The ultimate goal of any boxer is to become a world champion and take the championship belt home with them. But, there are different kinds of boxing championship titles and belts and for anyone new to the sport, it can be very confusing.
Thankfully we can help. Here we go over everything you need to know about boxing titles and belts. By the end, you’ll be an expert so let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
- Different Champions in Boxing
- 3 Boxing Championship Titles
- 4 Main Boxing Organizations
- Different Boxing Organizations
Different Champions in Boxing
To become a boxing champion, you have to do more than just be able to box and win fights. A boxer has to become the top contender before they can challenge the reigning champion for the belt.
Almost every boxing organization has a strict set of requirements that a boxer must fulfill to become a top contender.
The basic requirements to become a champion are:
- Be affiliated with a professional boxer promoter who will arrange pro-fights for you
- Get licensed by completing medical tests and weigh-ins
- Become a number one contender in your weight class through victories
- Pay the fee to compete for the belts offered by one of the four sanctioning bodies
- Defeat the reigning champion in the title fight
After a boxer beats the champion, their journey does not stop. The boxers have to prove themselves by defending their title against future top contenders. Once you’re recognized as a champion by one of the major boxing organizations, you can continue to fight in other boxing organizations and aim to become an undisputed champion.
A champion boxer must fight mandatory matches to defend his championship belt from time to time. If the boxer refuses to fight, they will lose the title and the number one and number two contenders will fight for it. A few other ways in which a boxer may lose his championship belt are:
- Failing to meet the weight class criteria
- Being defeated by the top contender in a title defense fight
3 Boxing Championship Titles
In addition to winning the championship belt, the boxer can earn a championship title. There are 3 boxing championship titles:
If the reigning champion won their belt by defeating the previous reigning champion, they become a lineal champion. Lineal champions have a lineage of previous champions, each of whom won the title after defeating the previous champion.
For example, Muhammad Ali won the boxing heavyweight champion belt thrice to become the world’s only lineal three-time heavyweight champion. Unlike other champions, a lineal champion title has a lineage behind it that gives it more prestige.
A champion who holds two or more belts of the same weight class in any of the four major boxing organizations is known as a unified champion. To become a unified champion, the champions from different boxing organizations can have a unification bout.
An undisputed champion is a boxer who holds all championship belts in the same weight class from all four boxing organizations at the same time. To become an undisputed boxing champion is a monumental task, and to date, there have only been 13 boxers, 8 male and 5 female, to hold all four belts to become the undisputed champions.
There have been undisputed champions in the past when WBO had not yet been recognized as a major boxing organization. For example, Mike Tyson reigned as an undisputed heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990 with only WBA, WBC, and IBF belts.
4 Main Boxing Organizations
The following 4 major boxing organizations award boxing belts in order of prestige:
WBA – World Boxing Association
WBC – World Boxing Council
IBF – International Boxing Federation
WBO – World Boxing Organization
Each of these sanctioning bodies has its own rules and belts. There are 17 boxing title belts sanctioned by each of these organizations for a total of 68 belts in the world. The WBA championship belt is the oldest among all the boxing belts ranked.
The American boxing magazine The Ring also hosts championship bouts and awards titles to the winners. Even though the other four major boxing organizations do not recognize the Ring championship belts, many fans consider it the best belt in boxing since The Ring title matches are not influenced by politics and money.
Different Boxing Organizations
The 4 major boxing organizations each have different approaches and rules for boxing. Many fans consider The Ring to be the fifth major boxing organization however, the above 4 are the officially recognized and respected organizations worldwide.
Some other boxing organizations, such as the IBO, are not recognized by the 4 major organizations despite being recognized by the European Boxing Union and the British Boxing Board of Control.
Still, the 4 main boxing organizations each have a history of prestige that sets them apart from other organizations. Let’s take a look at the organizations themselves.
World Boxing Association – Founded 1962
The World Boxing Association, formerly known as the National Boxing Association, was the first boxing organization founded in the United States of America in 1921. However, over the years, the WBA has shifted its headquarters around different countries.
The WBA Timeline
1921 – Established in the United States initially as the National Boxing Association.
1962 – The organization renamed itself to World Boxing Association due to the growing popularity of boxing around the world as well as to attract other nations to join the association.
1975 – The WBA moved its headquarters to Panama.
1990 – The organization moved its central offices to Venezuela.
2007 – The WBA shifted back to Panama.
The World Boxing Association took control of the boxing world as the first major boxing organization. They organized bouts and championship fights, awarding the champion with the WBA belt. As it was the only sanctioned body, there was only one belt and, in turn, only one world champion.
Boxers would compete and try to earn the WBA championship title to pave their way to fame and fortune. WBA matches were very popular and the matches were promoted by businessmen and politicians alike.
Even though the World Boxing Association is the first, oldest, and most respectable organization, there has been much negativity around it as well. The organization has been accused of not promoting the sport professionally with more focus on investors instead of arranging more equal matches between boxers.
World Boxing Council – Founded 1963
The World Boxing Council was established in 1963 in Mexico. It quickly gained recognition and became a competitor to the WBA. The initial members of the WBC consisted of 11 Nations, overthrowing the WBA as the main organization of boxing at the time. However, today the WBC has 161 member nations.
The World Boxing Council introduced its own WBC belt. Since they were two title belts, the undisputed world champions and unified world champions were introduced.
International Boxing Federation – Founded 1983
Bobby Lee founded the International Boxing Association in 1983 after he lost against Gilbert Mendoza to be the president of WBA.
At the time of its creation, the IBF was called United States Boxing Association International (USBA-International) but was later renamed the International Boxing Federation (IBF) officially in 2018. IBF also introduced the IBF boxing championship belts, further expanding the title of a unified world champion.
IBF was recognized as the third major boxing organization a year after it was founded after IBF recognized multiple WBA and WBC champions and offered them the IBF championship belt. As a result, WBC champion Larry Holmes relinquished his WBC championship belt for an IBF championship belt.
The IBF Timeline
1983 – Founded by Bobby Lee as United States Boxing Association International after he failed to become the president of WBA.
1984 – The IBF recognized champions from other organizations, solidifying itself as the third boxing-sanctioning body.
2010 – Began to sanction female boxing championships and crowned their first female boxing champion.
2018 – Officially renamed themselves to International Boxing Federation (IBF).
World Boxing Organization – Founded 1988
In 1988, the World Boxing Organization was started by a group of businessmen who left the WBA over a dispute over boxing rules. The WBO introduced the WBO championship belt as a boxing-sanctioning body.
Unlike the other major bodies, it took the WBO a long time to be acknowledged as a world title-sanctioning organization. It was initially recognized in Europe because a significant number of WBO champions were European boxers.
What is the professional boxing league called?
There isn’t a professional league for boxing as there is in many other sports. Instead, a boxer will aim to climb the rankings in one of the four major organizations so they can get a world title shot.
What is the highest title in boxing?
Even though WBA is the oldest, it is the WBC that is regarded as the highest title in boxing. However, The Ring championship title is considered the best by many fans.
How many belts are there in boxing?
With 17 weight classes and 4 major organizations, there are a total of 68 belts. However, you can also count 17 belts of The Ring championships for their reputation.
How many WBC belts are there?
The WBC has the following 4 different types of championship belts today:
- The Green Championship Belt
- The Diamond Championship Belt
- The Silver Championship Belt
- The Eternal Championship Belt
How many heavyweight boxing belts are there?
There are 4 heavyweight boxing belts recognized by WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO. The Ring and IBO also have their heavyweight championship belts but they’re not recognized by the other 4 boxing-sanctioning organizations.