There are plenty of boxing organizations. The reason? Well, unlike other professional sports, boxing has four major competing international organisations, each of which organizes its world championships and determines its champions. It is a very specific situation. Imagine that national football teams playing in the FIFA World Cup each year also had three other world cups during that same year and that each of them is completely legal and legitimate. Difficult to imagine? I should suppose so. But professional boxing works in that exact way.
Each boxing organization has its own belt. Top boxing organizations and corresponding belts are World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC), International Boxing Federation (IBF), and World Boxing Organization (WBO).
Exactly because of boxing organizations complexity, we have decided to dedicate today’s article to the organisation of modern professional boxing, i.e. to the story of the boxing belts.
The History of Boxing Organizations and Belts
The history of championship boxing dates back to the late 19th century, when famous boxer John L. Sullivan was considered to be the world champion. It was by no means a sanctioned world championship, but historically – Sullivan is considered to be the first world champion in professional boxing.
The first sanctioned world title was given in 1921 to Jack Dempsey, who defeated Georges Carpentier in the championship finals. The championship was organised by the then-called National Boxing Association (NBA) and it was the first sanctioned world title fight in the history of professional boxing. The NBA was the national boxing federation of the United States, but is since 1962 known as the World Boxing Association (WBA), one of the four major boxing organisations.
Before the NBA/WBA, a magazine titled Police Gazette was responsible for publishing a list of world champions, which is interesting because the magazine itself wasn’t a boxing organisation. The role of the Police Gazette is today taken by The Ring, a sporting magazine that publishes a separate – fifth in total – list od world champions. But, let’s head back to the organisations.
Just a year after the NBA was rebranded as the WBA, a rival organisation, World Boxing Council (WBC), was founded in Mexico City with the goal of establishing a unified regulatory system for international professional boxing.
A schism within the WBA in 1976 resulted in the creation of the United States Boxing Association (USBA). The USBA was founded by the American branch of the WBA, who wanted to legitimise America boxing separately from the WBA. The international branch of the USBA was founded in 1983 and it was renamed International Boxing Federation (IBF) the next year. This was the third such organisation, but not the last.
The last of the big four, the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), was founded in 1988 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was, for a while, not universally recognised by the other organisations, but finally gained equal status in 2012 thanks to the Japanese Boxing Commission.
Despite being separate, all the four major organisations are pretty much unified when it comes to a lot of things. Firstly, they each award belts and titles in the same 17 weight divisions. This is very important because, despite separate regulations, all the organisations formally recognise each other, i.e. their rankings and titles, and in order for that to function – the divisions must also be equal.
The only significant difference exists with the WBA, where there are three titles that are given to the champions – interim champion, regular champion and super champion (in order to simplify things, the table below will only contain WBA’s super champions, as it is the highest title of among them).
So, to conclude, the four organisations, albeit different, work in a strongly coordinated fashion and it is a fighter’s biggest dream to unify all the four major titles in his weight division – thus becoming the undisputed champion of the world – which is a career achievement only the best have been able to reach.
These top boxing organizations, unfortunately, don’t like to work together. They all have financial gain from working on their own. We have ranked all four of them below.
4. World Boxing Organization (WBO) and Its Belts
World Boxing Organization (WBO) is an organization that arranges boxing matches. It is known worldwide and recognized by the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) as one of the four major world championship groups, alongside the World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC), and International Boxing Federation (IBF). The WBO’s headquarters are located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
It was founded in 1988 and almost immediately after that they started organizing international matches. Despite that, in their start, they struggled to gain credibility in the US at heavyweight, with some of their champions relinquishing the title to pursue other options. Also, magazine The Ring, which has a huge statue in the boxing world, didn’t recognize them at first.
On the other hand, their lighter weight divisions had much more success. In the 90’s they had champions like Chris Eubank, Dariusz Michalczewski, Johnny Tapia, and Naseem Hamed, while boxers such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar De La Hoya, Nigel Benn, Ronald “Winky” Wright, Joe Calzaghe, and Wladimir Klitschko, raised WBO popularity. In Europe, on the other hand, they were almost immediately recognized. In the early 2000s, the WBO was given the same recognition as the other three top boxing organizations, WBA, WBC, and IBF.
WBO, like every other top boxing organization, is full of charges about corruption. Unfortunately, it is something quite normal in top boxing organizations.
World Boxing Organization (WBO) – Champion Belt
Even though we put WBO in the last place as top boxing organization, their belt is recognized the same as those of WBA, WBC, and IBF.
3. World Boxing Association (WBA)
It was founded in 1921 in the US, and in 1962 it changed its name because of growing popularity in boxing all over the world. As we said, it is the oldest organization that the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) recognizes, and oldest of other three top boxing organizations, WBC, IBF, and WBO.
WBA organized its first fight in 1921, in those times known as National Boxing Association (NBA), in New Jersey.
International Boxing Research Organization described the National Boxing Association (NBA) in its early days as
Originally more comparable to the present American Association of Boxing Commissions than to its offspring and successor, the NBA sanctioned title bouts, published lists of outstanding challengers, withdrew titular recognition, but did not attempt to appoint its own title bout officials or otherwise impose its will on championship fights. It also did not conduct purse bids or collect “sanctioning fees.”
Like the other three top boxing organizations, WBA is plagued with corruption. In 1981, the boxing judge claimed he was influenced in setting up more favorable scores for some of its champions. In that article, it was talked about many other bribes that were received by the WBA side to influence boxing matches. In 1982, boxing promoter Bob Arum claimed in the interview that he had to pay WBA referees so they would favor his fighters. There where many more accusations like this in the 80’s and ’90s, similar to other boxing organizations.
World Boxing Association (WBA) – Champion Belts
Under its organization, WBA has four main belts for one weight, something that the other three big boxing organizations don’t have. That is something that fans don’t really like, and something they are largely criticized about, also the main reason we put them in the last place. It is almost impossible for one fighter to have all four belts in its weight category, and to become the sole champion of its organization.
Four belts that the World Boxing Organization (WBO) has are the WBA (Super) champion, the WBA (Regular) champion, the Interim champion, and the WBA Gold title.
WBA (Super) champion is considered the most respected, and equal to WBC, IBF or WBO. Then they have the WBA (Regular) champion, which makes the most confusion here. Fans sometimes don’t know who the real champion is Super or Regular. Then there is an interim champion belt, which is a bit easier to explain and it rarely happens. They use it only when the world champion is for some reason unable to defend its title, that is something that rarely happens. And in 2019, they added one more belt! Crazy, right? They added the WBA Gold title for which they don’t even have rules inside their organization. At the end of 2019, they recognized WBA (Super) champion (Anthony Joshua), WBA (Regular) champion (Manuel Charr), WBA interim champion (Trevor Bryan) and WBA Gold champion (Robert Helenius)! Well, now you know how I felt writing this.
2. International Boxing Federation (IBF)
International Boxing Federation (IBF) is one of four top boxing organizations in the world, and by that is recognized by International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) which sanctions professional boxing matches.
They where formed in 1983, and before that, IBF was called United States Boxing Association (USBA), and they hedquarters are in Springfield, New Jersey, U.S.
A year after their foundation, International Boxing Federation (IBF) is recognized as third (in that time) top boxing organization in the world.
Despite quick recognition as third top boxing organization, their reputation was completely ruined by 1999, with its founder Robert W. “Bobby” Lee accused of racketeering, taking bribes and other violations for ranking fighters higher. Lee was also accused for tax evasion and money-laundry.
“A culture of corruption has festered in the IBF virtually since its inception… IBF ratings were not earned – they were bought… The crimes have bastardized the ratings in most of the weight classes.”– Adam Miller quoting Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cleary, “FEDS BID TO KO BOXING BIGS WITH ‘BRIBE’ RAP”, New York Post, November 5, 1999
In the 21st century their status is again growing and they are still one of the top boxing organizations in the world, despite their huge controversies (but it is not like they are only one).
International Boxing Federation (IBF) – Belt
They at least have one belt for one champion, unlike ‘some’ other big boxing organizations. They are the only boxing organization that strips their champions who don’t fight their mandatory matches.
1. World Boxing Council (WBC)
The World Boxing Council (WBC) is one of four top boxing organizations and in our opinion the very best. Biggest boxing matches in history where organized in WBC, with some of the biggest boxing champions of all time.
In its beginnings, WBC was founded by 11 countries: the United States, United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, France, Mexico, the Philippines, Argentina, Panama, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil in Mexico City in 1963. Today, they have 161 countries as members.
In 1983, they where first boxing organization that reduced fights from 15 rounds to 12, after the death of Kim Duk-Koo from injuries in 14 rounds fight against Ray Mancini. That is something other organizations almost immediately accepted as well.
Some of the biggest champions in World Boxing Council (WBC) are Roy Jones Jr., Wilfred Benítez, Wilfredo Gómez, Canelo Álvarez, Julio César Chávez, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Terence Crawford, Joe Calzaghe, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Thomas Hearns, Salvador Sánchez, Héctor Camacho, Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzón, Rodrigo Valdez, Roberto Durán, Juan Laporte, Félix Trinidad, Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko, Edwin Rosario, Bernard Hopkins, Alexis Argüello, Nigel Benn, Érik Morales, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao, Tony Bellew and Mairis Briedis.
They also have something called “Emeritus Championship”, which would in the short stand for the best of the best boxers in their organization. Only these boxers have achieved that recognition: Manny Pacquiao, Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko, Sergio Martínez, Roy Jones Jr., Bernard Hopkins (Honorary Champion), Mikkel Kessler, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Kostya Tszyu, Danny García, Érik Morales, Toshiaki Nishioka, Vic Darchinyan, Édgar Sosa, and Tony Bellew.
But, if you thought that is all, well it isn’t. There is one more, and as the saying goes, “There Can Be Only One,” Floyd Mayweather Jr. was named “Supreme Champion”, a recognition that nobody before him has ever achieved.
In 1998, Roy Jones Jr. announced that he was relinquishing his WBC light heavyweight title. WBC organized match and crowned the winner of that match, Graciano Rocchigiani, as the new WBC light heavyweight title. Then Roy Jones Jr. changed his mind (WTF) and asked WBC to return him his belt. Can you guess what they did? Well, they violated about dozen of their own rules and gave the belt back to him!
Rocchigiani sued them and the judge ruled in his favor, awarding him with as little as $30 million (U.S.), and also giving him the title of former WBC champion. It could be said, that wasn’t a smart move WBC, but who are we to judge (only fans).
But, not all is lost when big guys are in. An organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (i.e., corporate debt restructuring). They wanted to use that to negotiate with Rocchigiani for a much smaller settlement. He rejected their proposal.
In 2004, World Boxing Council announced they would go into Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation (i.e., business closing and total asset sell-off), which would threaten its existence. That forced others from the boxing community to plead to Rocchigiani for settlement, which he finally accepted in mid-2004.
World Boxing Council (WBC) – Belt
WBC has a green boxing championship belt that portrays the flags of all 161 country members. Belts in all their division have the same identical look, however, there are some minor differences in the design for secondary and regionally themed titles inside the same weight class.
Fighters who succeed in the accumulation of all four belts are called Undisputed Champions. And if you think this is the end of our article, it really isn’t. There is ONE more belt to conquer.
Lineal Boxing Championship
There is also Lineal boxing championship. In boxing where champions are decided by a fight, the lineal championship of a weight class is a world championship boxing title held initially by an undisputed boxing champion and subsequently by a fighter who defeats the reigning boxing champion in a fight at that weight class. In professional boxing, the lineal champion is informally called “the man who beat the man”.
There are four versions of Lineal boxing championship, and those are:
- The Ring – once biggest lineal boxing championship
- Cyber Boxing Zone
- Transnational Boxing Rankings Board – currently most respected lineal boxing championship
Current Transnational Boxing Rankings Board champion is Tyson Fury.
Current Boxing Champions
Seeing how we’ve presented you the story behind the belts, we have also decided to show you all the reigning world champions from each organisation, based on the weight division. Here they are:
|Mini flyweight||Thammanoon Niyomtrong (THA)||Wanheng Menayothin (THA)||Pedro Taduran (PHI)||Wilfredo Mendéz (PUE)|
|Light flyweight||Hiroto Kyoguchi (JAP||Kenshiro Teraji (JAP)||Felix Alvarado (NIC)||Elwin Soto (MEX)|
|Flyweight||Artem Dalakian (UKR)||Julio Cesar Martinez (MEX)||Moruti Mthalane (SAR)||Vacant|
|Super flyweight||Román Gonzáles (NIC)||Juan Francisco Estrada (MEX)||Jerwin Ancaras (PHI)||Kazuto Ioka (PAN)|
|Bantamweight||Naoa Inoyue (JAP)||Nordine Oubaali (FRA)||Naoa Inoyue (JAP)||Johnriel Casimero (PHI)|
|Super bantamweight||Murodjon Akhmadailev (UZB)||Rey Vargas (MEX)||Murodjon Akhmadailev (UZB)||Emanuel Navarrete (MEX)|
|Featherweight||Léo Santa Cruz (MEX)||Gary Russell Jr. (USA)||Josh Warrington (UK)||Shakur Stevenson (USA)|
|Super featherweight||Léo Santa Cruz (MEX)||Miguel Berchelt (MEX)||Joseph Diaz (USA)||Jamel Herring (USA)|
|Lightweight||Vasyl Lomachenko (UKR)||Devin Haney (USA)||Teófimo López (USA)||Vasyl Lomachenko (UKR)|
|Light welterweight||Josh Taylor (UK)||José Ramírez (USA)||Josh Taylor (UK)||José Ramírez (USA)|
|Welterweight||Manny Pacquiao (PHI)||Errol Spence Jr. (USA)||Errol Spence Jr. (USA)||Terrence Crawford (USA)|
|Light middleweight||Jeison Rosario (DOM)||Jermel Charlo (USA)||Jeison Rosario (DOM)||Patrick Teixeira (BRA)|
|Middleweight||Canelo Álvarez (MEX)||Jermel Charlo (USA)||Gennady Golovkin (KAZ)||Demetrius Andrade (USA)|
|Super middleweight||Callum Smith (UK)||David Benavidez (USA)||Caleb Plant (USA)||Billy Joe Saunders (UK)|
|Light heavyweight||Dmitry Bivol (RUS)||Arthur Beterbiev (RUS)||Arthur Beterbiev (RUS)||Vacant|
|Cruiserweight||Arsen Goulamirian (FRA)||Ilunga Makabu (DRC)||Yuniel Dorticos (CUB)||Vacant|
|Heavyweight||Anthony Joshua (UK)||Tyson Fury (UK)||Anthony Joshua (UK)||Anthony Joshua (UK)|
Every Boxing Organization and Belt
As we said before, there are a lot of boxing organizations, and here we will list them all. They are sorted chronology by the years of their establishment.
- 1880 ABA Amateur Boxing Association of England
- 1891 BBBoC British Boxing Board of Control
- 1903 FFB French Boxing Federation (Fédération Française de Boxe)
- 1911–1946 IBU International Boxing Union
- 1915 ANBF Australian National Boxing Federation
- 1916 FPI Federazione Pugilistica Italiana
- 1920 ABF Argentina Boxing Federation
- 1921 WBA World Boxing Association
- 1946 AIBA International Boxing Association
- 1946 EBU European Boxing Union
- 1949 BDB Bund Deutscher Berufsboxer
- 1954 CBC Commonwealth Boxing Council[
- 1963 WBC World Boxing Council
- 1966 NZPBA New Zealand Professional Boxing Association
- 1969 NABF North American Boxing Federation
- 1972 BABF Bangladesh Amateur Boxing Federation
- 1977 USBA United States Boxing Association
- 1980 BUI Boxing Union of Ireland
- 1983 IBF International Boxing Federation
- 1984 National Boxing Association
- 1988 WBF World Boxing Federation
- 1988 WBO World Boxing Organization
- 1989 WPBF World Professional Boxing Federation
- 1990-2012 IBC International Boxing Council
- 1992 IWBF International Women’s Boxing Federation
- 1993 IBO International Boxing Organization
- 1995 WIBF Women’s International Boxing Federation
- 1995 WBU World Boxing Union
- 1996 IBA International Boxing Association
- 1996 IBU International Boxing Union
- 1997 NABA North American Boxing Association
- 1997 IFBA International Female Boxers Association
- 1999 GBC Global Boxing Council
- 2000 WIBA Women’s International Boxing Association
- 2002 WIBC Women’s International Boxing Council
- 2004 WBF World Boxing Foundation
- 2014 UBO Universal Boxing Organization
- 2005-2007 TAB Trans America Boxing
- 2005 GBU Global Boxing Union
- 2008 WBF World Boxing Forum
- 2010 IAB International Association of Boxing International Amateur Boxing
- 2010 IAB International Amateur Boxing
- 2010 WBU World Boxing Union
- 2012 WBL World Boxing League
- 2012 Universal Boxing Federation
- 2014 ABO American Boxing Organization
- 2015 IPBA Indian Professional Boxing Association
- 2016 BIBA British & Irish Boxing Authority
- 2016 WBS World Boxing Society
- 2017 PBC Pakistan Boxing Council
- 2017 PBC Professional Boxing Council
- 2017 RBO Royal Boxing Organization
- 2017 LBF Legends Boxing Federation
- 2018 Brazil IBFed Intercontinental Boxing Federation
- 2018 Pro Boxing Federation
- 2018 APBC Association of Professional Boxing Commissions
- 2018 WBC World Boxing Confederation
- 2018 ITAB Italian Authority of Boxing
- 2018 EBL European Boxing League
- 2018 EBC European Boxing Council
- 2019 IPBA Iran Professional Boxing Association
And this covers our overview of international boxing and the four main belts and organizations in that sport.
We have one more piece of interesting trivia we want to share with you. Do you know if all these boxing belts are made of real gold? Be sure to check it out, you will find some interesting things along the way.
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