Why Are There So Many Boxing Belts?

While it came to Australia only in the early 1800s, the sport of boxing has existed in different parts of the world for longer than you may have realised. (There is even evidence of it in Ancient Egypt!) It has survived many centuries with prizes ranging from wealth, to freedom and eventually acclaim, symbolised by boxing belts.

If you’ve ever paid attention to professional boxing at any point, then you’re probably familiar with the confusion around boxing belts. You become a champion when you win one… but why the hell are there so many? How many boxing belts are there? Does it mean that any number of boxers can become champions?

At the beginning your boxing journey, your focus will be on hitting and not getting hit. (that’s a very simple generalisation, but you get the point.) As you become more proficient, and start looking at competing, you start to pay more attention to the different organisational rules and their nuances. For example, a few variations in rules, weight classes, and boxing belts. 

Knowing these will help you understand the sport better, which is essential for anyone pursuing a professional boxing career. In this article, we’ll talk about boxing belts and the many different kinds you may encounter today.


How did the boxing belt come to be?

Boxing wasn’t always a participative sport. Prizefighting started in Great Britain during the 18th century, when champions received wealth or freedom from slavery. Boxing was a way for the wealthy elites of Europe to settle scores through their pawns. (The winner bearing the victory of their respective aristocratic master despite doing none of the work.) 

As boxing evolved, high-society gentlemen started to take an interest in becoming boxers as opposed to paying individuals to fight for them. Rules and regulations evolved, and the prizes evolved from solely money to wealth with acclaim, symbolised by the boxing belt.

What exactly is the boxing belt?

Boxing belts are large, extravagant belts that symbolise a fighter’s status. Major organisations have it made of real gold and genuine leather and award it to a champion per individual weight class. Other combat sports use belts as well. MMA, Muay Thai, and BJJ are some good examples.

These belts embed champions with a title (hence championship belt). An opponent may challenge these champions in a title fight, with the winner becoming (or remaining) champion.

When a champion challenges another champion in the same weight class, they meet in a unification fight. The winner comes out as a unified champion and remains one as long as they hold multiple belts in that weight class. If a champion holds all the world title belts for that weight category from the four major organisations (which we’ll discuss later), he becomes an undisputed champion.

(Read this article for more information about boxing weight classes.)

One notable champion you may have heard of is Oleksander Usyk (undisputed Cruiserweight champion in 2018 and one belt away from becoming undisputed Heavyweight champion). A few others are Errol Spence Jr. (unified Welterweight), Artur Beterbiev (unified Light Heavyweight), Katie Taylor (undisputed Lightweight), and Jermain Taylor (undisputed Middleweight).

What are the four major organisations?

Many boxing belts exist because the sport of boxing does not have a single governing body that monopolises its reward system. Instead, four major organisations hold the authority to bestow upon champions their belts. 

(There’s also a boxing magazine that has also become authoritative enough to award titles, which also deserves mention.)

World Boxing Association

The World Boxing Association (WBA) is the oldest of the four major boxing organisations, starting in the United States in 1962. Before becoming the WBA, it was called the National Boxing Organization. It’s been involved in a few controversies in the past. Still, it hasn’t hurt its power as one of the biggest organisations in boxing.

World Boxing Council

The World Boxing Council currently holds the most renowned status, with its belts being the most sought-after worldwide. It began in 1963 and is home to the most high-profile fights in history, featuring legends such as Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Joe Frazier, and many others.

International Boxing Federation

The International Boxing Federation was actually born from political drama in the boxing world. Bob Lee failed to become the WBA President, so he went on to establish the IBF. The IBF has since become one of the most prestigious organisations, so he definitely did something right. 

(He has since been found guilty on six of 38 counts in a racketeering trial, so he actually did in fact do something wrong. Didn’t hurt the organisation as much as we would expect, though.)

World Boxing Organization

And here’s another one that came about from political disagreements. The WBA’s 1988 convention in Venezuela saw disputes over the then-current boxing rules. They were unable to resolve it, so Dominican and Puerto Rican representatives were elected to create the World Boxing Organization. It is situated in Puerto Rico and has produced big names such as Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank.

Bonus: The Ring (Publication)

This one is a boxing-oriented publication created in 1922, although it also hands out prestigious awards. It is an American boxing magazine that initially featured boxing and wrestling fights. As the professional wrestling sport was flamed in terms of its legitimacy, The Ring took it upon itself to focus solely on boxing. 

The Ring’s extreme popularity has built itself a reputation as the “Bible of Boxing,” thus putting immense value in the awards they give out to boxers. It releases two issues per year, with contents varying from the latest boxing news to exclusive interviews with boxing stars.

How are boxing belts passed on?

Each organisation provides a boxing belt for each weight class, so you can only imagine how many boxing belts and champions there are. In most cases, boxing belts are passed on when a challenger beats the current holder. Some champions may give their titles up when they move on to tackle the next weight class. 

As a career, professional boxers often get more opportunities as they progress beyond weight classes. And when they do, the title they leave behind is put for grabs. 

In more unfortunate cases vacating a title is when they are renounced or revoked. This happens when fighters get suspended or cannot continue their professional boxing career for any other reason. 

What’s the best boxing belt?

Each boxing belt is a glorious achievement for every boxer, but one title seems to rise above the rest. Regarding which boxing belt is the best, most boxers regard the World Boxing Council as the primary boxing authority that gives the most prestigious award. 

One of the most sought-after titles amongst professional fighters is the WBC Heavyweight championship belt, once held by the legendary American boxer Muhammad Ali. This is no easy feat. Every professional boxer dreams of winning this boxing belt, and this culture has no signs of dying anytime soon.

With so many organisations giving out boxing belts for each weight division, it can get confusing to determine who is the best fighter ever. But this makes for good ol’ competition! It drives fighters to prove they’re the best and hypes the crowd for every fight.

A Final Word

Boxing is no easy gig, but it has its appeal. To the masses, it is about each boxer representing the pride of their nation’s flag. To live spectators and commentators, it is about analysing each boxer’s skill and technique as they navigate their way to victory under the laws of the sport. For the boxers themselves down in the ring, it is about climbing the weight classes and being the one remaining champion, the best the world has ever seen.

Regardless of what boxing means to each individual, it brings forth many good things: pride, entertainment, confidence, and historical knockouts the world will never forget.

The sport of boxing has been around for longer than you would imagine. Early recordings of such a sport were even seen in hieroglyphics in Ancient Egypt. Through the years, however, it has become a professional sport enjoyed in literally every country in the world. As such, many people have become fans of boxing, some even participating in it for varying reasons. Whether it’s done for fun, improving one’s health, or pursuing a professional career, boxing has become a favourite among the masses.