Boxing Organisations: A Guide

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Unlike most other sports which have singular organisations and associations running the top events in certain countries or continents, the boxing world is very much a divided one.

This means that there is no single competition or belt that a boxer can win that will give him the title of being the best. Instead, there are several promotions that all claim to be the best. For instance, there can be up to fourHeavyweight Champions of the Worldat any one point, with the WBC, WBO, IBF and WBA all offering up this title, while there is also space for The Ring and Linealchampions.

What is the Difference Between WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO?

Many sports fans wonder what the differences between WBA, WBC and IBF and WBO champions are in boxing though. The simple answer is that there is no single leading boxing association to determine a World Champion, such as FIFA in football or the ATP in mens tennis. Therefore, all the associations aim to put forward their own champions, each of whom declaring them to be the world’s best. To be the true undisputed champion, therefore, fighters need to navigate the alphabet soup of the boxing belts in order to try and claim all four belts. Youll often see the WBO champion taking on the WBC champion and so on, putting their belts on the line with the winner claiming both belts in the quest of unifying the belts.

Undisputed champions are something of a rarity especially in the Heavyweight division. In the past decade, only cruiserweight Oleksander Uysk and light welterweight Terrence Crawford have held the accolade in the mens game, while lightweight Katie Taylor and welterweight Cecilia Brækhus and middleweight Claressa Shields have done so in the women’s side. The promotional nature of boxing can also cause problems in the sport, with top fighters often not fighting each other in their prime as they both hold out for the best deal and sometimes this even leads to the top boxers not actually meeting. Prime examples of this have included Felix Trinidad and Ike Quartey, Sugar Ray Leonard and Aaron Pryor, Roy Jones Jr and Nigel Benn, while Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao didnt take place until the fighters were past their best.

In the following sections, well take at the biggest boxing organisations, as well as some of the top fighters in each of the weight divisions to help you get a better understanding of the sport and therefore give you best chance of placing successful sports bets in the future.

WBA – World Boxing Association

The World Boxing Association is the oldest of the four major boxing organisations alongside the IBF, WBF and WBO. It was founded in the United States in 1921 but was known as the National Boxing Association until 1962 but changed to its current name in order to appeal to a global audience with the sports popularity growing immensely.  The first bout under the original name took place in 1921 and saw American veteran Jack Dempsey knockout Frances Georges Carpentier in the fourth round to become the organisations first heavyweight champion.

WBA Rankings and Weight Classes

There are currently 17 mens weight classes in the WBA, as well as 16 weight classes for women. The WBA can have a Super World Champion and Regular World Champion in each weight class (as well discuss in the next section), while below the champions, the association ranks the next top 15 fighters i.e the top contenders.

In order to ensure that the top-ranked fighters get to face the champions, the WBA (as well as the other boxing organisations) can intervene and insist on mandatory fights, which the champion must accept within a certain timeframe or face being forced to relinquish their belt. This limits the champions from holding on to belts for a long time while being inactive and also aims to stop them picking easyfights in order to keep their belt.

What are the Different WBA Champions and Belts?

At first glance, the WBA list of champions can be quite confusing as there are often multiple champions and belt holders in each weight class. The WBA can offer two titles up for each division: the Regular Championand the Super Champion. This is due to the fact that the WBA recognises title holders from the WBC, WBO and IBF too. A Super Champion is considered to be any fighter that currently holds two or more of the major belts. If a division has a Super Champion, therefore, the WBA also allows for a Regular Champion, although a Regular Champion can also become a Super Champion if they defend their WBA title five times.

Famous WBA Champions

Since it was renamed as the WBAin 1962, there have been over 45 WBA heavyweight champions, with Wladamir Klitschko holding the record for the longest reign (1610 days), before he was surprisingly beaten by Tyson Fury in November 2015. Indeed, like in many other sports, shocks and upsets do happen in boxing – so make sure to factor this into any betting strategy you have.

Fury subsequently vacated the belt after cancelling a rematch Klitschko the following year, leading to Anthony Joshua claiming the title following an epic bout with the Ukrainian at Wembley Stadium, knocking him out in the 11thround and becoming a Super Champion in the process as he also held the IBF title (as well as the IBO title).  But an upset is never far away in the boxing world and Anthony Joshuas reign came to a shocking end after 763 days after he was knocked out by Andy Ruiz Jr who was a massive underdog and a 14/1 shot coming into the bout and earned his family thousands in winning boxing bets after they had all backed him to win.

Of course, boxing isnt just about the heavyweight division, each division has its own stars, such as the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr at welterweight, Canelo Alvarez at middleweight, while Britains Amir Khan has also fought at lightweight, light-welterweight, welterweight and even middleweight. Indeed, several fighters move through different divisions, with Oleksandr Usyk one of the most notable boxers to do so recently, having moved up to Heavyweight after unifying the Cruiserweight division.

WBC – World Boxing Council

The WBC was founded with the collaboration of 11 countries (the US, the UK, France, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil) back in 1963 and the organisation has created bouts between some of the biggest names in the boxing world and is probably the most famous boxing organisation of the lot. Indeed, the WBC loves a big-name fight so much, you can even thank them for creating the special Money Beltclash between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor in 2017. The World Boxing Council has been a leading player in creating the sport of boxing as it is known today especially with regards to regulation in the sport. For example, the WBC introduced limited fights to 12 rounds instead of 15, as well as the stand eight count and a significant increase in weight divisions.

WBC Rankings and Weight Classes

There are a total of 18 mens weight classes in the WBC, and a total of 16 in the women’s side. Like the WBA, the WBC ranks the top 15 contenders in each division, with each weight class having one and sometimes two champions.  However, the WBC rankings and champions are less confusing than the WBA’s “regularand superchampions. The WBC has better maintained the integrity of its championname, although the association does occasionally issue interim belts in the event of the champion being unavailable for a period of time. That said, the association has created some honorary championships, such as the WBC Diamond Championshipfor fights between high-profile elite boxers, as well as the WBC Eternal Championshipfor dominant champions who avoid losing a world title and manage to retire with an undefeated record following a decent record of title defences. Jiselle Salandy and Vitali Klitschko have both been named Eternal Champions by the association.

Famous WBC Champions

If you want to find the biggest names in boxing, you just need to look back the list of previous WBC champions especially in the heavyweight division. Here youll find Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno listed amongst the champions. Youll also see Floyd Mayweather Jr, Oscar De La Hoya, Canelo Alvarez and Sugar Ray Leonard listed amongst the impressive list of WBC champions.

IBF – International Boxing Federation

The International Boxing Federation was created in 1983 on the back of the United States Boxing Association. As well as boxing the IBF also created a Muay Thai world championships in late 2017 as the association looks to diversify.

IBF Rankings and Weight Classes

There are 17 weight classes in the mens IBF divisions, and the same numbers in the womens divisions too. Unlike the WBA and the WBC, the IBF does a much better job of keeping single champions in each division avoiding the confusion of having super, regular or interim champions.

Famous IBF Champions

The first IBF champion was Martin Camel in 1984, but the organisation remained obscure in the early days until it recognised some of the other major organisations champions such as Larry Holmes, Aaron Pryor, Donald Curry and Marvin Hagler which enabled the IBF to ride on the tailcoat of the other organisations and champions until their own belts were treated with greater value. Indeed, in the case of Larry Holmes, he opted to relinquish his WBC title with the offer of receiving an IBF one. It was a bold move that quick paid dividends for the organisation, who became the third biggest boxing organisation in the world in a short space of time. Britains IBF featherweight champion, Josh Warrington, is one of the biggest names in association currently, after winning the IBF title by beating fellow Brit Lee Selby in 2018, before also beating the likes of Carl Frampton and Kid Galahad in successive title defences and an impressive unbeaten record of 29-0 in the fight against the latter.

WBO – World Boxing Organization

The World Boxing Organization was created by a group of Dominican and Puerto Rican businessman after they disagreed regarding rule changes in the WBA in 1988. The WBO helped make its name with the help of some of the top fighters of their time, such as Chris Eubank, Joe Calzaghe, Oscar De La Hoya and Wladimir Klitschko. Like the WBA, the WBO has also created superchampions for fighters who meet certain criteria. The list of WBO Super Champions is an impressive one and includes the likes of Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk and Manny Pacquiao. However, unlike the WBA Super titles, these are more like honorary achievementawards rather than belts won in competition and thus other fighters cannot win Superbelts from boxers who have been awarded them.

WBO Rankings and Weight Classes

There are 17 mens and womens WBO weight classes, although womens titles were only added to the WBO in 2010. Like the other major boxing championships, the WBO rankings feature the 15 top contenders in each division, along with the division champion. The association tends to only have one divisional champion at a time, although it will issue interim belts on occasion, such as the belt won by John Riel Casimero in the bantamweight division in the absence of the truechampion, Zolani Teti.

Famous WBO Champions

It should be noted that the WBO hasnt always been one of the most prestigious majors. Although, it is, nonetheless, one of the majors and remains a crucial part of the puzzle for any aspiring undisputed champion. There have, of course, been some wonderful matches between some of the greats over the years, with Nigel Benns classic against Chris Eubank in 1990 one of the absolute classic bouts, with Eubank claiming the title from Benn courtesy of a seventh round TKO, before the pair battled to a rare draw in the rematch in 1993. The heavyweight division has also seen plenty of action in recent years with Tyson Fury taking Wladimir Klitschkos belt, before Joseph Parker defeated Andy Ruiz to claim the vacant belt, who was then subsequently defeated by Anthony Joshua, who then lost the belt again to Andy Ruiz showing just how tough tight it is at the top of the sport.

What is The Ring Boxing Champion?

Along with the four major boxing associations which declare their own world champions of each division, there are also a couple of other boxing world titles that are popular among fans of the sport, namely The Ring champion and the Lineal Champion. Like many of the boxing associations, the two were intertwined at one point but are now separate entities.

The Ring is a leading boxing magazine which started awarding world championship titles in 1922 and continued to do so until the 1990s, before again recommencing in 2001. The rules for being awarded The Ring title have changed over the years, but The Ring now has a clear set of regulations as to when a title is awarded or revoked. According to The Ring championship policy, a vacant title can only be awarded to the winner of a fight between The Rings number one contender against the second or third contender. No other contests can see a belt be awarded. The Ring Ratings (i.e. Rankings) are compiled by the magazines editorial board with participation of international boxing journalists.

However, if the title holder loses the title, the title isnt necessarily awarded to the winner of the bout unless he meets the requirement set out in the championship policy. The champion will also be stripped if he loses a fight in the weight class, he moves weight class, he doesnt fight for 18 months, he doesnt fight a top-five contender for two years, he retires or he is banned for failing a drugs test. These strict rules can mean titles can be left vacant for years. Indeed, as of 2019, no-one has held The Rings welterweight title since Floyd Mayweather retired in 2015. Indeed, Mayweather earned the title for a second time in 2013, with no-one having picked up the title after he retired for the first time in 2008. This means that only Mayweather has held the welterweight title since 2006, despite being retired for nine of those 13 years. The Lineal Championship was deemed to be similar and for a period was the same as The Ring title, but after The Ring introduced more stringent championship criteria in 2012, many experts highlight that The Ring is a far superior title to the Lineal version.

BBBofC – British Boxing Board of Control

Before any fighter who has international aspirations can really go for the top, many try to work their way through the ranks to show that they are one of the top British boxers by landing a Lonsdale belt issued by the BBBofC (the British Boxing Board of Control). The Lonsdale Belt can be won in each weight division and essentially recognises the fighter as the British champion. Famous winners of the Lonsdale Belt include Lee Selby, Billy Joe Saunders and Carl Froch. However, many of the nations top fighters such as Anthony Joshua, Amir Khan, Carl Frampton, Tyson Fury, Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora choose to skip going for BBBofC honours in the pursuit of the more prosperous international titles. Nevertheless, the BBBofC still has a great deal of control over British boxers often earning the wrath of fighters for regulatory decisions they make.

Prior to fighting for national honours, though, the BBBofC splits boxers into eight different areas: Scottish, Northern Ireland, Welsh, Northern Area, Central Area, Southern Area, Western Area, Midlands Area. As well as the Lonsdale Belt to represent the British champion, the BBBofC also awards titles to the English champions and the Celticchampions (i.e. the champions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). The BBBofC was founded in 1929 and consists of 15 mens weight classes, but not currently any womens divisions. One of the quirks of BBBofC contests is that all fights that go the distance with the exception of title bouts are scored solely by the referee and not by any panel of judges.