Boxing Info

Why should you start boxing?

There are so many fantastic reasons to take up boxing.

First, what is boxing? Boxing is a sport. But it’s a lot more, too. For some, boxing is a way of life. It’s a self-defence system. A great and fun way to get fit. It boosts confidence, flexibility and overall health. A way to connect mind and body.

Boxing classes and training have become increasingly popular in recent years for their many overarching benefits. Whether you’re a man, woman or adolescent who wants to increase self-esteem and feel more confident about being able to protect yourself, learning to box is a good way to go.

To learn to box is also to learn to use your body more efficiently and build strength and balance. It promotes health and fitness. Boxing also benefits your posture because the natural movements and the training involve strengthening muscles that the modern way of living often neglects.

And the elderly are getting in on it, too. While fighting professionally or duking it out in the ring against an opponent might be the goal of some, boxing to increase vitality is becoming more popular. Unlike in decades past when people thought weight training and intense physical exercise were bad for the elderly, we now think differently. Scientists back hard physical training for the elderly. And boxing classes for seniors are a great way to go to get a fun yet intense workout. 

Boxing is great for self-defence

When people think of boxing, they think of two people fighting. While crime rates continue to decrease in the western world, learning to defend oneself is empowering.

Boxing is a fundamental cornerstone in almost all forms of fighting. It’s practised in a myriad of ways and is included as a strong foundation for many different martial arts. When you learn to box, you learn to strike. You also learn foot coordination and balance. It’s a discipline that teaches people the values of hard work, effort and dedication.

It’s fantastic for fitness

Boxing is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to keep fit. It’s also one of the most fun. Rather than going round and round like a hamster on a treadmill, boxing breaks a sweat through rapid all-body movement. 

Throwing punches over and over again, running and working the speedbags are all great ways to increase your heart rate, burn calories and build strength. It’s an all-around fitness regime that brings about true balance, mobility and strength. Boxing will tone your muscles, increase power and build endurance like nothing else.

And these are only some of the benefits of boxing for fitness.

It’s good for relieving stress

Western society is taught to hold in their emotions. To keep a stiff upper lip. To play it cool. But what happens when anger and stress are repressed? 

Boxing allows one to relieve that tension. And in a world increasingly sedentary with all the technology we have, people find themselves more stressed than ever. Boxing is an incredibly therapeutic way to relieve built-up tension and anger. There’s something about reaching a meditative state while smashing the bag that channels stress and anger that’s so therapeutic it can be joy. 

Moving the body, intense training and increasing your confidence with hard punches is a beneficial and healthy way for anyone to relieve stress.

Learning to box will increase your confidence

As well to being great for fitness and relieving stress, one of the greatest benefits of boxing is how it increased confidence.

Parents send their children to martial arts classes to increase their confidence because it works. But it works for anyone at any age. It’s not only learning to fight. Being in a class or working one-on-one with a trainer in an intimate zone boosts confidence. 

But to learn to fight, to know one can punch and protect oneself if necessary, is one of the greatest boosts for a healthy self-esteem anyone can get. And the beauty and overarching benefit of this increase in confidence and self-esteem are with you wherever you go, in everything that you do.

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The origin of boxing
Boxing Info

The origins of boxing

People have been fighting in hand-to-hand combat since the dawn of time. 

Boxing, as a sport with rules and procedures, can trace its origins as far back as the 3rd millennium BC. We have documented facts and evidence in the form of incredible depictions which display men fighting with their fists in Sumerian reliefs (sculptures moulded together on a flat background). 

Another relief from Egyptian Thebes from all the way back in 1350 BC depicts a fight and a crowd of spectators. These earliest images of recorded boxing show their fighters both bare-fist and sporting hand wraps.

Suffice to say, the origins of boxing have worldwide prominence just as it does today. It wasn’t only in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt we find evidence of men fighting with their fists to roaring crowds. Boxing also existed in the most ancient of civilisations, India. 

Tales of brave fighters were handed down and then written down in the earliest texts, the Vedas. The Mahabharata depicts warriors fighting with clenched fists and fighting with punches, kicks, headbutts, knee strikes and finger strikes.

 

The fascinating history of the sport of boxing through the millennia

While the origins of boxing, that is, fighting with fists go back to the earliest recordings in human history, boxing as a sport with rules and regulations came to be in the time of the ancient greeks. 

In ancient Greece boxing was a well-developed sport known as pygmachia. It was very popular. Popular enough, in fact, to be introduced as part of the 23rd Olympiad, or Olympics, as an official sport in 688 BC. The fighters would wind leather thongs around their hands to protect them. 

The Greeks were hard-hitters. A fight would go on without rounds until one acknowledged total defeat or refused to go on. Weight categories were yet to be introduced so heavy fighters tended to dominate. But boxers in ancient Greece did have style.

Fighters would tend to fight in a left-leg stance. The left-arm semi-extended as a guard. They drew their right arm back steady, ready for launch. Rome followed Greece and boxing was a popular sport there, too. They even held boxing events in their amphitheatres. 

These fighters wore tight leather strips to protect their knuckles. They later used harder leather for protection and the strips as weapons. And just like the Roman gladiators, boxers were revered by men, women, and children the city over. 

As Rome fell, however, so did their records of boxing. But boxing resurfaced in the streets of London in the early 16th century. This form didn’t use protection. This was bare-knuckle fighting, or prizefighting as they called it. Later, through these tough heavy-hitters, the modern sport of boxing began to surface.

Quick facts and stats on boxing today

Call yourself a fan? Think you know your boxing? Here are some quick facts and stats to challenge yourself with.

Boxing history facts

  • Boxing goes back over 5,000 years.
  • Boxing has been an Olympic event since 1904.
  • John ‘Jack’ Broughton is known as the father of English boxing.

Injury stats and facts

  • 13 fighters die in the ring per year on average.
  • Professional boxers are far more likely to suffer concussions.
  • Jimmy Doyle is the first fighter to die in a title match since the 1800s.

Boxing sport stats

  • Around 7,750 fighters were involved in boxing in England in 2020.
  • More than 400,000 women participated in boxing between 2018-2019.
  • The youngest-ever boxing world champion was 17 years old.

The greatest boxers in history

Claims for the greatest boxers in history are a contested area. And it depends on how it’s defined. But if we go by the numbers, the answers become clear.

Mike Tyson

No one can deny the fury of Mike Tyson and his near-total domination of the sport in the late 80s. 

Mike Tyson, also known as Iron Mike, still holds the record for the youngest heavyweight champion. This was previously held by Muhammed Ali.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather’s defensive fighting style has helped earn him the cleanest record of all time. Floyd’s record sits at 50-0-0. He also holds the record for the first boxer to become a billionaire. 

Muhammed Ali

Ali captured the hearts and minds of millions around the world. Muhammed Ali was more than a fighter. He was an athlete. He was a world heavyweight champion and an Olympic gold medalist. His dancing style and his resolute confidence drove him in everything he accomplished. His record is 56-5 (37 KOs).


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Boxing Info

How to get into boxing

Watching some of these big fights on Pay Per View may lead you to start thinking - how did these guys get to where they are now? Even the undisputed champions of the sport had to start somewhere. How do you get into boxing - how do you find your trainer, your promoter, get fights, get known and challenge for a title? This is a question that is considered by many who might seriously consider a career in boxing, but possibly don’t know where to start.

Boxing is a difficult sport to get into, especially if you’re a young adult. Many people just don’t quite realise the reality of boxing - you are sharing a confined space with someone who wants to hit you and knock you out, and you do this for a living. However, if your love of the sport is such that you want to do this competitively, we’ve written a very comprehensive guide on what to do, what to look out for and how to cope as an aspiring amateur or professional boxer. You do, however, need to fully understand what you’re signing up for, and we’ll discuss that in this article.

Note - this is about how to get into boxing as a boxer - and not how to get into boxing as a fan. I’ll have a separate article on that shortly.

Boxing competitively - what you must realise

We talk about the mental toughness required to be a boxer later in this article, but before you start looking at getting into boxing seriously, you need to have some idea of why you want to do it. Honestly, if you’re just looking to get fit, this probably isn’t the right thing to do. Yes, box, by all means - but if you just want to lose a few kilos, getting into the ring with an experienced sparring partner is not the easiest way of doing this. Besides, you’ll need to be at a certain level of fitness before you’re even allowed to do this.

Boxing provides a huge number of benefits even to those who don’t do it competitively. In addition to being a great way to get in shape, boxing will improve your confidence, your self-esteem, your health, your respect and your ability to defend yourself. Boxing will change your life if you do it properly - it will teach you that no matter how good you are, there’s always someone who can humble you - but at the same, it gives you a level of self-esteem and toughness that in my opinion is unmatched in any other sport.

If you have a love for the sport, see it as a way to make a living, and you have the patience and the mental strength to realise that this isn’t going to be a walk in the park, but it will change your life, that’s more than enough reason to get down to the gym and start training.

Finding a gym

This kind of goes without saying - you need somewhere to train. It isn’t going to be enough to buy a heavy bag and train in your garage if you want to make it in boxing. You need the expertise of a coach, the experience of sparring, and the environment of being surrounded by other boxers if you’re ever going to fight seriously.

The easy way of doing this is just looking for a boxing gym online. Most gyms now have websites, and dedicated social media profiles where they show off the achievements of the fighters who train the gym. Often the gyms are run by former professional boxers who may have their own social media presence. Your first port of call should be search engines or social media sites in order to find a gym locally. Once you’ve found one, do a bit of research on boxers who’ve come out of the gym, and what they’ve achieved - this should give you some kind of indication of the quality of the gym - although a gym that hasn’t produced top-level competition doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad gym. What you can also do is do a search for boxers from your area and see where they trained - again, this gives you an indication of the quality of the training you might get. 

One thing to be very sure about, though, is that the gym is local and is easy enough for you to get to. You’re going to be there very often - at least five times in a week, and probably for up to two hours at a time. Do the gym’s opening times fit around your schedule - or can you move your schedule to accommodate when the gym is open? How far away is the gym? You don’t want to be driving for hours just to get there - you need to pick somewhere that’s reasonably close and local to you. 

You should spend some time evaluating the gym and its equipment and facilities. Most importantly is that you need to be sure that the coaching offered at the gym is a good fit for you - if you’re training with a coach that you don’t gel with, you’re wasting your time. You’ll need to give it at least a few months to make this decision, but if you feel you’re in a position where you’re not making progress after this time you need to look for somewhere else. Also, pay attention to the equipment - is it looked after, or are things broken and never fixed? 

Mental toughness

I want to touch on this as I feel it’s actually the most important aspect of becoming a boxer. It comes as a harsh realisation to many, but if you’re going to box competitively, you need to understand this.

There is not a fighter on this planet in any kind of combat sport, that has not had their ass handed to them at one point. Losing is inevitable - even for the best in the sport.

This is not a bad thing. However, you are delusional if you think you will never lose. And losing is a hard thing to accept - in fact, you shouldn’t accept it, it should give you the drive and the passion to get back in the gym and work on your flaws. Failing will only ever make you better in the long run. 

However, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Don’t be that guy who walks out of the gym after losing a sparring session because you can’t accept the fact that you weren’t the better man.

Boxing is hard. Take a step back for a second and think about what it actually involves - you need to get your body into better shape than 99% of other people. Not only that, you need to be in a certain type of shape - you need to have huge stamina, and you need to be lean. And you need to do this just to be able to play the game - nobody’s giving you any titles just for being in shape. Not only this but you need to keep your body at a certain weight for large portions of your career, and if you can’t make that weight come fight time, you won’t be able to box.

And when you do make the weight, and you get into the gym, you’re going to think you can box, and your coach is going to tell you you’re fighting like a clown. You might have some naturally good punches that won’t need a lot of attention in the gym but there will be others that will take you months and even years to get right. And if your coach is any good, they won’t sugar coat your flaws - because if they did, you wouldn’t take them seriously and you’d get yourself knocked out. You need to be able to go into a gym, listen to your coach, internalise their advice and actively work on yourself and your boxing.

And all of this is hard, and someone who’s weak mentally won’t be able to do it. And this is before you get into the ring opposite the guy who wants to put you on the canvas - that’s a whole level of mental toughness in itself.

Equipment

We discuss the financial impact of equipment later in the article, but it’s worth discussing your equipment as a separate topic. You aren’t going to be able to train properly unless you have your own stuff. Yes, some gyms have communal equipment for you to use - but I wouldn’t particularly want to share some other guy’s groin guard. You need your own stuff.

You don’t necessarily need to have everything from day one - but if you’re taking this seriously, you’ll need to make an investment in your future, bite the bullet and get hold of some decent stuff. And when I say decent stuff, I don’t mean that you need to buy the best gloves on the market just to start sparring, but also don’t buy the cheapest synthetic pair of crappy gloves you can find on Amazon. Go for a decent brand like RDX, TITLE, etc - a middle of the road brand that will provide you with a reliable product without breaking the bank.

A really important consideration is that if you’re going to be sparring, you need 16oz gloves. Get a pair of bag gloves and sparring gloves and do not mix them up - training on the heavy bag with your sparring gloves will compress the padding and make it much more uncomfortable for your opponent. If you have anything less than 16oz gloves, you likely won’t be allowed to spar in most gyms.

We put together a full equipment list later in the article, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves - start with a good pair of gloves and wraps, and work your way up from there.

Commitment to training

Let’s be clear - you won’t get anywhere if you’re not committed to boxing. Committed doesn’t mean walking into the gym once per week and doing 15 minutes on the heavy bag, standing around chatting and then going home. You need to be putting in serious work in the gym for you to reap the benefits of boxing, and for you to have any chance at making a living out of the sport.

I liken this to being a professional musician. Not some guy who plays in a band on the weekend for fun, but someone who actively wants to play in an orchestra and will be willing to spend hours and hours and hours every day, correcting even the tiniest of mistakes that hardly anyone is going to notice. Think of it this way - could you learn to be a concert violinist? Of course you could, with enough practice. You have arms and fingers, just like the best concert musicians have. However, could you learn to do this in a few hours, or even a few months? Not a chance. You need to put in the time, you need to put in the work, and you need to study - and you’re going to FAIL. No two ways about it. But fail enough times and you’ll start to succeed.

You need to be in the gym a minimum of ten hours per week. If you’re not doing this, you aren’t going to get the opportunities to fight that you want. And like I mentioned - this needs to be time spent working. You need to give boxing at least this much time, and you need to work the rest of your schedule around it in order to gain enough experience. You also need your coach’s confidence that you’re ready for a fight - they aren’t going to put you in for a bout if they think you’re going to get KO’ed, and the only way you’re going to ensure they have confidence in you is if you show up to the gym, work, and listen to what they have to say.

Starting as an amateur or a professional?

This is a big consideration for any aspiring fighter, and it’s really important to realise that there are significant distinctions between both. For example - how amateur boxing is scored is very different vs professional boxing, the number of rounds is lower, etc. Many fighters don’t like the amateurs and turn pro quickly - others prefer the amateur field and don’t ever turn pro.

Of course, if you’re going to earn any money from boxing, you’ll have to turn pro sometime. However, there’s no stipulation that you have to fight at the amateurs at all - you could quite simply turn pro without ever having a real sanctioned fight before, and there are people who have done this. I personally feel this is a big disadvantage, for good reason:

Nobody cares about your amateur record.

Everyone cares about your professional record.

What this means is that you could have 50 fights as an amateur and lose every single one of them, but as soon as you turn pro, the slate is wiped clean. You’re 0-0-0. It makes much more sense to get some fights and experience behind you before you turn pro, simply because if you turn pro straight away, lessons you could have learned in the amateurs when nobody cares about whether you win or lose you’re now learning as a professional where it’ll result in a black mark on your record.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of record discrimination in boxing - and this does make sense even if only for commercial purposes. Do you think fans will be more interested in watching someone who’s 10-0 who lost 12 fights at amateur and learned their lessons when it wasn’t going to tarnish their record, or someone who’s 10-12-0 and turned pro with no amateur experience - despite the fact that these fighters might be equally good?

If you get to this stage as a pro, you’re never going to be able to challenge for a significant belt - people just won’t give you the time of day. You’ll be seen as a journeyman - the guy who fights up and comers and is likely to get knocked out. This isn’t where you want to be in your career - you’ll never attract media attention (except maybe as a sideshow if you get knocked out badly enough) and you’re never going to make any significant money out of the sport. You might as well get the word “opponent” tattooed on your head - because that’s the only way anyone will see you any more - someone to test fighters that promoters have invested in.

One thing that is also worth mentioning is that you may be able to get the attention of a promoter at amateur level - which will help you in your career. If you win a significant amateur belt or tournament, or even get picked for the Olympics, people will notice you - especially people who can get you fights and get you on TV. A good example of this is Amir Khan, who was something of a celebrity before he ever turned pro - and there was definitely an element of this in him booking his first few pro fights.

Financial considerations

Another thing to consider seriously is how you’re going to afford to be a boxer. This might seem a little bit of a silly thing to say when you see guys like Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua driving around in fancy cars and living in huge houses, but these are the guys who’ve made it to the point where they’re highly marketable athletes. You, as maybe an amateur boxer who’s had a good few fights, aren’t in a position to be making any kind of money out of your fighting, and even when you turn pro, your first few fights aren’t going to pay you enough to make a living.

The main concern here is the thousands of hours you’ll need to put into your craft in order to get to the point where you can even start fighting. If you’re not at a particular level of fitness in the first place many coaches won’t even let you in the gym. And the one thing it takes to develop this level of fitness and hone your boxing craft? Time. And it’s time you won’t be paid for.

On top of this you are going to have associated costs with being a boxer. You will need to buy your own gear - trust me, I’ve been in a situation where I’ve been at the gym and had to use a spare pair of gloves that were lying around, and it’s very unpleasant. Other people’s gear stinks, and you need your own. I’ve put together something of a shopping list below, but this is really the bare minimum you need while you’re in the gym.

  • Headguard
  • Sparring gloves
  • Heavy bag gloves
  • Groin guard
  • Mouthguard
  • Boxing boots
  • Hand wraps or gel inserts

You’ll also want to look at some of your own training gear, such as maybe your own skipping rope.

All of this costs money - and you can’t buy crap, you need to buy something that’s at least half decent. Unless you have a rich uncle who can bankroll your boxing career, you’ll need to invest in yourself and your own gear - which means fitting your boxing training around a job.

And this is just to be in a position to show up at the gym. Many gyms are going to charge membership fees - which you’ll need to budget for. Then if you have a fight scheduled and the sanctioning body requires a medical, you’ll need to pay for that. If your fight is an hour’s drive away, you’ll need to budget for travel, for a hotel, etc - it all adds up. Likely you’re going to end up carrying a bit of debt until your boxing starts paying to cover your expenses. 

The other thing to think about is that if you’re fighting on a regular basis and you have a regular job, you need to think about how your boxing is going to impact this job. Now, if you work in an office and you never see a customer, you’re probably not going to be affected by this too much - I’m sure it’ll be an interesting story to tell if you ever show up with a broken nose, but it might not necessarily affect your employability. However, if you work retail, or any kind of job where you need to meet with clients or customers, it probably won’t give a good impression if you turn up for work and you look like you’ve been beaten up. Additionally if you have some kind of manual labour job and a boxing injury prevents you from doing that job, you might have to go off sick for a while - which affects your income.

The build up to your first fight

As I mentioned previously, you won’t even be considered for a fight if you’re not ready. Getting to the stage where you’re ready to get into the ring for the first time for real takes a lot of work, and there’s a lot of things you need to consider.

Firstly, you may need to cut weight if you’re likely to come in over your weight limit. Your coach will be experienced in this and will show you what to do, but what this involves is diet and dehydration in order to make a particular weight, which you’ll then put back on again after the weigh in. This is a really dangerous thing to do without the proper experience as you can make yourself sick, and is something you really need to take guidance from your trainer on. Even if you’re not preparing for a fight, you should be watching your weight anyway and trying to keep it roughly in the range of your weight class so you’re not having to go through this process weeks before a fight. 

Additionally you will find yourself suffering from nerves. The week before the fight, you need to take things easy - training extra hard isn’t going to help, as if you haven’t done enough work by now, or you’re not in good enough shape, it just isn’t going to happen - there isn’t enough time. Take things easy in the gym - don’t spend hours and hours on the heavy bag, spar light, do mitt work and shadowboxing. You need to keep yourself sharp, but don’t over exert yourself.

Finally, relax - all the work and all your training has led you to this moment. Make the most of it. Win a few fights and it might be you challenging for a belt one day.

This article is part of our series on Boxing Info.

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Boxing Info

How many undisputed boxing champions are there?

There have been six undisputed champions in men’s boxing, and four undisputed champions in women’s boxing.

Boxing is a complex sport - and one of the most complex aspects of the sport is the number of championships that exist. It’s possible for four different boxers in a particular division to be considered the legitimate champion at any one time, due to the fact that there are four major organisations that recognise champions.

But what about the boxers that have managed to win all four belts to truly call themselves the “undisputed” boxing champion of their division? Not surprisingly, this is a very rare feat, and very few boxers ever manage it. It’s certainly possible for boxers to unify titles, and boxers frequently hold more than one title in their division, but a title fight where all four major belts are on the line is a rare feat indeed.

In this article we’re going to go through boxing’s undisputed champions - those who have won all four belts in their divisions. We’re also going to go through a few “nearly” undisputed champions - those who may have won three belts, or those who voluntarily gave up their belts. 

Terminology - undisputed and unified

It’s important to make the distinction between undisputed and unified champions here. There are many more unified champions than undisputed champions for good reason - it’s much easier to become a unified champion than an undisputed champion. An undisputed champion is one who holds all the belts in their division - the IBF, WBO, WBC and WBA championship. A unified champion is one who holds two or more belts in the division.

Things do get a bit confusing in terms of defining an undisputed champion. Before 2004, the WBO belt wasn’t necessarily considered a major championship, and as a result some sources disregard it and consider undisputed champions those who have held the WBO, WBA and IBF championships. Lennox Lewis is an example of this, who did not hold the WBO belt during his reign, and some consider him to be an undisputed champion because of this. However, most boxing analysts consider the WBO title necessary to be considered champion. As a result, there have only ever been six champions in men’s boxing that can claim to be undisputed champions.

It’s also important to note that there are other awarding bodies inboxing - organisations such as the IBO, WBU and WBF - all of these belts are disregarded when it comes to recognising undisputed champions. There are simply so many championships of this nature that it would be impossible for one fighter to have held them all at one point, and these belts are given very little recognition by the wider boxing community - a fighter is only really considered to be a legitimate champion if they hold one of the four major belts - IBF, WBO, WBA and WBC.

The history of how “undisputed” champions came to exist

Before around 1960, most champions were considered undisputed - because there were only two sanctioning bodies awarding belts and recognising champions, the NYSAC (New York State Athletic Commission) and the NBA (National Boxing Association). It’s worth remembering that boxing at this time was very US-centric (although it was also popular in the UK) - and so both sanctioning bodies were American. As a result, most fighters were “undisputed” champions as it was only possible to have two champions per division, and usually they would eventually fight each other and unify the belts.

It was only in the 1960s when the NBA became the WBA (World Boxing Association) as it’s known today, the WBC (World Boxing Council) was formed and local organisations worldwide starting awarding titles that you suddenly had numerous fighters in a division, each with a legitimate claim to be the champion of that division. This was complicated by the formation of the IBF (International Boxing Foundation) in the late 1970s and the WBO (World Boxing Organisation) in the late 1980s - and as a result we now have these four main organisations that award belts and recognise champions. Whereas prior to the 1960s, a boxer would only have to fight once or twice to secure a championship, now they could potentially have their pick of three other champions to fight after winning a belt.

If you want more information on this, I’ve written quite a detailed article on how many belts there are in boxing and why they exist which I encourage you to check out.

The six undisputed boxing champions

Let’s go through the only six boxers to have unified all four belts in their division. You’ll notice they’re all after 2000, and there’s a reason for that which we’ll go through later in the article. Most famous names that you will have heard previously were “undisputed” champions are missing from the list, which is explained in the next section.

Note: These boxers have won other titles in other divisions. Only the division at which they were/are undisputed champion is listed here, along with the belts they won.

Canelo Alvarez

Nationality: Mexico

Division: Super Middleweight

Dates undisputed: 6 November 2021 - present

From Box Azteca. Used under CC BY 3.0 License

Belts held

IBF Super Middleweight Title (def. Caleb Plant, 6th November 2021)

WBO Super Middleweight Title (def. Billy Joe Saunders, 8th May 2021)

WBC Super Middleweight (def. Callum Smith, 19th December 2020)

WBA Super Middleweight Title (def. Callum Smith, 19th December 2020)

Jermain Taylor 

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Middleweight

Dates undisputed: 16th July 2005 - 29th September 2007

No usable image available.

Belts held

IBF Middleweight Title (def. Bernard Hopkins, 16th July 2005)

WBO Middleweight Title (def. Bernard Hopkins, 16th July 2005)

WBC Middleweight (def. Bernard Hopkins, 16th July 2005)

WBA Middleweight Title (def. Bernard Hopkins, 16th July 2005)

Bernard Hopkins

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Middleweight

Dates undisputed: 18th September 2004 - 16th July 2005

Taken from Flickr. Used under CC BY 2.0 License.

Belts held

WBO Middleweight Title (def. Oscar De La Hoya, 18th September 2004)

WBA Middleweight Title (def. Felix Trinidad, 29th September 2001)

WBC Middleweight Title (def. Keith Holmes, 4th April 2001)

IBF Middleweight Title (def. Segundo Mercado, 29th April 1995)

Oleksandr Usyk

Nationality: Ukraine

Division: Cruiserweight

Dates undisputed: 21st July 2018 - 27th March 2019 (relinquished belts to move up to heavyweight)

Photo by Andriy Makukha. Taken from Wikimedia. Used under CC BY-SA 4.0 License.

Belts held

WBA Cruiserweight Title (def. Murat Gassiev, 21st July 2018)

IBF Cruiserweight Title (def. Murat Gassiev, 21st July 2018)

WBC Cruiserweight Title (def. Mairis Briedis, 27th January 2018)

WBO Cruiserweight Title (def. Krzysztof Glowacki, 17th September 2016)

Terence Crawford

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Light welterweight

Dates undisputed: 19th August 2017 - 30th August 2017 (relinquished belts to move up to welterweight)

No usable image available.

Belts held

WBA Light Welterweight Title (def. Julius Indongo, 19th August 2017)

IBF Light Welterweight Title (def. Julius Indongo, 19th August 2017)

WBC Light Welterweight Title (def. Viktor Postol, 23rd July 2016)

WBO Light Welterweight Title (def. Thomas Dulorme, 18th April 2015)

Josh Taylor

Nationality: United Kingdom

Division: Light welterweight

Dates undisputed: 22nd May 2021 - present

Taken from Wikimedia. Licensed under GODL - India.

Belts held

WBC Light Welterweight Title (def. Jose Ramirez, 22nd May 2021)

WBO Light Welterweight Title (def. Jose Ramirez, 22nd May 2021)

WBA Light Welterweight Title (def. Regis Prograis, 26th October 2019)

IBF Light Welterweight Title (def. Ivan Baranchyk, 18th May 2019)

“Nearly” undisputed champions

Lennox Lewis

Lennox Lewis held the WBC, IBF and WBA heavyweight titles after defeating Evander Holyfield. However, he did not hold the WBO heavyweight title, which during the time of his reign was held by Vitali Klitschko, Chris Byrd, Wladimir Klitschko and Corrie Sanders.

Joe Calzaghe

Joe Calzaghe defeated Mikkel Kessler in 2007 to become the WBA, WBC and WBO super middleweight champion. He had previously held the IBF super middleweight belt, but gave it up to fight Peter Manfredo Jr in 2006, instead of fighting the IBF’s mandatory challenger, Robert Stieglitz. The IBF super middleweight belt was held by Alejandro Berrio up until Calzaghe’s retirement.

Wladimir Klitschko

Klitschko held the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight championships from 2008 until his defeat by Anthony Joshua in 2015. The WBC belt was held by his brother from 2008 until 2013. The two brothers promised their mother they would never fight each other, so the belts were never unified. The WBC belt was subsequently held by Bermane Stiverne.

There are many more fighters to have held two or three belts in a division but were never given the opportunity to unify them all - however, only the six fighters listed above are actual “undisputed” champions in that they have had the opportunity to unify all four belts in their divisions.

Hopefully this has been an informative article - and if you’ve enjoyed reading this one, check out some of our other articles on a variety of boxing topics!

This article is part of our Boxing Info series.

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Boxing Info

How big is a boxing ring?

Quick answer

Boxing rings are generally between 16ft and 20ft for amateurs, and between 18ft and 24ft for pros.

The thing that most people will find out pretty quickly after getting into boxing is that hardly anything is standardised. Yes, the basic combat structure, what’s allowed and what isn’t is pretty consistent across the board, but even things as important as weight classes, scoring and glove sizes aren’t agreed upon across all the sanctioning bodies worldwide.

This brings us onto the subject of ring size, and more specifically how big or small a boxing ring is supposed to be. What may seem quite a trivial subject actually has quite a significant impact on boxing matches, and specifically in the way that a larger ring favours certain types of fighter. We’ve seen this in matches, where a fighter is in a ring that’s clearly too large or small for the style they wish to employ and therefore they’re not able to be as effective as they might be in a ring more suited to them.

What we’re going to go through in this article are the standard sizes of both amateur and professional rings (and even then there’s no agreed standard), why certain sizes of ring favour a certain type of fighter, and what can happen when a fighter is placed in a ring that doesn’t work for them.

Boxing ring construction

Before we delve too deeply into this subject, it’s worth going over exactly what a boxing ring is and how it’s constructed, as this influences the size it will be. A ring is basically a raised platform, enclosed with ropes that allows two fighters a defined space in which to fight. 

The raised platform is generally made of some kind of metal carcass. The ring’s frame will be covered with wooden boards, on top of which is some kind of foam padding generally over an inch thick. Canvas is then tied on top of the foam padding to create a floor that’s quite springy, strong but also soft - because fighters can sustain serious injuries; boxers can fall quite hard after a knockout punch and there have been instances (such as the one with Jimmy Barry vs Walter Croot) where a fighter sustains a head injury not from the punch received, but from the impact with the floor after the punch.

The rest of the ring consists of four corner pads, which are lashed to metal posts at each corner, and connected generally with four ropes spaced evenly. This allows a strong enclosure to keep fighters safely within the ring (which is soft, so a fighter doesn’t need to worry about injuring themselves on them) but also flexible enough to allow the cornerman to get into the ring between rounds, to allow fighters to enter and exit rings, etc.

Amateur and professional boxing ring sizes

Now - let’s take a look at actual ring sizes in amateur and professional contests - these can vary wildly depending on who’s sanctioning the fight, where the fight takes place, and possibly more importantly, the bargaining power of either side when it comes to signing a contract. 

Often the “A-side” - the champion, or the higher-ranked fighter in a non-title match (or to be even more blunt, the one who brings in the most money) will stipulate the size of the ring. As we’ll mention later in the article, this can be a cause of contention among boxers, and is the reason some fights have not gone ahead.

Ring size can also be stipulated by the sanctioning body - which is generally dictated by where the fight is held. In some situations this is written into law - for example in Texas it’s specifically stipulated that rings are no smaller than 16ft and no larger than 24ft.

Let’s delve into the standard ring sizes for amateur and professional boxing.

Amateur

Amateur rings generally tend to be between 16ft x 16ft and 20ft x 20ft. The International Boxing Association (IBA), which sanctions Olympic-style boxing matches worldwide at the amateur level stipulates a 20ft x 20ft ring to be used for all contests. This is also the size of boxing rings that are used at the Olympic games.

Individual boxing organisations in various jurisdictions can stipulate that a ring be smaller than 20ft x 20ft, but it’s not overly common. It’s very rare for a ring to be any smaller than 16ft x 16ft.

A list of common ring sizes in amateur contest:

16ft x 16ft (smallest)

18ft x 18ft

20ft x 20ft (largest)

Professional

Professional rings are generally no smaller than 18ft x 18ft, and no larger than 24ft x 24ft. There have actually been instances of fights being called off after one fighter finds out the ring is smaller than this - a notable recent example of this was the scheduled fight between Librado Andrade and Donovan George. George arrived at the venue to find that the ring was a tiny 15ft x 15ft and his promoter refused to allow him to box due to the ring’s size. This may seem trivial but there are often contractual agreements put in place that a ring must be a certain size. In this situation, George’s contract stipulated a 20ft x 20ft ring. 

Rings are generally between 18ft and 22ft for most professional fights. In the UK, for example, the BBBofC (the UK sanctioning body) won’t sanction a fight if the ring is any bigger than 20ft. Even fighters that you might expect would need the largest ring possible make do with 20ft - e.g. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have fought in a 20ft ring. Anthony Joshua fought Andy Ruiz in their second fight in a 22ft ring, which is not unusually large, but isn’t overly common. Probably the largest ring that’s been used in a title fight in recent years is when Tyson Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.

A list of common boxing ring sizes in professional contest:

18ft x 18ft (smallest)

20ft x 20ft

22ft x 22ft

24ft x 24ft (largest)

How ring size impacts fights

We’ve touched on one example where a fight has not gone ahead due to one boxer feeling that the ring was too small. But why is this - surely if you’re fighting someone it makes very little difference how much space you have to move around?

This isn’t actually the case, and for good reason. One really good example of this is the 2021 fight between Billy Joe Saunders and Canelo Alvarez. Canelo is a relatively short middleweight - his official height is 5’9”, but this was called into question when he fought Floyd Mayweather who is 5’8” and appeared no taller than him. Saunders is 5’11” and as a result, Canelo will fight much better on the inside, 

Saunders complained that he was being asked to fight in an 18ft x 18ft ring, and wanted a 24ft x 24ft ring. This probably makes more sense now that we’ve explained that a fighter who wants to fight on the outside is going to hugely benefit from a larger ring, because it gives them more scope and more opportunity to move out of the way of someone with a smaller reach than them, or someone who wants to fight on the inside.

Conversely, if a boxer prefers to fight on the inside, is shorter, has less reach or simply doesn’t have the stamina to chase after someone who’s dancing away all night, they will without question prefer a shorter ring as it gives them more opportunity to trap their opponent, fight them at a closer distance, pin them against the ropes and do damage.

This is exactly what happened in the Saunders/Canelo fight. Saunders managed to stay out of range for a while, and attempted to pick Canelo off from the outside, but once Canelo was able to corner Saunders he was able to score at will and the referee eventually stopped the fight. If the ring had been bigger, Saunders may have been able to use his legs a little more to get out of the way. By the way - if you want to watch someone using their legs to get away, watch Muhammad Ali vs Cleveland Williams in 1966.

Conclusion

On the face of it, this may seem like a non-issue. However, it’s quite a contentious subject among boxers, and fights have been threatened or even cancelled over the subject of ring size. Certain sizes of ring favour certain types of fighter, and the size of the ring can even influence the outcome of a fight, especially if a larger ring allows an outside fighter to remain out of range of their opponent and pick them off with counter punches. Additionally, the fact that ring size is not standard across the sport helps certain types of fighter, as they can stipulate a larger/smaller ring when signing contracts.

Now you know why ring size is such a significant subject to boxers - and it’s definitely one to consider when you watch your next fight. Check out some of our other articles, where we delve in-depth into some of the overlooked aspects of boxing trivia and knowledge.

This article is part of our Boxing Info series.

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Boxing Info

Who has the most wins in boxing?

Something that I've noticed that there's a lack of online is freely available information on boxing's record-breakers - while there are a few roundup articles on various things, there wasn't much on who has the most wins in boxing. And I'm not just talking the people who won the most - I'm talking the top 3 undefeated fighters in history, the top 3 fighters with the most title defenses, etc. 

In this article we break this down - each record, who achieved it, and a little information on the fighter themselves. I've also cited sources best I can, so you'll be able to independently verify this information where it exists elsewhere on the web.

My HUGE thanks to BoxRec for the technical details on each fighter - without this incredible site that’s had a massive input into the sport’s historical accuracy, none of this article would have been possible.

Note: Every boxer's record in this article has been sourced from BoxRec, with the exception of Vince Shomo.

The most wins overall

This is a REALLY difficult metric to quantify. I had to comb through BoxRec and other sources in order to find this information, and in a lot of cases there are “records” that are thrown around but in actuality it’s difficult to verify these records in terms of fights actually fought and what the results were.

I’m continually updating this list with fresh information as and when I get it. The days of boxers having 200 - 300 fights are long since over, and as we’re primarily looking at fighters who were active before 1940, there sometimes don’t exist accurate and complete historical records of fighters from this era.

There are likely other boxers who fit into the number 2 and 3 spot. The below list is the best I could do with the information that’s available on the internet. 

If you know of other fighters who fit into this list, please leave a comment below and I will update the article. 

Note: Images, where applicable are royalty-free. Where it was not possible to find a royalty-free image, either the Boxing Reviewer logo has been used, or a non-free image has been used under United States fair use doctrine. If you have any questions about our use of images in this website, please contact us.

Len Wickwar

Nationality: United Kingdom

Division: Lightweight

Years active: 1928 - 1947

Record: 340 wins - 87 losses - 43 draws

The first fighter on this list - Len Wickwar was a British fighter born in 1911. He tops the list for both the most wins in professional boxing, as well as the most fights, with 473 verified fights and 4020 rounds fought over his career - mostly at lightweight, but he fought at welterweight in the later part of his career.

Wickwar was never given a title shot in his career - he did beat British lightweight champion Jimmy Walsh in a 1937 non-title fight, and was a contender for the title by 1938 but never got a shot at the champ - Dave Crowley. 

Wickwar's career was put on hold by World War II - he did return to boxing after the war in a limited capacity. His final fight was in 1947 at welterweight, where he was knocked out by Danny Cunningham. After his boxing career he worked as a packer and labourer in his local town of Leicester, United Kingdom.

Billy Bird

Nationality: United Kingdom

Division: Welterweight

Years active: 1920 - 1948

Record: 260 wins - 73 losses - 20 draws

Billy Bird was a British welterweight boxer from London born in 1899. Bird also had a huge number of fights - 356 fights, with 260 wins and 73 losses. Incidentally Bird holds the record for the most number of wins by knockout at 138 - which we discuss later in the article. 

Bird is regarded as one of the most active boxers of all time. Looking at his record, at some points in his career he was fighting as frequently as once per week. As far as we can ascertain from information available on the internet, he did not challenge for a world title. Incidentally Bird fought Len Wickwar in 1937 - he beat Wickwar on points. 

When not boxing Bird worked as a taxi driver. He died in February 1951 at the age of 52.

*Image used under fair use doctrine.

Willie Pep

"Will o' the Wisp"

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Featherweight

Years active: 1940 - 1966

Record: 229 wins - 11 losses - 1 draw

The old Will o' the Wisp - a defensive master and twice world featherweight champion - Willie Pep was born Guglielmo Papaleo in 1922. Currently ranked as one of the pound-for-pound greats and possibly the greatest featherweight of all time, Pep racked up 229 wins (65 by KO) in his 26 year career.

Spending his early career primarily fighting in New England, by 1944 he was world featherweight champion. There is a rumour that Pep won a round against Jackie Graves in 1946 without throwing a punch - although this is disputed, and contemporary sources do not support it. 

Pep was severely injured in a plane crash in 1947. Having lost his featherweight belt in 1948 to Sandy Saddler (which he recovered by a 15 round points decision in 1949), he continued to box on and off until 1966 when he officially retired. He did continue fighting exhibition bouts with Sandy Saddler, and served as a referee and boxing inspector. He died in 2006. 

The most wins for fighters who retired undefeated 

What about the most wins for fighters who never took a loss? There aren't many fighters who have achieved this - notable examples are Joe Calzaghe and Rocky Marciano. In this list we go through the fighters who retired with the most wins. We have not taken into consideration draws and no-contests in this list - only wins and losses.

*Image used under fair use doctrine.

Jimmy Barry

"The Little Tiger"

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Bantamweight

Years active: 1890 - 1899

Record: 59 wins - 0 losses - 10 draws

Jimmy Barry was a US boxer born in 1870 who held the world bantamweight championship between 1894 and 1899, and is possibly the first fighter we have on record to have retired undefeated. 

In one of his early fights, Barry knocked out British fighter Jack Levy in 17 rounds to win the world bantamweight championship (although the win was possibly not sanctioned properly in the US.) However, it's historically agreed that his first victorious sanctioned title fight took place in 1894 where he knocked out Jimmy Gorman in 11 rounds.

One of the more tragic events of Barry's career was when he knocked out English champion Walter Croot in London in 1897. Croot never regained consciousness and died with a brain injury the following day. Barry was initially charged with manslaughter but was acquitted when it was determined that Croot had died from a head injury sustained from hitting the wooden floor. This actually led to reform in the boxing industry and the creation of padded ring surfaces.

Barry fought again after this event but never with the same heart, and never scored a knockout again in his career, retiring in 1899. Barry joined the US army in World War I where he worked as a boxing instructor - incidentally the same as Packey McFarland, who we discuss later in the article. Barry died of suspected tuberculosis in 1943.

Ricardo Lopez

"El Finito"

Nationality: Mexico

Division: Minimumweight 

Years active: 1985 - 2001

Record: 51 wins - 0 losses - 1 draw

Ricardo Lopez is a Mexican former boxer who was a two weight world champion - at mini flightweight from 1980 to 1998, and at junior flyweight between 1998 and 2001. Lopez also never lost an amateur bout.

His first title break came in 1990 when Lopez defeated Hideyuki Ohashi via a 5th round knockout. Defending his title a number of times in the intervening years, he was stripped of his WBO mini flyweight title when he publicly stated that he wanted to give his belt to his father. Lopez's second stint as world champion begain in 1998 when he defeated Will Grigsby by a unanimous decision. 

Lopez announced his retirement in 2002. He now works as a boxing broadcaster for Mexico's Televisa network.

*Royalty Free Image

Floyd Mayweather Jr

"Pretty Boy", "Money"

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Welterweight

Years active: 1996 - 2017

Record: 50 wins - 0 losses - 0 draws

Floyd Mayweather Jr is possibly the richest boxer in the world today . Born Floyd Joy Sinclair in 1977, he won 15 major world championships in his career from super featherweight to light middleweight. An olympic bronze medalist and three-time Golden Gloves champion, Mayweather is ranked by BoxRec as the greatest boxer of all time, pound for pound.

Known as a master of defence, Mayweather is also the most accurate puncher since the history of CompuBox, and has the highest plus-minus ratio in recorded boxing history. 

Mayweather's first title fight was against Genaro Hernandez in 1998, which he won with an eighth-round technical knockout. Since then Mayweather has won title fights against Emmanuel Augustus, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Oscar de la Hoya, Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao, among others. 

Mayweather came out of retirement in 2017 to fight MMA champion Conor McGregor. He now owns a team in the NASCAR racing series called The Money Team Racing.

The most wins by KO

This one is self-explanatory - these are the top three fighters by number of knockout wins.

Billy Bird

Nationality: United Kingdom

Division: Welterweight

Years active: 1920 - 1948

Record: 260 wins - 73 losses - 20 draws

Wins by KO: 139 (Source)

We've already discussed Billy Bird in the "most wins overall" section of this article - so we won't be revisiting his history. However, he is known for having the most verified wins by KO of any fighter in history at 139.

*Public domain image

Archie Moore

"The Old Mongoose"

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Light Heavyweight  

Years active: 1935 - 1963

Record: 186 wins - 23 losses - 10 draws

Wins by KO: 132 (Source)

Archie Moore was born in 1913 and is known as the longest reigning world light-heavyweight champion of all time - which he held between 1952 and 1962. He also had one of the longest careers of any fighter, competing for nearly 30 years from 1935 to 1963. 

Ranked as the third greatest boxer of all time by BoxRec, Moore is known for his strategy in the ring, with an exceptionally strong chin and defensive ability.

Moore's professional career was characterised by his long wait for a world title shot - in 1946 he had moved up from the middleweight division and had fought the division's top fighters such as Ezzard Charles and Curtis Sheppard. It wasn't until 1952 that Moore got his world title shot at the age of 36 - a fight against Joey Maxim (who had recently defeated Sugar Ray Robinson by TKO). Moore also had two chances at the world heavyweight title - against Rocky Marciano in 1955 and Floyd Patterson in 1956 in a title elimination fight after the belt had been left vacant by Marciano.

After his professional career was over, Moore made a name for himself as a successful character actor in TV and film. He died in San Diego in 1998 at the age of 84.

*Public domain image

Young Stribling

"King of the Canebrakes"

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Heavyweight

Years active: 1921 - 1933

Record: 224 wins - 13 losses - 14 draws

Wins by KO: 129 (Source)

Characterised by his short career and tragically short life, Young Stribling was born in Bainbridge, Georgia in 1904. A keen basketball player and accomplished aviator, Stribling went 57 straight fights without a loss in 1927. 

During the peak of his career, Stribling would fly his own aeroplane to fights around the country and served as a lieutenant in the air force. By 1926 he had earned over a million dollars as a boxer.

Stribling died in 1933 after a motorcyle accident when he was only 28. He was en route to the hospital to visit his wife after she had given birth to their children when he was struck by a car. Stribling was taken to the same hospital his wife was in, but tragically died soon after.

The longest undefeated streaks 

These three fighters have the longest undefeated streaks in the history of the sport - i.e. the most fights between losses, or the most fights up until they had lost. You'll notice it's a lot higher than the previous list of undefeated fighters - and clearly, if some of these fighters had retired a bit earlier, they might be topping the list for most undefeated fights.

*Public domain image

Jimmy Wilde

"The Mighty Atom"

Nationality: United Kingdom

Division: Flyweight

Years active: 1911 - 1923

Record: 131 wins - 3 losses - 1 draw

Undefeated Streak - 103 fights (Source

Often regarded as the greatest British fighter of all time, Wilde was born in 1892 in Wales. Wilde is considered the first official world flyweight champion, a belt he held in 1914 and again from 1916 to 1917. 

Wilde officially started boxing professionally in 1911, but it is assumed that he had been fighting professional since at least 1907. Wilde himself claimed that he had had over 800 fights, but this is disputed by boxing analysts. His first official win was on 1st January 1911, when he knocked out Ted Roberts in three rounds. Wilde was accepted into the British army in 1916 (having previously been rejected twice) but never saw active service in World War I.

Wilde's years after retirement were unfortunately characterised by a series of failed business ventures which left him in poverty. Wilde sadly sustained serious injuries from a mugging in 1965 from which he never recovered, and died in 1969.

*Public domain image

Packey McFarland

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Lightweight

Years active: 1904 - 1915

Record: 106 wins - 1 loss - 6 draws

Undefeated Streak: 104 fights (Source)

Packey McFarland was an American boxer born in 1888. Despite his excellent record he was never able to secure a world title shot and thus never became a world champion - and is widely considered the best fighter never to be a world champion.

McFarland began his career in 1904, and in 1905 defeated Jimmy Britt who claimed to the world lightweight champion (although this was disputed and the fight was not a title fight.) Notable opponents that McFarland defeated include Jack Britton, Freddie Welsh and Matt Wells. McFarland's last fight was in 1915, where he fought to a draw with Mike Gibbons.

After his retirement in 1915, he worked as a boxing instructor at Camp Zachary Taylor. After the first world war McFarland became a successful businessman - he managed considerable investments, and was the director of two banks. McFarland died in 1936 of a streptococcus infection.

*Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0. Source - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJbxzk2SKOM&t=2117

Julio Cesar Chavez

"El Cesar de Boxeo"

Nationality: Mexico

Division: Super Lightweight

Years active: 1980 - 2005

Record: 107 wins - 6 losses - 2 draws

Undefeated Streak: 87 fights (Source)

Possibly one of the greatest fighters ever to have lived, Julio Cesar Chavez was born in 1962 in Mexico. Listed as the world's best boxer pound for pound from 1990 to 1993, Chavez held numerous belts during his career from super featherweight to light welterweight.

Chavez holds the record for the most title defenses (27) and the second most title defenses won by knockout (21). His professional record was 89-0-1 before losing to Frankie Randall in 1994, before which he had gone 87 straight fights without a loss until his draw with Pernell Whittaker in 1993. 

Julio Cesar Chavez is the father of current boxer Omar Chavez, and former WBC middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Chavez is considered to have an exceptionally strong chin, and was renowned particularly for his devastating left hook.

The most wins in amateur boxing

Note: The amateur record has been listed here. I’m well aware these boxers turned pro, and the pro record is what you’ll generally find elsewhere online. I couldn't find any information on the time they were active as an amateur - so I have listed the time they were active as a professional instead.

*Image used under fair use.

Vince Shomo

Nationality: United States of America

Division:  Super lightweight

Years active: 1956 - 1968

Record: 651 wins - 4 losses - 0 draws* (Source

Vince Shomo was a light welterweight boxer born in New York in 1940. Shomo was the recipient of numerous awards, such as placing first in the 1959 Pan-American games and four Golden Gloves titles between 1956 and a 1960.

An extensive amateur career was followed by a very short professional career. Shomo stopped boxing in 1968 and went on to serve as a referee and boxing official. Shomo retired to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, where he died in 2020.

*Claimed record. I could not independently verify this source, nor could I independently verify Shomo's amateur record. Shomo died in 2020 so it is not possible to reach out to him directly to verify his amateur record. If anyone reading this knows a source I could investigate to verify this, please comment below.

Donald Curry

"Lone Star Cobra"

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Welterweight

Years active: 1980 - 1997

Amateur Record: 400 wins - 4 losses - 0 draws (Source)

Donald Curry is a former WBC light middleweight champion and welterweight champion. He also challenged for the IBF and lineal middleweight championships in 1990. Curry was trained as an amateur by Wesley Gate Parker in Fort Worth Texas, who also trained Donald's brother, super lightweight champion Bruce Curry.

Curry turned professional in 1980, and won the NABF welterweight championship in 1982. Notable victories for Curry include Marlon Starling, Jun-Suk Hwang, Milton McCrory and Gianfranco Rosi. A feud with Sugar Ray Leonard plagued Curry throughout the latter half of the 1980s, and he retired for the first time in 1991. Curry returned to boxing in 1997 but quickly retired.

Curry's sons revealed that they believe him to have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy due to his memory loss and other mental health issues. Curry is now retired but is quite active on Twitter.

  

*Used under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0. Українські_боксери_олімпійці_-_Шелестюк,_Усик,_Берінчик_(позаду),_Ломаченко,_Гвоздик.JPG: KuRaGderivative work: Ahonc, CC BY-SA 3.0

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vasyl_Lomachenko_023a.JPG

Vasyl Lomachenko

"Hi-Tech", "No-mas-chenko"

Nationality: Ukraine

Division: Lightweight

Years active: 2013 - 2021

Amateur Record: 396 wins - 1 loss - 0 draws (Source)

One of the most successful amateur boxers of all time, Lomachenko has an amateur record of 396-1, having avenged that loss twice. A three weight world champion and Olympic gold medallist, Lomachenko is known for his exceptional hand speed and incredible defence - earning him the nickname "Hi-Tech". 

Lomachenko challenged for a world title in only his second professional fight, which he lost to Orlando Salido. Salido had lost the title for being overweight and the belt was at stake for Lomachenko only. Lomachenko racked up a series of impressive wins against good opposition such as Gary Russell Jr and Guillermo Rigondeaux, until losing again to Teofimo Lopez in 2020. 

Lomachenko is currently suspended by the New York State Athletic Commission. He has returned to his native Ukraine to fight in the territorial defence services.

Highest number of wins as a heavyweight champion

This list documents the fighters who completed the most heavyweight title defences. This is not necessarily the most consecutive title defences - indeed, Wladimir Klitschko's title defences are staggered after he lost to Corrie Sanders and regained the title from Sultan Ibragimov. 

*Public domain image

Joe Louis

"The Brown Bomber"

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Heavyweight 

Years active: 1934 - 1951

Record: 66 wins - 3 losses - 0 draws

Successful title defenses: 25

Regarded as one of the most influential heavyweight boxers of all time, Louis had the longest single reign as a heavyweight champion in boxing history. Regarded as the first black person to reach the status of national hero in the US, he was a focal point of anti-German feeling in the US due to his rematch with German boxer Max Schmeling.  Louis was also instrumental in the game of golf, being the first black person to appear at a PGA event in 1952.

Louis lost only three times in his 69 fight career - achieving 52 knockouts and holding the world heavyweight championship between 1937 and 1949, he retired but returned shortly after and failed to regain the championship. His career was over for good in 1951 after being knocked out by Rocky Marciano, and Louis never returned to the ring after this.

Unfortunately Louis's life after boxing was characterised by financial problems and drug abuse. Louis died of a cardiac arrest in Las Vegas in 1981, just several hours after his last public appearance at the Larry Holmes - Trevor Berbick heavyweight championship. Due to his service in WWII, Louis was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honours.

*Image used under Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0. Attribution Fuzheado, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Klitschko-gesf-2018-7931_(cropped).jpg

Wladimir Klitschko

"Dr. Steelhammer"

Nationality: Ukraine

Division: Heavyweight

Years active: 1996 - 2017

Record: 64 wins - 5 losses - 0 draws

Successful title defenses: 23

A strategic and intelligent boxer, Klitschko is considered to be one of the best heavyweight boxers and champions in the history of the sport. Defeating Chris Byrd in 2000 to win the world heavyweight championship, a shock knockout loss to Corrie Sanders in 2003 lost him the title.

After hiring Emmanuel Steward as a trainer in 2004, Klitschko regained his titles after defeating Chris Byrd again and Sultan Ibragimov in 2008. Unifying the belts following a defeat of David Haye in 2011, Klitschko was champion until his 2015 defeat by Anthony Joshua. Another defeat by Tyson Fury led to Klitschko's retirement in 2015.

In 2022 Klitschko joined Ukraine's territorial defense service, along with his brother Vitali who has been the mayor of Kyiv since 2014.

*Used under Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 2.0. Attribution Kingkongphoto & www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Larry_Holmes_1996.jpg

Larry Holmes

"The Easton Assassin"

Nationality: United States of America

Division: Heavyweight

Years active: 1973 - 2002

Record: 69 wins - 6 losses - 0 draws

Successful title defenses: 20

Born in 1949 and whose jab is considered one of the best in heavyweight history, Larry Holmes was a WBC heavyweight champion from 1978 to 1983, and the IBF heavyweight champion from 1983 to 1985. He is the only boxer to have ever stopped Muhammad Ali. 

Larry Holmes' early career was characterised by convincing wins over excellent opposition, such as Ken Norton (who also beat Muhammad Ali), Gerry Cooney, Tim Witherspoon and Earnie Shavers. Holmes retired after losing his belts to Michael Spinks in 1985, although made several comeback attempts (each unsuccessful, against Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Oliver McCall and Brian Nielsen.)

Holmes' last fight was in 2002 where he defeated the infamous Eric Esch (also known as Butterbean). Since retiring from boxing he has become a successful businessman in his hometown of Easton, and when he retired, employed over 200 people in his various business ventures.

This article is part of our Boxing Info series.

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Is boxing dangerous?

While this might seem like an obvious one, the question of how dangerous boxing is is worth exploring. Boxing rules and regulations nowadays are designed to protect fighters, but they can only provide so much protection from the other guy wanting to punch you in the face. It’s unfortunate that many fighters experience severe injury, and others experience long-lasting cognitive effects right into their old age.

In this article we are going to take an unbiased view of the dangers boxing poses to people participating in the sport, as well as review some notable examples of boxers who have experienced some of these injuries.  

It’s worth saying that if you’re someone who just wants to spar in the gym once per week, you should still take note of the below, but when we talk about boxers experiencing brain damage and death, we’re talking about extreme cases. We’re not saying you shouldn’t be aware of it, and if you decide that it’s too risky then that’s an entirely understandable position to take, but it’s not something that you should lose sleep over. If you’re an aspiring pro boxer, however, you should be aware that this is a very real thing and one you should take note of.

Yes - boxing is dangerous

Let’s put this to bed right away - yes, boxing is dangerous. Anyone that thinks a sport where you are hit repeatedly in the head by trained fighters isn’t dangerous has probably taken a few too many uppercuts to the chin themselves. Let’s be absolutely clear that when you put yourself in a ring, whether just a sparring session, an amateur or a professional fight, you are putting yourself, your cognitive functions and your long term health at risk.

This does not mean that every boxer who ever takes a punch to the head will be condemned to a life of slurred speech, poor memory and impaired mental function. This also doesn’t mean that every boxer will experience the same kind of after-effects of boxing. You could end up like George Foreman, a boxer who took punishment from some of the hardest hitters ever involved in the sport, and still end up with sharp mental capacity even in your 60s and 70s. You could also end up like Gerald McClellan, a former middleweight champion who after being knocked out by Nigel Benn in 1995 is now 80% deaf, blind, confined to a wheelchair and suffers with memory loss. And this doesn't just go for fighters who get knocked out - even those who go the distance to a decision can suffer long-term effects.

Each individual is different. Your brain and your body is different to everyone else’s, and everyone has limits on how much of a beating they can take. Now, if you’re a defensive master like Floyd Mayweather Jr, this matters slightly less, as you’re less likely to get yourself hit by your opponent’s hardest shots if you’re good at getting out of the way. The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, all it takes is one punch sometimes - and even the most defensively sound fighter can get caught out.

Before we go any further - a reality check

Let’s step back from this for a moment. As I mentioned previously, yes, boxing is dangerous, but it does not mean that every boxer who ever stepped into a ring now suffers long-term brain damage. It does not mean that getting into a ring for a sparring session is going to result in you being taken away on a stretcher. 

Most sports are inherently dangerous. If you look at some of the worst injuries that come out of the NFL, from rugby, F1, rally, bike racing, mountain biking, etc - all of these sports have participants who have suffered horrific injury, and even death. Robert Kubica, a Polish F1 driver, was severely injured in 2011 in an accident that left one of his arms partially severed. Ayrton Senna was famously killed in his 1994 crash at Imola. 

Danger doesn’t stop at sports. You risk severe injury or death every time you get behind the wheel of your car. You risk severe injury every time you use a kitchen knife, or every time you walk on a tiled floor with wet feet - the risk of hurting yourself is present with almost everything you do. 

Does that mean you should lock yourself away and never leave your home again? Absolutely not. Does this mean that you shouldn’t box? Well, as long as you are aware of the risks, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t box as long as you take sensible precautions. Let’s put this into perspective - all the examples we’ve given are professional sportspeople and boxers who do this for a living. If you’re sparring one round once per week in your local gym, you’re not subjected to quite the same level of risk as what’s discussed in this article. It’s still a risk, but it’s probably not as great as you might think.

Has anyone died or suffered brain damage from boxing?

Sadly, yes. There are a few notable cases of boxers dying as a result of injuries sustained in the sport - a very famous one we have discussed in other articles involves Korean fighter Kim Duk-Koo, who died shortly after a 14th round knockout by Ray Mancini in 1982. A more recent example is American boxer Patrick Day, who died four days after a 10th round knockout by Charles Conwell in 2019. In 1947, Jimmy Doyle died hours after being knocked out by Sugar Ray Robinson in a welterweight title fight. It’s estimated that since the Queensberry rules were implemented in the 1880s, roughly 500 boxers have died as a result of injuries sustained during fights.

Severe brain damage is also unfortunately not unheard of - some notable cases of this include boxer Michael Watson, who was knocked out by Chris Eubank in 1991 and as a result of his injuries lost most of his motor skills, including the ability to speak and write. Watson was also confined to a wheelchair. It’s largely thought that Watson’s injuries were made worse by the fact that there was no medical intervention and Watson was not seen to by a doctor for at least eight minutes following the knockout - and it’s worth mentioning that the sanctioning body (the BBBofC) was sued by Watson for this.

Boxing doesn’t necessarily just cause immediate, traumatic injury - it’s thought that the cumulative effect of being punched repeatedly over many years fighting and sparring can cause longer-lasting conditions that afflict fighters well into old age. Joe Louis, for example, suffered with dementia later in life. Sugar Ray Robinson experienced Alzheimer’s disease. Mickey Ward, a boxer famous for his vicious trilogy with ring legend Arturo Gatti, has been diagnosed with what may be CTE, and suffers regular serious headaches many years after he has hung up his gloves.

What are the other long-term negative health effects of boxing?

While the potential negative cognitive effects of boxing are well documented, it can have other long-term repercussions. It’s not unheard of for teeth to be knocked out in a fight, for example. Fighters are required to wear mouthguards, but they don’t always protect against the hardest of blows. Boxing can also cause long-term joint pain, hastening conditions like arthritis which can come from repeatedly being hit and having to move around.

It’s also worth considering the bodily injuries that boxers may experience - and when you’re doing something that can cause as much damage as boxing can, you can expect to receive your fair share of bodily injuries. Whether this is broken hands, broken ribs, internal bleeding - all of this is unfortunately feasible when you get into the ring.

Boxing safely

It’s important now to note that the above has been pretty well documented by the commissioners and sanctioning bodies of the sport. While we’ve established that boxing absolutely has inherent risks that aren’t going to go away no matter how many precautions you take, there are precautions and rules in place to ensure the safety of fighters. Referees are trained to spot when a boxer is taking undue punishment and to stop the fight. A very famous example of this is the famous 12th round KO of Pernell Whittaker by Julio Cesar Chavez, when Whittaker was knocked down, got up, but the referee felt him unfit to continue the fight (a fight that he was clearly winning) with seconds to go until the final bell. This shows that once a referee feels the boxer is unfit, he will stop the fight.

Amateur boxing is even more strictly regulated, and goes even further in terms of rules established to protect fighters. For example, the AIBA (International Amateur Boxing Association) specifies that if a fighter is knocked out (and this can be so much as failing to get up from a 10-count in time, or even the referee determining the fighter is unfit to continue), the fighter is not allowed to box or even train in the gym for a predefined period (usually four weeks.) Boxers are also required to go through a strict medical screening process, which involves an ECG and lab tests. A ringside doctor conducts a physical examination prior to each fight and if they feel the fighter is not fit to box, they will not allow the fight. If a fighter experiences an injury, there are specific procedures that must be followed to ensure the boxer’s health, including immediate admission to hospital and a requirement to be examined by a neurologist before being allowed to fight again.

None of this, however, takes away from the fact that a boxer risks severe injury when they get into a situation where someone else wants to punch them in the head. As we mentioned, though - you’re also risking severe injury every time you play a game of rugby, every time you drive your car and every time you walk out of your front door. It’s up to you what kind of risk you’re willing to take, and unless you’re a pro boxer who’s planning to embark upon a 50 fight career, and as long as you take sensible precautions, it’s not likely that you’ll experience the kind of severe injury we’ve discussed in this article.

Hopefully this was helpful for any aspiring boxers out there - if you liked this one we have lots of other boxing content to share. Check out some of our other articles!

This article is part of our Boxing Info series.

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How many belts are there in boxing?

The subject of how many belts there are in boxing can get very complicated, sometimes needlessly so. Boxing doesn’t just have one, universally recognised “championship” per division - there are numerous organisations that organise championships, and keeping track of them all can get extremely confusing. In addition to this there are localised titles, such as British and European championships, as well as championships awarded by organisations such as The Ring magazine.

In this article we’re going to break down the organisations that award these championships and how important they are, as well as all the different types of championships that can exist in a division. Be warned - this gets complex, but I have tried to break it down so that it’s as easy as possible to understand.

 

What do we mean by a “belt”?

Let’s get really basic here for a second. Boxing “belts” are how we refer to boxing champions, or title holders. When a boxer wins a championship fight, they are crowned the champion of that particular weight division, recognised by that particular sanctioning body. A boxing champion is sometimes also called a “title holder” - and championship fights are also sometimes called “title fights.” 

The reason the word “belt” comes into this is because the boxer is awarded a belt to signify their achievement of becoming a champion. The belts are given out by the main sanctioning bodies, and you’ll often see champions parading their belts before and after a fight. When we use the term “belt” - we are referring to the championship or the title of that particular division - not necessarily the physical belt the boxer wears.

Sanctioning bodies

We’ve mentioned the term “sanctioning bodies” a few times, but it’s worth looking at exactly what this means, as to a newbie coming into the sport this can get really confusing. Boxing is not a sport where there is one, undisputed champion of each division. There can be undisputed champions - but we will discuss this later in the article. Instead, boxing is “sanctioned” by a number of organisations. The purpose of these organisations is to sanction and regulate championship boxing matches, and award championships.

Numerous sanctioning bodies have existed during the history of the sport, and without delving too much into the history of sanctioning bodies and how they came to be, you effectively now have four universally recognised sanctioning bodies:

  • World Boxing Council (WBC)
  • World Boxing Association (WBA)
  • World Boxing Organisation (WBO)
  • International Boxing Federation (IBF)

Each of these organisations curates their own list of rankings and awards their own championship belts. This creates the confusing situation where four boxers in the same weight division can each hold a belt, and each would have a legitimate and recognised claim to be the champion of that division, and if they wanted to unify the belts (or become the undisputed champion, as we explain below) they would have to fight three other times to be considered THE champion.

This wasn’t always the case, especially prior to the 1970s where only two organisations existed - the NBA (National Boxing Association) and the NYSAC (New York State Athletic Commission). Two belts did sometimes have the effect that two different champions in a division were recognised, but it was usually only a matter of time before one fighter defeated the other and the belts in that division were unified and an undisputed champion recognised.

Main belts and fringe belts

It’s worth mentioning that the four main sanctioning bodies are not the only sanctioning bodies. There are others that exist, and they are not always given the same kind of credence in the sport. There are the four main sanctioning bodies as we’ve discussed - the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO, and generally when we talk about an undisputed champion or lineal champion, it refers to a boxer who’s been able to win all four of these belts in a division. 

However, there are a few sanctioning bodies that also award belts that aren’t necessarily given as much weight by the industry and by fans, and this includes organisations like the IBC (International Boxing Council), the WBU (World Boxing Union), the IBU (International Boxing Union), the WBF (World Boxing Federation) and others. All these organisations award belts and rank fighters, but it’s the four main belts that get the most attention, and in reality someone isn’t really considered a champion of their division by the fans and the media at large unless they’ve won one of the four main belts.

Localised championships

Further complicating things, there are also localised championships that exist based on region. These are again sanctioned by localised bodies based in the relevant countries. A good example of this is the British Boxing Board of Control, which sanctions professional fights in the United Kingdom, and awards both the British Championship and the Lonsdale Belt. 

Further afield there are organisations such as the CBC (Commonwealth Boxing Council) that awards the commonwealth championship, the EBU (European Boxing Union) that awards the European title, and the PABA (Pan Asian Boxing Association) that awards titles in Central and East Asia and Oceania. 

These championships aren’t necessarily given as much weight as world titles as the competition tends not to be at such a high level. You’ll often find fighters who are destined to fight for a world title winning these kind of championships relatively early on in their careers, even after only 10 - 15 fights - for example, current British, European and Commonwealth champ Joe Joyce won the commonwealth title in 2018 in only his fourth professional fight.

Lineal and undisputed championships

You will often hear these terms thrown around and wonder what they actually mean. They are different, and we’ll explain what they mean below.

Lineal

The lineal champion of a division is considered to be the fighter who was the last universally recognised champion who did not lose those belts in the ring. Put simply, it’s “the man who beat the man” - in that if a fighter defeated a previous lineal champion and then did not lose those belts in the ring (but perhaps lost them by other means) they are considered to be the lineal champion.

A very famous, recent example of this is Tyson Fury. Tyson beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 to take the WBO, IBF, WBA and Ring Magazine belts (not the WBC belt as this was held by Deontay Wilder at the time, having previously been held by Vitali Klitschko until he retired - and seeing as the Klitschko brothers were never going to fight each other, the belts were never unified.) 

Wladimir Klitschko had effectively cleaned out the division in the ten years he had been champion, and there was nobody else left to fight - but seeing as Fury beat Klitschko, Fury became the new lineal heavyweight champion. Fury was stripped of the IBF belt shortly after this fight, and went into a hiatus shortly after during which the titles became vacant. This is how that, even though Fury does not hold all the belts in the division, he is still seen to be the lineal champion, as he did not lose any of these belts in a fight.

There are a number of other examples of this in the sport - Lennox Lewis from 2001 to 2004, George Foreman from 1994 to 1997 and Muhammad Ali from 1964 to 1970 (famously as Ali was stripped of his titles for refusing to fight in Vietnam, but never actually lost his championship in the ring.)

Undisputed

This one is slightly easier to understand, as it’s the boxer who currently holds the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine championship belts. Undisputed refers to the fact that all of the major sanctioning bodies recognise the boxer as the champion of that division.

Recent famous undisputed champions include Oleksander Usyk at cruiserweight from 2018 - 2019 (lost the undisputed championship when he stepped up to heavyweight), Lennox Lewis at heavyweight from 1999 - 2000, Roy Jones Jr at light-heavyweight from 1999 - 2003 and Canelo Alvarez at super-middleweight after 2021. 

Other types of championship

There are other types of championship belts that are awarded that aren’t necessarily the same as the belts awarded by the main sanctioning bodies. One good example of this is The Ring Championship - The Ring is a US boxing magazine that awards a belt to the fighter they see as the lineal champion of the division - again, determined by the “man who beat the man.”  Another famous example is the Lonsdale Belt, awarded by the British Boxing Board of Control, which is awarded to fighters that win four championship contests in a particular division. Rather than this being a championship which can be won or lost, it’s more of a recognition of achievement in the sport, and belts can be awarded more than once. 

Worth a mention here is a relatively recent, volunteer organisation called the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB). This is not an official sanctioning body and does not give out belts or sanction fights. What they do is attempt to curate an authoritative list of rankings for each weight division, as well as identify a singular champion for each division. Their champions are determined when the top two fighters in the division fight each other. This is a really interesting initiative, as it aims to reform and simplify the sport from the confusion that exists today. If you’re at all interested in how boxers are ranked and how champions are chosen, I’d encourage you to read up a little more on the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

So who is the actual champion?

Reading this may have left you wondering - how exactly do you work out who the champion is in a particular division, when you could potentially have different people holding the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF, British, European, Pan Asian, South American, Commonwealth titles and many more besides. I think that there are some in the sport who recognise that this has become a problem, because with so many titles on offer it adds huge complexity to what was, 50 or 60 years ago, effectively a non-issue.

The way I would suggest you approach this is to look at the lineal champion. This is the easiest way, and in my opinion the only correct way to determine a champion - as they are the boxer that defeated the last champion. For example - if you were to look at who the heavyweight champion is at the time of writing, it’s Tyson Fury - even though Oleksandr Usyk is an excellent fighter and is A champion, you might not consider him to be THE champion - as it was Fury who beat the last lineal champion, Wladimir Klitschko.

Hopefully in the coming years we see some reform to what has become needlessly complicated - but in the meantime, if you liked this article, leave a comment below to let me know and feel free to ask any questions you might have about boxing championships and the way they’re awarded. You may also want to check out some of the following articles:

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How is boxing scored?

Boxing is more than just two people trying to knock each other out. Many hours of strategy and planning goes into training a boxer for a fight. Of course, knockouts are great for fans, but it’s a very rare fighter indeed that doesn’t go to a decision more than once in their career. This may lead you to wonder how exactly judges score boxing contests and what they actually look out for.

In this article we’re going to take a deep dive into the system of points scoring by boxing judges, what they look for in a winning fighter, what they award points for and what they deduct points for. It’s important to note that these rules may vary slightly between sanctioning bodies in various countries, but as a general rule the below is what you’ll see on TV, and it’s the norm for pretty much every big title fight since the late 1960s.

Professional boxing

Prior to 1968, professional boxing had no unified system of scoring. Scoring was typically set by the governing body sanctioning the fight, and it’s why you’ll sometimes see strange scorecards if you go back to fights prior to 1968 - one notable example is the fight between Jersey Joe Walcott and Joe Louis in 1947 where you’ll see scorecards like 8-6-1 and 9-6 - meaning the number of rounds awarded to each fighter. 

Joe Louis vs Billy Conn in 1941.

In 1968 a system called the “ten point must” system was introduced by the World Boxing Council (WBC). This was adopted quickly by other sanctioning bodies and has become the norm for judging boxing matches by the majority of sanctioning bodies in the sport. We go into detail about the ten point must system below, but effectively it means that for each round, the winning fighter must be awarded ten points (with a few exceptions, for example if points are deducted for illegal blows.) The loser will be awarded 9 points - 8 points if they are knocked down once, 7 points if they are knocked down twice, and so on.

Amateur boxing

It’s worth mentioning amateur boxing here as amateur boxing is scored very differently to professional boxing - although the judges are largely looking for the same things to award points for, the way in which points are awarded is very different.

In amateur boxing, the score is calculated by the number of clean punches landed per round. For example - land a good jab on your opponent, you get one point. There’s no requirement for each fighter to be awarded a certain number of points - it’s simply based on how cleanly and effectively a fighter can land punches.

What makes the amateurs majorly different to professional boxing is that knockdowns aren’t given anywhere near as much weight - they simply count as one punch. This is the same with a standing eight count - all that happens is that an extra point gets awarded to the other fighter. Other than this, judges will award points for punches landed. It doesn’t really matter if one fighter is clearly more aggressive, or has a slicker style, or defends better - if one lands more punches than the other, they win the fight.

Points can be deducted for fouls, and fouls in amateur boxing are generally the same as in pro boxing - hitting below the belt, behind the head, etc. We go into specific detail of the actions considered fouls later in this article. Fights can also be stopped if someone is knocked out, if one fighter is disqualified, or interestingly if the points margin opens up to a certain point - e.g. the margin for the Commonwealth and Olympic games is 20 points, in that if one fighter is leading the other by 20 points or more the fight will be stopped.

Things that judges award points for

Let’s look at exactly what the judges will award points for in a boxing match. “Awarding points” is kind of a misleading term - you can’t earn more than ten points in a round, and if a boxer performs well, it’s more that his opponent will lose points than that the better performing boxer will gain points. Nonetheless, let’s look at some of the exact rules that judges need to abide by. 

I researched this detail for the four major sanctioning bodies in the USA - the WBO, WBA, WBC and IBF, and couldn’t find a great deal in terms of exact scoring guidelines for judges. I did, however, find a lot of information published by the British Boxing Board of Control - which sanctions fights in the United Kingdom. The BBBofC is slightly different in that (except for title fights) the referee is the main scorer - but the ten point must system is still used. Below are exactly the things a judge looks for when scoring a fight.

Attacking

Judges will award points for direct, clean hits with the knuckle of the glove of either hand to any part of the front or side of the head or body above the belt. This means head shots and body shots only - points are not awarded if punches are blocked or they hit the arms. 

The belt in this situation is effectively where the fighters trunks are - think of it as an imaginary line across the boxer’s torso at the top of the hip bones. As anyone will know being hit below that area has the potential to be quite painful, so any shots in this area are deemed illegal.

Defence

Points are also awarded for effective, slick defence. Defence in this scenario means slipping, guarding, ducking, counter punching or using footwork to avoid an attack. It’s worth noting that defence also needs to be paired with effective offence - a boxer will not be awarded points if they spend the whole fight running away.

When contests are equal

If, all things considered, both boxers are performing to a similar standard and it is not possible to differentiate the winner of the round from the loser by attack and defence alone, the round is generally awarded to the fighter who does the most leading off, or who displays the more refined style. However, this is where a judge’s opinion comes into play, as judges can have wildly different opinions on what constitutes better style.

If it is not possible for one of the fighters to be awarded the round, the round is declared a draw and generally this means the round is scored a 10-10 - although if both fighters have had points deducted this could also be a 9-9. 

My thanks to the BBBofC for this information. https://bbbofc.com/boxing-rules

Things that lose a fighter points

Generally, you lose points by losing the round. That might seem obvious, but as we mentioned above, the winner of the round is awarded 10 points and the loser is generally awarded between 7 - 9 points depending on their performance in the round. Usually, if a fighter is able to hold his own against his opponent in that he isn’t getting knocked down constantly, but is unable to outbox/outsmart his opponent and is unable to respond with effective offence, the round will be scored a 10-9. There are, however, situations where a fighter will earn less than 9 points in a round, which we’ve gone into below.

Knockdowns 

If a fighter is knocked down in a round, the fight is scored (providing they get up) immediately a 10-8 to the other boxer. If the same boxer goes down again in a round, the score becomes 10-7. Go down again and it’s a 10-6. Generally with the major sanctioning bodies nowadays, there is no “three knockdown rule” as there used to be - in some fights if a fighter went down three times, the fight would be over and scored a TKO (technical knockout.) 

If a fighter is knocked down, gets back up and avenges the knockdown (knocks the other fighter down) the knockdowns generally cancel each other out and the fight is awarded 10-9 to the better fighter.

Illegal blows

Illegal blows are shots that are not permitted during the fight. Illegal blows are also sometimes called “fouls”. Let’s again refer to the British Boxing Board of Control’s rules around this, as they have specific definitions for what’s considered an illegal shot which are generally mirrored by the other sanctioning bodies.

  • Hitting below the belt - also called a “low blow” - as we’ve mentioned, has the potential to be extremely painful and therefore is ruled a foul. Repeated fouls will result in point deductions.
  • Hitting the back of the head or the neck - also sometimes called a “rabbit punch”
  • Kidney punching - this involves punching the back near the kidneys and is extremely painful
  • Hitting with the open glove - rather than making a fist, hitting with the inside of the gloves, which has the potential to cause a cut or catch a fighter in the eye with one of the laces of the glove
  • Hitting with the elbows, the wrists or the back of the hand
  • Ducking below the waistline constantly - this makes it a lot easier for an opponent to accidentally land a rabbit punch, or for the fighter ducking low to hit their opponent below the belt (this one tends not to be so strictly enforced)
  • Intentionally falling without receiving a blow (unless deemed a slip, where the fighter that slipped will be expected to get up immediately and continue fighting)
  • Excessive clinching, or failing to release from a cling when ordered
  • Hitting an opponent on the break
  • Hitting an opponent when they are falling to the floor or when they are down
  • Hitting an opponent after the bell has rung to signify the end of the round
  • Kicking, grappling or any other conduct the referee deems inappropriate

Again - my thanks to the BBBofC for this information. https://bbbofc.com/boxing-rules

All of the above, depending on how serious and how patient the referee is in terms of issuing warnings, result in a one point deduction from the round. The referee will generally call the fight to a halt, will inform the boxer they are taking points away, and will communicate to the judges clearly by holding his fingers up to show how many points will be taken away.

The referee will generally do this twice or three times before deciding to disqualify the fighter for poor conduct. The referee may decide to take more than one point away for actions determined to be more serious - a famous case of this is when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear in their second fight in 1997, where referee Mills Lane took two points away from Tyson after the first incident, and disqualified Tyson after the second.

Types of decision

If a fight doesn’t end in a knockout or a disqualification, it will go to a decision, which is where the judges’ scorecards will be looked at, and the round by round scores added up will determine the winner. There are obviously numerous scenarios that can result from this, either by all three judges declaring an overall winner (called a unanimous decision) or even all three declaring the fight a draw. Let’s look at what each type of decision means.

A unanimous decision (UD)

This is when all three judges have the same fighter scoring more points and unanimously agree that they are the winner. This is a common scenario in boxing - but a few examples include Ali vs Frazier in 1971 where Frazier won, and Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao in 2015.

A split decision (SD)

This is where two judges have one fighter ahead, but the other judge has the other fighter ahead. In other words, two judges think one boxer won the fight but the other judge thinks the other boxer won. This generally happens in very close fights, but is not all that uncommon. A few notable examples include Marvin Hagler vs Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987 which Leonard won, and Bernard Hopkins vs Joe Calzaghe in 2008.

Draw (D)

Draws can occur a few different ways. The obvious way is that if all judges have exactly the same score and all think the fight was a draw. This is not particularly common although it has happened. The more common way a fight is ruled a draw is if one judge has Boxer 1 ahead, another judge has Boxer 2 ahead and the third judge scored the fight a draw. In this situation the fight will be declared a draw. There is another way for the fight to be declared a draw which we’ll go onto shortly. Notable examples include Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns in 1989, and Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin in 2017.

Majority decision (MD)

A majority decision is awarded when two judges award the fight to one fighter, but the other judge sees the fight as a draw. In this situation the fight is awarded to the fighter the “majority” of the judges saw as the winner. Notable examples of this include Riddick Bowe vs Evander Holyfield in 1993, and Shawn Porter vs Kell Brook in 2014.

Majority Draw

This is actually one of the rarest outcomes in boxing. A majority draw is where two judges have scored the fight a draw with both boxers scoring the same number of points. The other judge has one of the fighters ahead, but by one or two points - not enough to declare a winner. The term “majority” comes from the fact that two judges felt the fight was a draw, and therefore the result is declared as a draw even though one judge gave a victory to one of the fighters.

There have only been a few examples of this in high-level professional boxing, two of the most notable being Pernell Whitaker vs Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993, and Badou Jack vs James DeGale in 2017.

Hopefully this article has answered most of your questions about how boxing is scored. If you have any questions that weren’t answered in this article, leave a comment down below and I’ll try and answer your query. Additionally, check out some of our other boxing information articles!

This article is part of our Boxing Info series.

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Is boxing a martial art?

Boxing is many things to many people - for some it’s the same as football or baseball and just something they watch on a Saturday night. For others, it’s a route out of poverty, a way to channel aggression, a way to improve fitness - the list goes on. One of the questions I see asked quite often is whether boxing is classed as a martial art or not. Some might look at this and think “well, obviously it isn’t” - and that’s how I first approached the subject, but actually it’s not as clear cut as you might think.

There are plenty of experts and scholars who would put forward arguments either way. I’m no expert in traditional martial arts - karate, taekwondo, jiu jitsu, etc - or even more recent iterations such as MMA, but I do know boxing quite well being a lifelong fan of the sport. So, in this article we’re going to go through reasons why boxing could be considered a martial art, reasons why it may not be considered a martial art and finally, what I think after some extensive research into the subject.

Definition of a "martial art"

Let’s first define what we’re looking at here, and the criteria we’re measuring boxing against. Martial arts can be defined as the following:

“Codified traditions and systems of combat practiced for a number of reasons - self defence, military and law enforcement applications, competition, physical, mental and spiritual development, entertainment or to preserve a nation’s intangible cultural heritage.”

Let’s look at what this actually means. A “codified system” just means that there are strict rules and regulations applied to the sport that you cannot break. Physical and mental benefits of any kind of combat sport are well known as a way to improve fitness and release stress, and the preservation of a nation’s intangible cultural heritage doesn’t really apply to boxing, as modern boxing was largely formed and popularised in Great Britain and the USA but is unquestionably a global sport.

You may also look at the word “martial” and think that modern martial arts were used in war or combat - and while the historical ancestors of these disciplines likely were used in war, the modern equivalents have not been. It’s been suggested that “combat sports” or “fighting arts” is a more appropriate term. Boxing in its current form has also never been used in war.

Martial arts are commonly thought to originate in east Asia - specifically Japan, China and Korea. It’s interesting to note that modern martial arts - karate, taekwondo, kendo, etc - have all actually been codified and established largely within the last 200 years, and are based on traditional fighting styles. This might surprise a lot of people, who may look at something like karate and think that it has many hundreds or thousands of years of direct history. Karate absolutely does have a lengthy and ancient history, but not in the way that you might think, as all the rules and regulations were established relatively recently.

This actually holds true for boxing as well - as many readers of this blog know, boxing has been around for thousands of years (including the idea of wearing gloves in a contest) but has only been codified in a way we might recognise today in a fairly modern context - first with the London Prize Ring rules and then the Marquess of Queensberry rules of the 19th Centuries. Interestingly the earliest known depiction of a boxing match comes from Sumerian carvings in the 3rd millennium BCE - it’s also known that boxing was a formal sport at the 23rd Olympiad in 688 BCE, and the earliest depiction of gloves being used in combat comes from a vase found in Crete dating from around 1500 BCE. Boxing has been around a lot longer than most people think.

As we can see, boxing actually ticks a lot of boxes of the traditional definition of a martial art. Let’s do a deep dive into the most important aspects of what defines a martial art and see how this relates to boxing.

The rules of boxing

The fact that boxing is so strict in terms of what you can and cannot do highly suggests that it is a martial art. We’ve mentioned the term “codified system” and that’s exactly what boxing is - a list of things you can do, a list of things that you can’t do, and if you do any of the things you can’t do then you’re going to get yourself barred from the boxing gym or disqualified from a fight.

This is seen in many martial arts, where you have a set way of doing things and any alteration or deviation of this is seen as unacceptable. Taekwondo, for example, has “patterns” - a series of standardised movements that students use to practice offensive and defensive movements.  Probably the closest thing boxing has to this is standard combinations - the 1-2, the 1-1-2, the 1-2-Left Hook, but both are strict ways of doing things that have been passed down from master to student for generations.

Boxing probably has the tightest and strictest codified system out of any combat sport in that you are only allowed to use your fists, and you are only allowed to use your fists in a specific way - i.e. you aren’t allowed to punch below the belt, nor behind the head, or the back. Other martial arts tend to be a lot freer in this regard - in some you can kick, grapple, chop, etc - all things you would never be able to do in a boxing match. 

Boxing as way to defend yourself

Boxing as self-defence might initially look weak compared to something like karate - i.e. you must be wearing gloves, you can’t kick or grapple or anything - it might on the face of it look like another martial art might leave you better prepared if you were ever in the situation where someone attacked you and you had to fight them off.

However, this isn’t necessarily the case. As world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr famously said, “...the object of the sport is to hit and not get hit.” Boxing on the face of it may appear more weighted towards offensive strikes rather than defence, but as any true boxing fan will know, the best boxers are exceptionally defensively sound. As such, if you learn boxing properly, you will learn to predict what your opponent will do and be able to defend against it and counter attack.

For example, blocking with the arms is something taught to every boxing student. When you learn what kind of punches your opponent is throwing, you figure out the best way to block against them, and the best kind of punches to throw back to them to do the most damage.

A big part of boxing is discipline and respect - not unlike every other martial art, although I think boxing is a little more subtle in this regard (you certainly don’t bow in front of your opponent before a fight, but you do touch gloves) but definitely a big part of any serious boxer’s training is not to seek a fight outside of the gym. This also ties in with a boxer’s ability to stay calm, stay grounded and work out the best strategic way to fend off an attacker - all things that ring true with other martial arts.

There are definitely other aspects of boxing that tie in with other martial arts, such as footwork, stability, endurance and stamina, but the more you look into this in detail, the more you start to see parallels with disciplines that you might previously have thought were completely different.

Physical and mental aspects of the sport

Boxing is clearly highly beneficial from a physical conditioning fight - watch any top fight and you’ll see clearly that boxers (especially those that win consistently) tend to be in excellent shape (unless you’re watching reruns of old Butterbean fights from the 90s) and this is a result of the punishing physical fitness regime they put themselves through before a big fight. It’s also not enough to be ripped - you need to have the stamina and endurance behind you to go the full twelve rounds.

Again, this is exactly the same as any other martial art - you need the discipline to be in the gym every day and get yourself into shape. Additionally, it takes a lot mentally to stand in front of someone who could feasibly beat you and put you on the canvas. The more you box, the more you train your mind to deal with this and the more mentally strong you become. Boxing, like any other martial art, is about maintaining your frame, maintaining your composure and facing the threat in front of you. 

History

While most martial arts are of a clear east Asian origin, boxing also has a very long and colourful cultural history. Without going into too much detail on this as we’ve mentioned it above, boxing is exactly like other martial arts in that it was practiced many thousands of years ago and formalised in the 19th Century. While modern day boxing has its origins in bare knuckle fighting that took place in 17th Century Great Britain, it’s been around as a sport for thousands of years.

This rings true for other martial arts - almost all the popular martial arts that are around today have been codified relatively recently, and have been taken from traditional fighting styles that have been around for many hundreds if not thousands of years.

Why some say boxing isn’t a martial art

Despite all the arguments for boxing being considered a martial art, there are actually quite a few compelling arguments against it. Firstly and possibly most importantly, there are some who argue that boxing’s rules and regulations make it completely unrealistic in any scenario other than a sanctioned fight. I actually agree with this - there are many things about boxing that simply wouldn’t work if you were in a situation against an aggressor and were fighting for your life. This is something that martial arts is geared towards - and all of the major martial arts teach you how to defend yourself if you’re confronted by someone who wants to do you harm.

For example - in boxing, you’re taught to punch to the face, which you can do quite effectively if you have properly wrapped hands and you’re wearing gloves. You can’t hit someone square in the face if you don’t have any hand protection because you’re probably going to break some bones. Additionally some of the other rules around punching below the belt, behind the head and clinching just wouldn’t apply in a real, self-defence, life or death situation, and many argue that this alone disqualifies boxing from being a martial art - the rules are too focused on competition, and not on actually how to fend off someone who wants to hurt you.

What also strengthens this argument is that in boxing, you can only punch. In most other major martial arts, you can punch, kick, grapple, etc - if you’re a boxer and you’re attacked by someone who is excellent at kicking and grappling, and you’ve never kicked anyone in your life and don’t know how to defence against someone kicking you, you’re probably not going to have a good time. What I would say, however, is that a boxer’s reactions and subtle movements are often so finely tuned and well executed that you don’t even notice they’re doing them - and I would wager that a competent boxer would be able to spot a kick was coming and do something to get out of the way - especially a boxer that knew how to fight on the inside properly.

Additionally the fact that boxing is heavily structured into rounds and rests causes some to argue that boxing isn’t a martial art. I would say this is kind of a non-argument, since every major martial art has some element of competition - judo, karate, taekwondo - all of them have sanctioning bodies, fights where the participants wear headgear, gloves, and fights last for a predetermined time period. Someone good at karate may well be better prepared to deal with a street fight than a boxer for the reasons we’ve mentioned above, but in actuality the fact that boxing is very strict in terms of timings probably isn’t going to make much of a difference.

Conclusion

I have to be honest, I came into writing this article with a preconception that boxing probably wasn’t a martial art. Not that that means it’s any less effective, or any less historically significant - just that I saw them as two separate things. 

Boxing obviously has a history of being more commercial than martial arts (although things like UFC has made MMA fighters much, much more prominent in recent years than they have been in the past) but actually, when you look at the strict definitions of what a martial art is and the traits they all have in common, boxing absolutely fits into the definition of what a martial art is.

I’d say boxing is a martial art - one of the oldest, the most effective and most noble.

Hopefully this article helped you find out a bit more about boxing. If you’re interested in some of our other informational articles, check out some of our other articles!

This article is part of our Boxing Info series.

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