Boxing is one of the oldest sports in the world, with its roots in the Greek and Roman Empires and then starting professionally in the United Kingdom in the 16th Century, sweet science has been a part of sports for centuries. As a result of the numerous years it’s been around, the sport is almost confusing to new fans. Remembering multiple weight classes, different championship belts, governing bodies and the ins and outs of the world of boxing can be complex. So here’s something to help new and seasoned fans understand the sport better.
Boxing, unlike other combat sports, has weight divisions for every 5 lbs. Here are the weight divisions starting from the lightest to heaviest.
* minimum weight, 105 pounds (48 kg)
* light flyweight, 108 pounds (49 kg)
* flyweight, 112 pounds (51 kg)
* super flyweight, 115 pounds (52 kg)
* bantamweight, 118 pounds (53.5 kg)
* super bantamweight, 122 pounds (55 kg)
* featherweight, 126 pounds (57 kg)
* super featherweight, 130 pounds (59 kg)
* lightweight, 135 pounds (61 kg)
* super lightweight, 140 pounds (63.5 kg)
* welterweight, 147 pounds (67 kg)
* super welterweight, 154 pounds (70 kg)
* middleweight, 160 pounds (72.5 kg)
* super middleweight, 168 pounds (76 kg)
* light heavyweight, 175 pounds (79 kg)
* cruiserweight, 200 pounds (91 kg)
* heavyweight, unlimited
Boxers usually start their careers at lighter weight classes and move up as they age as it becomes harder to lose the weight required. A prime example of this is Floyd Mayweather, who made his debut at featherweight and fought all the way up to welterweight towards the end of his career.
All weight classes are required to weigh in before the day of the fight and make the scheduled weight. Fighters are then allowed to compete the next day, where they are usually heavier on fight night. The only weight class that can weigh in at any weight and compete is heavyweight, there is no weight limit for heavyweight fighters.
Boxers of different weight classes sometimes agree to fight at a weight that is not a part of an official weight class. This is called a catch-weight. Catch-weight bouts are in place so that fighters in different weight classes can easily compete against one another without having to gain or lose too much weight. An example of this is the upcoming fight between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia.
There are four main recognized sanctioning bodies in boxing: WBC, WBA, IBF and the WBO. Each of these organizations issues championship belts to fighters across weight divisions. If a champion holds belts from all four major organizations, they are called the undisputed champion. If he holds belts from two or more organizations, they are called the unified champion.
WBA - The World Boxing association is the oldest of the big four, founded in 1921 as the National Boxing Association. The WBA issues awards four different championships for each weight class. An ’interim' champion, a ‘regular’ champion, a ‘super champion’ and a ‘gold’ champion. A regular champion can become a super champion upon winning a WBO, WBC, or IBF title. For whatever reason, if a champion chooses to not defend his belt, the next two top contenders can fight to award an interim belt to the winner. The interim champion can fight the current champion to unify the division later on.
WBC - Often considered one of the most prestigious organizations In boxing, The World Boxing Council was founded in 1963 by Adolfo Lopez Mateos. The WBC issues four titles for each weight class. The WBC (Diamond), the WBC (Silver), The WBC (Eternal) and the WBC (regular) titles. The WBC champions are expected to defend their title at least once a year and can avoid doing so by paying a step-aside fee.
WBO - The World Boxing Organization started after a group of Puerto Rican and Dominican businessmen broke out of the annual WBA convention in 1988 over a dispute over rules. They unified to form the WBO in 1988. The WBO was not widely recognized until 2004 when the WBC legitimized the organization by giving them a stamp of approval. The WBO Champions are expected to defend their belts at least once a year or are forced to vacate their title. Notable WBO champions include Chris Eubank and Naseem Hamed.
IBF - The International Boxing Federation was founded in 1977. Initially started as a regional sanctioning body in the United States, the sanctioning body became a global authority in 1983. The IBF uses an elimination system to determine their number one and number 2 contenders for each division, and the winner between these two becomes the mandatory challenger for the champion.