A Guide to Boxing Organisations

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Unlike with football, for example, which has only FIFA as its effective world governing body, boxing is very much a divided sport when it comes to ranking its performers and handing out world titles’. The upshot of this is that no one competition a boxer can win and no single belt he can wear will truly mark him or her out as being the best “bar none”, unlike in a football World Cup where the winner is the champion of the world no questions asked. 
Instead boxing has disparate promotions all claiming to be the best around, leading to there potentially being anything up to four heavyweight champions of the world’ at a given point, as the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO all hand out the title.  It is complicated further given the space for The Ring or “Lineal” boxing champions too.

Key Differences Between the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO

Any casual observer would be in their rights to be confused about these different sanctioning organisations.  There simply is no single authoritative boxing association able to determine a definitive single world champion, leading to all the organisations putting up their own champions with naturally each boxer claiming to be the best.

You will no doubt associate the phrase undisputed champion” to boxing though, and that only comes when a boxer has somehow mapped his way through the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO and successfully claimed all four belts. This is why you will often witness for example the WBC title holder taking on the WBO champ, both fighters putting their belts up for grabs with the winner able to claim both, thus unifying them. This happens quite a lot in the sport, but outright undisputed champions of the world are a much rarer thing, and this is especially true of the heavyweight division. In the past decade for example in the mens side of the sport, only Oleksander Usyk at cruiserweight and Terrence Crawford at light welterweight have held the title while over the same time period in the women’s game, just Katie Taylor (lightweight), Cecilia Brækhus (welterweight) and Claressa Shields at middleweight have done the same.Whereas in tennis or football the very best clubs or players are bound to meet each other at some point in competition, boxing being so heavily reliant on promotion and match-ups means often the best fighters either don’t meet while both in their prime or often never fight each other at all. This is because they regularly hold out for a better money deal for a big fight.

Top examples in the past being Aaron Pryor/Sugar Ray Leonard or Nigel Benn/Roy Jones Junior while the previously imperious Manny Pacquiao and Floyd “Money” Mayweather didn’t meet until after the two were beyond their best years. To help you with your boxing selections and sports wagering, the rest of this piece will guide you through some of the best boxers in each weight division and sanctioning organisation to help you understand this arguably unnecessarily complicated sport a little better.

The World Boxing Association (WBA)

Boxing is very acronym-heavy, so despite everyone having heard of the WBA not many casual watchers would even know its proper title is the World Boxing Association.  One of the four major organisations along with the IBF, WBC and WBO, this is the oldest of them having been founded in the USA back in 1921. Having previously been known as the National Boxing Association up until 1962, it changed its name in order to generate more interest on a world level while using ‘NBA’ >would have also caused some confusion, of course, due to the basketball association. 1921 then saw the WBA’s first bout take place with American stalwart Jack Dempsey managing to knock out Frenchman Georges Carpentier in round 4 to become their original heavyweight champion.

Weight Classes and Rankings in the WBA

It goes without saying that boxers have to be paired-up according to weight and there are 17 different weight classes for men in the WBA from minimumweight right up to heavyweight as well as 16 for women. The organisation may have both a regular World Champion and a Super World Champion within each division, something we’ll go through in more detail shortly, and beneath these the WBA puts the next 15 top fighters into a ranking system, making them the “top contenders”. The WBA and its fellow organisations ensure that the highest-ranked fighters get a chance to meet the champions, meaning they can intercede and essentially demand mandatory bouts.  The champion must then accept this fight within a given timeframe or face relinquishing their belt. This system takes away the temptation for current champions to hang onto their belts for an extended time while remaining inactive while also halting them from going for easy bouts simply to remain at the top.

Champions and Belts Within the WBA

The WBA offers up two different titles for each division known as the “Regular Champion” and the “Super Champion”. The reason for this is that the WBA actually recognises title holders from the IBF, WBC and WBO and so any fighter currently holding two or more major belts is considered a Super Champion.  A Regular Champion can also be considered a Super Champion should they manage to defend their WBA belt five times.

Famous WBA Names

Since it became the WBA back in 1962, the association has had 45 heavyweight champions.  The longest reign at the top was an amazing 1610 days, or almost 4½ years, that of Wladimir Klitschko who lost his crown when he was beaten by underdog Tyson Fury in November of 2015. Such surprise wins may be rare, but they do happen so remember to factor that in when you’re devising your boxing betting strategy. In fact, the WBA was to see another shock after Fury vacated the belt following the cancellation of his rematch with Klitschko in 2016. Fury’s absence from the ring meant that the big Ukrainian fought Anthony Joshua at Wembley instead, the Brit winning the title after knocking Klitschko out in the eleventh round.  This also meant Joshua was a Super Champion, given that he already held both the IBF (and IBO) title.

The aforementioned underdog win is always just around the corner though, and Joshua himself saw his own 763-day reign at the top come to an end after Andy Ruiz Jr put him down in New York, the Mexican-American’s family all apparently winning bets on him! Of course, Joshua would avenge that defeat by beating Ruiz in the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ just six months later to regain his titles. While we talk a lot about the star-studded heavyweight division in boxing, it isn’t all about the big guys: each weight class possessing its own leading man or woman with the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez having dominated their divisions.

The World Boxing Council (WBC)

Arguably the most famous of all the organisations, the WBC was founded in 1963 as a collaboration between 11 countries, namely Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, UK, USA and Venezuela. This organisation has put forward bouts between some of the greatest names in the sport over the years.In fact, their love of a big showpiece event meant them promoting the unusual clash between Floyd Mayweather and UFC fighter Conor McGregor in 2017. The WBC has been essential in making boxing what it is now; a strongly regulated sport with welfare at the forefront.  In fact, it was the WBC that introduced the 12-round limit instead of the previous 15-round bouts alongside an increase in weight classes and the now familiar standing eight count.

Weight Classes and Rankings in the WBC

As many as 18 weight divisions exist within the WBC for the men with 16 on the women’s side of the organisation.  Much like the other major organisations, the WBC ranks its top 15 contenders for each weight class, all of the divisions then possessing one, or occasionally two, champions. Unlike the somewhat confusing WBA super and regular champions we mentioned earlier though, the WBC has sought to keep the integrity of the name “champion” although they do on occasion hand out interim belts should their champion be unavailable to fight for any extended period of time. Mind you, the WBC has produced honorary championships under its name including the WBC Diamond Championship which are bouts fought out by high-profile, elite boxers and the WBC Eternal Championship.  The latter named is for those seen as “dominant” champions, those who have avoided losing their titles and who have retired with an undefeated record.

Examples of such fighters include Vitali Klitschko and Jiselle Salandy, both of whom have previously held the title of Eternal Champions of the WBC.

Famous WBC Fighters

It almost goes without saying that the biggest names within the WBC camp have been in the heavyweight division over the years, those of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield just rolling off the tongue. They aren’t alone though, admirable WBC champions have also included Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo Alvarez and the inimitable Floyd Mayweather.

The International Boxing Federation (IBF)

Very much an organisation that looks to expand and diversify, the IBF is responsible for creating the Muay Thai World Championships as recently as 2017 but as a straight up boxing federation, it has existed since 1983 when it was founded having been preceded by the United States Boxing Association.

Weight Classes and Rankings in the IBF

The IBF has 17 different weight divisions for men and the same for women.  Some fighters are able to move up and down these weight classes and may have advantages and disadvantages because of this, something you’d do well to remember when picking your betting strategy.

The International Boxing Federation, unlike for example the WBA and WBC, does very well to keep just the one champion in every weight class at all times, thus avoiding any confusion.

Famous IBF Names

After the IBF’s inauguration, their first champion was crowned in 1984 (Martin Camel).  Despite this, they remained in the shadows somewhat until it began to recognise champions from other organisations such as Aaron Pryor, Marvin Hagler and Larry Holmes.This meant that the IBF could follow in the slipstream of the other major organisations until their own championship belts were seen as being valuable enough to compete for.  Larry Holmes in fact once agreed to give up his WBC belt having been offered the chance of an IBF one. It was a defining moment for the IBF and the move was swiftly rewarded, meaning they thereafter became the third largest boxing organisation in the world for a short time. The IBF continues to grow and in the modern day one of their biggest stars is Josh Warrington. Having won the IBF title from Lee Selby in May 2018, he went on to defeat Kid Galahad, Carl Frampton and Sofaine Takoucht, taking his lifetime record to 30-0, six of his wins coming by way of knockout.

The World Boxing Organisation (WBO)

Having come to a disagreement regarding rule alterations within the WBA in 1988, a group of Puerto Rican and Dominican businessmen created the World Boxing Organisation, or WBO. The organisation quickly took off however and with the help of such well known fighters as Chris Eubank, Oscar De La Hoya, Joe Calzaghe and Wladimir Klitschko it made a real name for itself within the sport. Just as we’ve seen within the WBA, “super” champions can be crowned by the WBO if they meet the right requirements. Boxers such as Oleksander Usyk and Anthony Joshua are on this list but in this case they achieve their super champion status by way of honorary achievement awards and not strictly having won belts.

Weight Classes and Rankings in the WBO

As is fairly standard, the WBO has 17 different weight classes for men and women, albeit the latter was only added by the WBO as recently as 2010. In line with other major organisations, the WBO ranks its top 15 contenders in each weight class alongside a divisional champion. The WBO usually has just the one champion at a time in each division.

Famous WBO Names

The WBO has had to take its time to be considered one of the prestige organisations, but it did quickly oversee some major bouts. In 1990 they had the classic Nigel Benn v Chris Eubank fight, the latter taking the honours after a TKO in round 7 while they eventually organised a rematch in 1993, a bout that was drawn.

Their heavyweight division has been responsible for the likes of Wladimir Klitchscko v Tyson Fury and Joseph Parker v Andy Ruiz. Just to show how close things are at the top; Parker beat Ruiz but went on to lose to the sport’s up-and-coming superstar Anthony Joshua.

The Ring Champion Explained

As well as our four major organisations above all declaring their very own “world champions” for each weight class, there are yet more boxing titles fighters want to win and that remain popular with fans across the globe – The Ring Champion and also the Lineal Champion. The Ring is an American boxing magazine dating back to 1922. The title began crowning world title holders and even did so right up to 1990 and beyond and, after a hiatus, recommenced this in 2001. While the rules and regulations in awarding a ‘The Ring’ title have been tweaked over the decades, they now have clear directives regarding when the title is given out and when it can be revoked.

The magazine’s editorial board compiles The Ring’s rankings with the help of renowned international boxing journalists.  From there, a vacant title can only be awarded by The Ring when there has been a bout between their number 1 contender and the second or third contenders.  No belt is awarded for winning any other fight. Even at that point, should the current title holder then lose a match, he doesn’t necessarily hand his title to the winner of the fight unless that boxer meets the full requirements set out in The Ring’s championship policy. The champion can also be robbed of his title if he loses a bout within the weight division, moves division, does not box for 18 months or more, doesn’t take on a top 5 contenders within two years, fails a drug test or of course retires. This rather authoritarian set of rules means that The Ring titles can often be vacant for months or even years.  As of 2019, no fighter has been their champion welterweight since Floyd “Money” Mayweather gave up in 2015.  Mayweather himself won the title in 2006, then retired in 2008, returned to earn it all over again in 2013 then finally retired once more in 2015.  Nobody has taken it since. Being a Lineal Champion is a little different.  Rather than fighting for a specific belt, or indeed any belt sanctioned by one of the above major organisations, if a fighter beats someone who is considered to be the current champion in a weight division, then they consider themselves to be the lineal champion, i.e. “the man who beat the man.”

Nederlandse Boksbond

All fighters probably have ambitions of taking on the best boxers in the world and gaining a world title belt or an Olympic Gold medal, but before they do that they have to work their way up the ranks within their own territory which is where the Nederlandse Boksbond (NBB) comes in, known to some as the Dutch Boxing Association. The Nederlandse Boksbond is a non-profit organisation and is effectively the umbrella federation for boxing in the Netherlands. The NBB spans the sport from recreational level through to top level competition, working with other organisations to get the best Dutch boxers to the Olympic Games to compete. The Nederlandse Boksbond has been on the go since February of 1911, founded by the Hagenaar PMC Toepoel, the very first Dutch light-middleweight boxing champion.  After decades of slowly but surely getting this organisation off the ground, the Nederlandse Boksbond finally organised a European Championship for the first time in 2011. The NBB can offer training for people to become boxing trainers and instructors too, especially those who are already acting as personal trainers, as well as referees or even judges. The Nederlandse Boksbond oversees regional and national boxing championships in the Netherlands as well as business boxing events.  Via the union, ring doctors, referees and judges are all deployed by the NBB for any and all official boxing matches in the country.