Ranks, Divisions and Titles
For the last 100 years or so, boxers have been divided into weight divisions. This provides safety and ensures even fights. Because the power of a punch is derived from a boxer's weight and muscle mass, a match between a 200-lb. man and a 140-lb. man would be lopsided and could result in serious injury. The weight divisions are mostly uniform worldwide, although some sanctioning bodies recognize intermediate divisions (ones that fall in between other divisions). These are the weight divisions currently recognized by the World Boxing Association (WBA) and the World Boxing Council (WBC). Note that the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO) refer to the "super" divisions as "junior" divisions of the weight class below. For example, Super Bantamweight is called Jr. Featherweight by the IBF. The weight noted is the upper limit for that division.
Within each division, there is one World Champion crowned by a given sanctioning body. The championship is represented by a decorative belt. Different sanctioning bodies each have their own world titles in each division, so it is often quite confusing to determine who is truly the world champion. There may be a WBA Featherweight World Champion and a different IBF Featherweight World Champion. Whom you regard as the "true" champion depends on which organization you feel is more prestigious. When this occurs, promoters will often try to set up "unification matches." These are matches between fighters who hold championship belts in different organizations. The winner becomes champion of both organizations, "unifying" the championship in that weight division. The WBA, WBO, WBC and IBF, regarded by many to be the primary boxing organizations in the world, recognize each other's championships and confer titles on boxers who unite two or more belts. Someone who holds two belts within a division is a Unified Champion; three belts is a Super Champion; holding all four belts in a division grants the boxer the title Undisputed Champion.
In the next section, we'll find out what it takes to get a shot at a boxing title.