Aleksandra would watch and carefully prepare his meals. Gone were small favorites like the use of ketchup or barbeque sauce. This was a balanced diet of several meals with meat mixed with fresh vegetables and fruit.
Camp was going great, he said. About two weeks before the weigh in, boxers generally have a target weight and George was in his at 170 pounds. All George had to do was lose the last nine pounds.
As he continued to train, however, the pounds weren’t coming off. He started to panic.
Around 2 p.m., George and his team headed to the restaurant where the weigh-in would be held around 4 p.m. George had to arrive two hours early so the commission could conduct medical evaluations and fill out paperwork.
George could hardly remain focused. He had Aleksandra write the answers while he concentrated on not passing out. With him was a cooler of materials that would help him regenerate: a Gatorade, a Pedialyte, bottles of water and a sandwich.
“Waiting for them to call your name to get on the scales, it’s just so slow,” he said. “You almost feel like they’re doing it on purpose. They’re not but it’s just your mind messing with you.”
It was finally time for George to step on the scales.
“Donovan George…161 pounds!” the ring announcer said.
He had made it. He could take his time to eat and regain the weight he spent losing weeks prior. George put 15 pounds back on in a 24-hour span, using an I.V. to rehydrate and mixing in healthy foods.
“It’s the greatest relief in the world,” he said. “The night of the weigh-in, you sleep like a baby. I ate and drank everything possible.”
June 21, the night of the fight
In his dressing room, George’s best friend and fellow boxer Mike Jimenez noticed George jumping up and down before the fight. Having never seen George like that before, Jimenez asked what was going on.
“I told him I was just warming up but the truth is I couldn’t feel my legs,” George said. “They went numb. I was so dehydrated and so much in shock, it wouldn’t wake back up.”
George said his energy hadn’t come back like previous fights. His body rejected a lot of the food put into it, causing stomach pains. George had lied to those around him but others could sense what was about to come.
His father and co-trainer Peter George had already witnessed the hell his son went through to take off the last few pounds. On top of not eating for five days, George spent hours in a sauna to drop the last few pounds.
“As a father, it really hurt me,” Peter George said. “To see him shaving off muscle, it gave me a really bad feeling about the fight. I didn’t like it.”
His father, as well as George, was about to go through more pain. George vs. Truax was as one-sided as boxing fights can get.
“Right off the bat, I could tell something was wrong,” Peter said. “The punches were hurting [Donovan] more than usual. By the time he got in there, he just had nothing. For a kid to lose weight like that in his prime, it was just too much.”
Throughout the fight, Truax connected with right hands over and over until George went down. In round six, Truax blasted George with another right that sprawled the fighter to the canvas, ending his night.
“Anybody who has seen me fight me knows I can take a very good punch,” George said. “I couldn’t recover because my body wouldn’t let me.”
February 11, 2014
Arturo Gatti, George’s favorite fighter whom he models himself after, spent his whole career entertaining fans with his relentless action, no-defense style. At the end of his career, Gatti was forced to move up into a weight class where he didn’t belong.
After suffering his last knockout to the hands of Alfonso Gomez, Gatti retired and declared he was too big for 140 pounds but too small for 147.
“That is 100 percent my problem,” George said. “I wish there was a 165-pound weight class but it’s either be really weak or small and strong. I’d rather be small and strong.”
George is set to return to the ring for the first time since the Truax fight on Friday, this time back at 168 pounds and against Troy Lowry at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana.
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