Why so many world belts in boxing?

17 weight categories, 4 belts per category that makes 68 champions! Add to that the “interim” and “regular” titles, we quickly reach the hundred. Far from creating super-fights between each champion, the multiplication of world belts prevents what is best in sport: seeing the best compete against each other.

Boxing is a special sport. Unlike other sports, there is no single body to decide the rules and promotion of the game in the long term.

The Boxing World Championships are overseen by 4 major World Federations:

  • WBA (World Boxing Association), the oldest, based in Panama
  • The most prestigious is the WBC (World Boxing Council), based in Mexico.
  • The IBF (International Boxing Federation), based in the United States.
  • WBO (World Boxing Organization), based in Puerto Rico

IBO and WBU (World Boxing Union) belts are considered minor. As for The Ring Belt, it is awarded on a symbolic basis by the popular American media of the same name, when a boxer proves his superiority in a category.

The world champion must defend his title within the time limit against a #1 challenger who cannot “hold” the belt. But each federation has its own classification, and when a boxer wins several belts, he faces various mandatory challengers at the risk of losing the title.

Which leads to ridiculous situations like World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua. He barely had time to celebrate his victory over Wladimir Klitschko when two fights were imposed on him at the same time: for the IBF against Kubrat Plio and for the WBA against Luis Ortiz.

His promoter was able to find common ground but the problem remains. Until the world federations agree, alliance battles will become less and less frequent.

Since then, federations have sought a solution by multiplying the ballots from intermediate states.

An “interim” belt is created when the champion cannot face his official challenger in time for any reasonable reason:

  • In case of injury,
  • If he wishes to unify the belts and therefore face a champion from another federation,
  • When he moves up the ranks (like Canelo Alvarez WBA-WBC middleweight champion who won the super middleweight belt from Rocky Fielding)

The champion is then promoted to the rank of “super champion”, with his successor being named “regular” or “interim” champion.

As if that wasn’t enough, the WBC has created a “diamond” belt for big fights between two elite boxers (Miguel Cotto vs. Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, …).

This trade-off works for everyone in boxing: boxers have a better chance to become champions, promoters can sell more fights under the prestigious world championship title and federations make their money from commissions on each fight.

The only losers in this story are the common people, who cannot recognize who the “real champion” is.

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