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To start this article I have to go right back to when Boxing was made official and that was in 1885.The Boxing we know today officially started with the introduction of the Queensbury rules in 1885, this moved the sport away from the dark underground bare knuckle boxing to a more respectful and civilised sport with rules and safety at the forefront, also in this time period there could only be one true champion of each weight class and to hold this meant more than anything to the fighters as there was no disputing who was the best in the division and the winners were called the Lineal Champion.

From 1885 fighters only had the chance to fight for the belt of their division and if they were lucky they could also fight for the Ring Belt. The Ring belt was a special belt were only the Lineal Champion (True Champion) from each weight class could fight for it and normally against an opponent who was deemed worthy. The Ring Belt was given out from 1922 to 1990 then again from 2002 to the present day and at this time there was only the National Boxing Association (NBA, who later became the WBA) and they were joined by a new organisation in the form of the World Boxing Council (WBC) in the 1960’s. When the new boxing organisation came along it meant you could have more than one champion for each weight class and this saw the end of the Lineal Champion as it stood before, at the time of the change it was met with rejection and anger, lots of people called for it to be changed back to the way it was before, as they felt the honour of the sport was being questioned. The way they worked out who was the Lineal champion from that point had to change after the creation of each new World Boxing Governing Body in the 60’s and 80’s and nowadays because of the multiple organisations the title is given out sparingly by the CBZ website.

At the start there was only eight recognised weight classes which are known today as the traditional divisions, but over time this has grew to seventeen weight divisions / classes.
Please see / click the link below which shows an interactive newspaper from 15th February 1909 explaining why boxing needed 8 set divisions / classes, the paper is the Los Angeles Herald, and these eight weight classes came into creation when the rules were revised in 1910.

Please see below a full list of each weight class we have today and the date it was actually created by the boxing governing bodies.

Weight Division Stones Pounds Creation Date
Heavyweight >14st 4lbs >200lbs 1910
/Jr Heavyweight
14st 4lbs 200lbs 1979
Light Heavyweight 12 ½st 175lbs 1910
Super Middleweight 12st 168lbs 1967
Middleweight 11st 6lbs 160lbs 1910
Super Welterweight
/Jr Middleweight
11st 154lbs 1962
Welterweight 10 ½st 147lbs 1910
Super Lightweight
/Jr Welterweight
10st 140lbs 1946
Lightweight 9st 9lbs 135lbs 1910
Super Featherweight
/Jr Lightweight
9st 4lbs 130lbs 1920
Featherweight 9st 126lbs 1910
Super Bantamweight
/Jr Featherweight
8st 10lbs 122lbs 1922
Bantamweight 8st 6lbs 118lbs 1910
Super Flyweight
/Jr Bantamweight
8st 3lbs 115lbs 1980
Flyweight 8st 112lbs 1910
Light Flyweight
/Jr Flyweight
7st 10lbs 108lbs 1975
Minimumweight 7 ½st 105lbs 1987

The video below shows one of my favorite fighters and possibly one of the greatest lineal champions there ever was.
Sugar Ray Robinson V Jake LaMotta, Madison Square Garden, New York, USA 2nd October 1942

With every new weight division that was added from 1920 on wards, it opened up the possibility
for the promoters to showcase new fighters, new rivalries and gave them the ability to make more money for themselves and their fighters.  Adding the new weight divisions did not have a real impact
on the Lineal Champion from 1910 to 1963 (53 years), as you still only had one true champion
per weight division / class and it wasn’t until 1983 which was a further 20 years later when it was
truly impacted.

In 1983 you had the creation of the IBF and in 1988 the WBO was created both bodies were created due to squabbling and differences relating to rules within the WBA, this led to the people leaving and forming their own Boxing governing bodies, also in the same year the lesser recognised IBO and WBF was formed. This is when effectively the Lineal Champion died as you can’t be a true champion if there can be four different champions holding one of the recognised World belts from the WBA, WBC, IBF and the WBO and even if you were to hold two belts it is always hard to fight your mandatory as well as going for other belts due to boxing corruption and politics. I am also yet to hear of a Boxing governing body wanting one fighter to hold all four belts at the same time, although it is very rare it has happened before with Bernard Hopkins (Middleweight) in 2001 and Jermain Taylor (Middleweight) in 2005, no other fighters have ever achieved this unbelievable feat.

In 1991 and 1995 another two unrecognised bodies joined the scene with the creation of IBA and WBU respectively but along with the other unrecognised IBO and the WBF these are merely seen as steeping stones to the four major belts, the same way the Commonwealth, European and Regional belts are held for fighters. 2004 seen a big shift again with the introduction of new world belts in the form of the WBA Regular / Super/ Interim belts which were created in case there was a Unified Champion but what determines a unified champion is different for each body.
Not to be outdone by the WBA the WBC created the Silver belt in 2010 and the Diamond Belt in 2009, and the IBF has the International Champion belt to go with their world belt and with the WBO they would also create Interim belts if the current champion could not fight for whatever reason they presented. It appears these new belts were created to make the bodies / promoters / fighters more money as they know if you put “Fighting For A World Title” on a poster it will sell the fight better but a fighter in today’s world will find it a lot easier to be a world champion than a fighter fighting between 1910 and 1963 as there is a total of seven+ world title belts to win per division and roughly a total of one hundred and nineteen belts across all divisions.

I personally feel there are too many boxing governing bodies, which in turn has led to too many weight divisions which has then made real and stepping stone world title belts which fighters can win, this in a way has diluted what it means to be a Champion of the World and takes the shine of the belts. Promoters nowadays are very smart and good at positioning their fighters so they can win world titles a lot easier than before by putting their fighters in against lesser opponents or in most cases setting up a fight for a vacant belt meaning you don’t actually have to beat a champion to be made a champion yourself.

The UFC has Lineal Champions and it doesn’t appear to be stopping the money the organisation is generating and they have no plans to let their fighters go up against Champions from other MMA organisations.
Today the Lineal champion is predetermined by a Voluntary organisation called the TBRB (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transnational_Boxing_Rankings_Board) and they make the Lineal champion rankings from 2012 on wards but it appears to have lost all that it once stood for as very few boxing fans even know about them or what they do, please see below a video that explains who they are and what they do.

Video courtesy of FC Talk Live YouTube @fightcritic Twitter

Maybe I am a purist but I feel to be the champion of the world you should be a Lineal Champion, and I personally cannot see the current set up we have within Boxing ever changing now as there is just to much money in the sport and I am afraid the number of belts and champions will just increase as the years go by.

What a real shame it cant go back to the days of Black & White fights.