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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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