5 Boxing World Champions? The Crazy and Confusing World of a Pro Boxer!

By Ian John
May 15, 2024

19 Weight Divisions, 4 Organisations, 1 Unofficial Organisation – The Crazy World of Pro Boxing!

Being a World Champion is the ultimate pinnacle of any sports professional’s career, a testament to their skill, dedication, and perseverance.

But what happens if you are one of two, three, four or even five World Champions? Can you really call yourself World Champion if two or more people claim the same accolade?

That is the situation in the world of boxing right now. And it has been the case for many years.

With the heavyweight title unification bout between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk on the horizon, now seems a great time to try to explain the somewhat messy system in place.

But before we examine that, here’s a reminder that there’s plenty of great betting available on the Fury v Usyk clash and many other top boxing matches at bet365 Sport. Just use our bet365 bonus code to join today!

Boxing Explained for Beginners

Boxing is a sport where two combatants face each other in the ring, with both competitors being at an agreed upper weight limit for the bout (in most divisions). The aim is to defeat the opponent, and boxers can do this in a number of ways: –

Boxing – Possible Results

  • Knockout (KO) – When an opponent is punched and knocked to the floor and cannot get up and fight on after a count of ten.
  • Technical Knockout (TKO) – This is when a referee decides during a round that a fighter cannot safely continue to fight. This can also be called a stoppage or a referee-stopped contest (RSC) decision.
  • Disqualification (DQ) is when a fighter repeatedly breaks the rules or does something not allowed during the fight (such as biting, head-butting, kicking, etc.) and is disqualified by the referee.
  • Retirement or Corner Retirement – This is when a boxer is pulled from a fight by their corner, either in between rounds or by their corner throwing in the towel during the fight.
  • Technical Decision – This is only used when a fight is stopped owing to a boxer being cut. If the cut is caused by a punch, then the fighter that delivered the punch causing the cut wins by Technical Decision. If a headbutt caused the cut, the boxer ahead on the judges’ scorecards wins. Provided the fight has gone the requisite distance for the judges’ cards to be effective. This is usually after a bout’s fourth, fifth or sixth round. If the fight does not reach the required distance and is stopped because of a cut caused by a headbutt, the fight is a technical draw.

If a fight goes the full distance without a knockout, disqualification, or technical knockout, then the Points system decides the winner.

This is when a fighter wins on points based on how the judges at ringside (or, in lesser bouts, the referee) score the contest. However, a different points decision can be reached depending on the scorecards for the bout.

  • Unanimous Decision – This is when all three judges score the bout in favour of one fighter over the other.
  • Majority Decision – This is when two judges score the fight in favour of one fighter, with the other scoring the bout as a draw.
  • Majority Draw—In a majority draw, two judges score the fight as a draw, with one judge scoring the fight in favour of one of the fighters.
  • Split Decision – This is when two judges score the fight in favour of one fighter, but the other judge scores the fight in favour of the other fighter.
  • Split Draw—This occurs when one judge scores the fight in favour of one fighter, another judge scores in favour of the other fighter, and the third judge scores the contest as a draw.

Boxing Organisations

At the world level, the organisation of boxing is fragmented. There are potentially seven different ‘world titles’ a boxer can claim to hold at any of the 19 weight classifications. They are: –

  • WBA World Champion
  • WBC World Champion
  • IBF World Champion
  • WBO World Champion
  • IBO World Champion
  • The Ring World Champion
  • Lineal World Champion

Of these seven, only the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO recognise each other as having ‘official’ world champions in the weight classes. The other four organisations do not officially recognise the IBO, and it does not recognise the other four organisations.

The Ring World Champion is different. It is a title awarded by The Ring magazine, and it approximates the rankings and skills of all boxers in each weight division to determine what it believes are the unified champions at each weight, regardless of their rankings across the different organisations.

The Lineal World Champion is the direct line champion from the past unanimous World Champion. While The Ring and Lineal champions may be mentioned in fight promotional material, they are not ‘official’ titles like the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles.


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Boxing Weight Classifications

Originally, there were just eight weight divisions in boxing. They were:

  • Flyweight – 108-112lb
  • Bantamweight – 115-118lb
  • Featherweight – 122-126 lb
  • Lightweight – 130-135lb
  • Welterweight – 140-147lb
  • Middleweight – 154-160lb
  • Light Heavyweight – 168-175lb
  • Heavyweight – 200lb+

These are known as the ‘glamour divisions’ in the sport.

However, over time, the number of divisions increased, with several ‘Tweener Divisions’ created between the glamour classes, and some weight limits changed at the heavier weights.

There are 19 different weight divisions, though not all are recognised by the four main boxing organisations. Some weight classes operate under different names in different organisations, and these are listed below.

  • Atomweight, Junior Mini flyweight, Light Minimumweight – up to 102lb
  • Minimumweight, Strawweight, Mini flyweight – 102-105lb
  • Light flyweight, Junior flyweight – 105-108lb
  • Flyweight – 108-112lb
  • Super Flyweight, Junior Bantamweight – 112-115lb
  • Bantamweight – 115-118lb
  • Super Bantamweight, Junior Featherweight – 118-122lb
  • Featherweight – 122-126lb
  • Super Featherweight, Junior Lightweight – 126-130lb
  • Lightweight – 130-135lb
  • Super Lightweight, Junior Welterweight – 135-140lb
  • Welterweight – 140-147lb
  • Super Welterweight, Junior Middleweight – 147-154lb
  • Middleweight – 154-160lb
  • Super Middleweight – 160-168lb
  • Light Heavyweight – 168-175lb
  • Cruiserweight, Junior Heavyweight – 175-200lb
  • Super Cruiserweight, Bridgerweight – 200-224lb
  • Heavyweight – No limits

So, as you can imagine. With 19 weight divisions and four ‘official’ divisions with their own champions and rankings in each, plus three other unofficial divisions/belts. Little wonder there are calls for more unified champions.

Speaking of which, there are also different classifications of a boxing world champion.

boxing betting

Boxing World Champions

  • World Champion – the holder of one of the four official belts as world champion at their weight.
  • Unified World Champion – a boxer that holds two or more, but not all, of the four world championship belts.
  • Multi-weight World Champion – a boxer, such as Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones, Oleksandr Usyk, Canelo Alvarez, Floyd Mayweather or Tommy Hearns, that has won world titles at more than one weight division.
  • Undisputed World Champion – a boxer that holds all four official world title belts at their weight and is also The Ring, Lineal and IBO World Champion.

Nowadays, it is not common for boxers to become Undisputed World Champion at their weight, but some do exist. Canelo Alvarez is the undisputed World Champion at Super Middleweight and Naoya Inoue is the undisputed World Champion at Super Bantamweight/Junior Featherweight.

Hopefully, this post has clarified a little of how things are organised at the top level in world boxing. Remember too, with many big fights lined up, bet365 Sport offers superb boxing betting on a massive choice of bouts.

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