Anyone new to the sport of boxing may be a little confused by the title of this article. Surely it should be ‘the current heavyweight boxing champion?’ but no, that’s not how it works in the world of boxing. There are several boxing organizations that all have their own world champion.
So with that fact out of the way, who are these heavyweight boxing champions? Well, at the moment, we only have two. We’ll take a look at who they are, and answer some FAQs on why there can be multiple world champions. Let’s take a look!
Who Is the Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World?
In boxing, there are four main belts, with secondary honors and boxing titles that can be given by the likes of minor organizations and magazines. Due to this, there can technically be five or more world champions at the same time.
However, one boxer usually holds two or more titles which is the case at the moment. As you can see below, the Ukrainian fighter Oleksandr Usyk currently holds three of the four main heavyweight belts, as well as most of the recognized secondary honors.
If a boxer was to hold all four of the main belts, then they would be called the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Since the WBO became officially recognized in 2007, this has never happened in the heavyweight division.
The last undisputed heavyweight world champion was Lennox Lewis, who held the WBA, WBC, and IBF world titles from 1999 to 2000. Other notable undisputed heavyweights in the three-belt era were Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, and Evander Holyfield.
Interestingly, Oleksandr Uysk has also been a four-belt undisputed world champion, but in the cruiserweight division. Whether or not he can repeat the feat in the heavyweight division remains to be seen.
Current Heavyweight Boxing Champion
Major Boxing Belts
WBA – Oleksandr Usyk
WBC – Tyson Fury
IBF – Oleksandr Usyk
WBO – Oleksandr Usyk
Other Boxing Titles
IBO – Oleksandr Usyk
Ring Magazine – Oleksandr Usyk
Lineal Champion – Oleksandr Usyk
WBA Regular Champion – Daniel Dubois
Heavyweight Boxing Belts and Titles Explained
As we mentioned, there are four main boxing titles, and these are the ones that are respected and recognized as genuine world titles. Here we’ll take a look at how long they have been around and the secondary titles a boxer can get.
WBA – The WBA is the oldest of the boxing organizations, as it was founded in 1921. At that time, they were called the National Boxing Association (NBA) but renamed to the World Boxing Association in 1962.
WBC – From 1920, the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) had a recognized world champion, but in 1963, they supported the formation of the World Boxing Council. 1963 to 1983 can be regarded as the ‘WBA-WBC era,’ with both having world champions.
IBF – Two organizations became three in 1983 with the formation of the International Boxing Federation when members of the WBA broke away.
WBO – While the World Boxing Organization was founded in 1988, they weren’t fully recognized by the other three governing bodies until 2007. Since then, you need to have all these four titles at the same time in order to be an undisputed champion.
IBO – As with the WBO, the International Boxing Organization was also founded in 1988 but has struggled for recognition. It is recognized by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) and the famous website BoxRec, but not by the four major organizations, and also not by The Ring Magazine.
The Ring Magazine – This magazine’s relationship to the world titles is a little more complicated. While not recognized as being a part of the ‘undisputed’ belts, being their world champion is still a highly respected honor. That’s because they work on a system of a lineal champion where you can only be the champion if you beat the current holder of the belt.
Lineal Champion – The definition of a lineal champion isn’t just defined by The Ring, as the likes of Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, BoxingScene, and the Cyber Boxing Zone have their own versions. Despite their slight discrepancies, they are usually in agreeance on the lineal champion.
WBA Regular Champion – Not content with there being several belts around already, the WBA wanted to add another one in 2000. A ‘super’ champion is one that holds the WBA belt and at least one other belt. If this is the case, the WBA will create a ‘regular’ champion so that they always have their own world champion. A regular champion will never be seen as a true world champion.
Current Boxing World Champions
As we’ve seen, we currently have two proper heavyweight boxing champions in Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury. Here we profile them in a little more detail.
Oleksandr Usyk – In an era dominated by huge men (Tyson Fury 6 ft 9”, Deontay Wilder 6ft 6”, Anthony Joshua 6ft 6”), it was thought by many that Usyk (6 ft 3”) was too small to be a world champion, but he proved them wrong in 2021 when he easily beat Joshua.
That was only the Ukrainian’s third fight at heavyweight, having previously been the undisputed world champion at cruiserweight.
His incredible technical ability and exceptional amateur pedigree allowed him to rapidly achieve being an undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight world champion in only his 19th professional fight.
Tyson Fury – Fury’s journey has been an incredible one. When he fought Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, he was a huge underdog. However, he outboxed his opponent to claim the IBF, WBA, and WBO belts. Instead of building on that win, his life fell apart with severe mental health issues.
It wasn’t until three years later that he’d return, having been stripped of all of his titles. After a couple of comeback fights, he fought and drew with Deontay Wilder. Another couple of non-title fights followed before he fought Wilder again in 2020 and won. Since then, he has defended the WBC belt against Wilder again, Dillian Whyte, and Derek Chisora.
Recent Heavyweight Boxing Champions
Let’s take a look at all the heavyweight world boxing champions in the last five years to have held one of the four major belts.
Anthony Joshua – Joshua has had two reigns as world champion in the last five years, having become world champion when he beat Charles Martin in 2016 to claim the IBF title. He would then add the WBA (and IBO) title in 2017 when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko.
The WBO title was added to his collection in 2018 when he beat Joseph Parker. In 2019, he lost and then regained all of these titles when he fought Andy Ruiz twice. First losing by knockout, then winning via points.
In 2021 he lost all of his titles to Oleksandr Usyk. He tried to reclaim them in 2022 but lost again. While being major setbacks, you wouldn’t bet against him becoming world champion again at some point.
Deontay Wilder – For five years and ten defenses, Wilder held the WBC title from 2015 to 2020. He first won it by beating Bermane Stiverne via unanimous decision, and would defend it violently with a series of incredible knockouts.
One of those defenses included a draw against Tyson Fury, how it would be Fury who would eventually take his title away from him in 2020. He tried to reclaim the title in 2021 but again lost via knockout. As with Joshua, he’ll surely be in another title fight sooner or later.
Andy Ruiz Jr. – As mentioned, Ruiz won the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles from Joshua in 2019 with his shock knockout of the previously undefeated champion. The rematch happened later in the year, in which Joshua kept his distance and outboxed Ruiz Jr.
Joseph Parker – After Tyson Fury was stripped of the title for cocaine use in 2016, Parker fought Ruiz for the vacant WBO belt. Parker won and held onto the belt for two years. In that time, he had two defenses, including one against Tyson Fury’s cousin, Hughie. Parker would lose his belt to Anthony Joshua in 2018.
Why Is Usyk the Lineal Champion?
In theory, the lineal champion seems simple. You need to beat the previous champion to be given the honor, but it doesn’t always work like that.
There are a number of ways that you can be stripped of the lineal title, such as if you move divisions or you are inactive for more than 18 months. However, another rule is crucial in this respect, and that is retirement.
Fury won the lineal title in 2015 when he beat Klitschko, so why isn’t he the lineal champion now? Well, it’s because he said he was retiring and opted to vacate The Ring belt.
If there is a retirement, then the #1 and #2 ranked boxers can fight for it. This happened when Joshua and Usyk fought, and therefore it was decided that the winner of that bout would be the new lineal champion, which was Usyk.
However, while this is recognized by The Ring, other publications still see Fury as the lineal champion, as he didn’t actually retire and has never been beaten.
What is the WBA Regular Heavyweight Title?
The WBA has a ‘primary’ and a ‘secondary’ world champion. It’s something that a lot of boxing fans disagree with as it adds further complication to an already complex system of deciding who the champion is.
A regular champion is the secondary champion, and super is the primary champion. This can lead to boxers being called world champions even though, in reality, they aren’t. This is currently the case with Daniel Dubois, who won the regular title in 2022 but has yet to beat a world-class opponent.
How Many Heavyweight Boxing Titles Are There?
There are four main belts, which are the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO. These are the ones that are respected above all others. These are also the titles that boxers truly care about.
As we can see above, there are also other belts that can be given by publications and minor organizations.
Aside from world titles, different regions and countries will also have their heavyweight champions. For example, there are there is the British heavyweight title and the European Boxing Union heavyweight title. Both of these are currently held by Joe Joyce.
Why Are There So Many Boxing Titles?
Money and power. Having a bout labeled as a ‘world title fight’ is a great marketing ploy and allows promotors to sell more tickets. Over the years, different people have wanted to create organizations to get their own slice of the pie.
This happens in other sports, such as MMA. However, in MMA, the UFC has become so big that most elite fighters will end up just fighting for them, and there is little cross-promotion with other organizations.
In boxing, there has historically been a lot of politics and power at play. This has led us to a situation today where there are four world titles that are all respected almost equally.
Which Heavyweight Boxing Titles Are Most Respected?
If you were to give an order of most respect, it would probably be WBC, WBA, IBF, and then WBO. WBC is often seen as the most highly respected due to it being formed by the boards of 11 countries initially, with it now having 161 member countries.
That being said, the WBA is one year older, so it is very close to the WBC in terms of the respect they are given. After that, the IBF and WBO titles are given slightly less respect as they are a lot younger, but there is not much difference in how these titles are viewed.
Who Decides Heavyweight Boxing Rankings?
This is a bone of contention for a lot of fans as it’s done subjectively by the boards of each major organization. Each of them will have its own ranking system, and often it seems to be artificially manufactured to create big fights.
This is why The Ring magazine’s ratings are highly respected as there is no incentive for them to tamper with them, as they don’t sanction fights. BoxRec uses algorithms to determine its ranking system, making it completely impartial, but some argue with its accuracy. However, their ratings are used by the IBO.