When is a title fight a title fight?


Just wanted to say that this is a pretty fine website. It’s nice to have a source that easily shows all the title fights in each division. But I have a question. It seems that you have missed out a few fights, mostly in the early years. For example, I’m sure Tommy Ryan at welterweight made more defences than you listed. Why the omissions?

J Kane
Seattle, USA

Thanks for the compliment. In compiling the lists of world title fights, a number of different sources were used. Records were sketchy for the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century and some books would acknowledge a certain fight as having a world title at stake, whereas another book would not. In most cases, only fights with unanimous acknowledgement were included.

The right decision?

I understand your reasons for recognizing only one world champion. But don’t you think that fighters are better off with an alphabet title? They can make more money and get more exposure.

Bill Hempell
Eastbourne, UK.

That is a fair point. It seems that most TV networks prefer to bill a fight as a “world title” contest, regardless of its merits. But boxing matches do not have to have a so-called “world title” attached to it in order to make it an attraction. The Oscar De La Hoya-Steve Forbes bout (May 2008) proved that. A major problem is that the alphabet groups can actually prevent a fighter from making money. Take a look at the career of Orlando Canizales, who held the IBF bantamweight title from 1988 to 1994. Does anyone actually remember any of his defences? Did he clean up the division during his reign? Certainly not. The IBF kept him defending against obscure opponents or at least allowed him to. Canizales could have made far more money and significantly enhanced his legacy by defeating his WBA counterpart, Junior Jones. With so many alphabet belts up for grabs, the point has been reached whereby boxers make their mark more by who they beat than the title they hold. Going into 2008, who cared if Miguel Cotto held the WBA welterweight title? It’s the fact that he’d beaten the likes of Zab Judah and Shane Mosley that made him an attraction. Holding an alphabet belt is not a gateway to automatic fame and riches. And what of the sanctioning fees that the alphabet groups charge? In February 2008, Kelly Pavlik had to pay the WBC a whopping $25,000 to go ahead with his rematch with Jermain Taylor, even though it was a catchweight contest without the WBC title on the line!

Why accept a situation just because it exists?

You should just accept that the WBA, IBF etc. will not go away overnight.

Z Banda
(location not stated)

Who can say how long it will take to rid the sport of the alphabet groups? It could happen overnight if boxers simply stopped fighting for their belts. However, being realistic, they will likely be around for some time to come. But that does not mean boxing fans have to tolerate the mayhem that is generated by them. At least somebody can do something to counter that situation and to offer an alternative to those who are dissatisfied. That is the purpose of this website.

More confusion?

Are you not just making the problem worse? As well as the alphabet groups, there are also The Ring magazine’s titles and boxing fans now have even more different sources recognizing champions!

Nola Ottun
New York City, USA

This website is not crowning new champions. The aim is to bring unity and clarity to boxing, and The Ring magazine’s endeavours are fully supported. What is needed is to bring everyone together in terms of recognition and that is what is encouraged here. If the alphabet groups actually started working together instead of having their own agendas, that would be a major boost for boxing.

What if….?

What if a boxer wants to win a WBC title?

Marseille, France

It’s a shame for boxing if that is all a fighter wants. But if that is what they are content with then who can stop them? But if a boxer holds just an alphabet title, that is all they hold, not a WORLD title. There is a big difference.
Justifiable choice?


Thank goodness for your website. It’s refreshing to see something that makes sense of world championship boxing. Nice pics too.
But I’m not sure about your choice of backing Veerapol Sahamprom as the new bantamweight champion in 1999. He should’ve fought Tim Austin to determine who the real champ was.

C MacLean
Perth, Australia

Thank you for your kind words. Whilst your point regarding the choice of Sahamprom is understood, it has to be accepted that not every fan will agree with every choice. However, what is hopefully obvious is that not just any fighter is given recognition. When a genuine lineal championship becomes vacant, sometimes the choice of filling it is obvious but in other cases it may not be so clear. But ultimately, an effort is made to reach a worthy decision based on a fighter’s accomplishments.

Worthwhile defences

Hello Website

If there are no sanctioning bodies such as the WBA, how can champions be forced to defend against the number one contender?

Phoenix, USA

That's a good point and the alphabet groups would have a strong argument for their acceptance if they enforced match-ups between the best contenders. Unfortunately, they rarely do and their ratings are bizarre, often featuring obscure, undeserving fighters. Sadly, far too often title-holders have to waste their time in meaningless mismatches.

The market place generally dictates the best bouts. For example, consider the reign of lineal world lightweight champion Joel Casamayor. Going into 2008, the most worthy opponents for him included Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis, Nate Campbell, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. He ended up defending against Katsidis and Marquez and could make sizeable money against them.

In June 2008, Floyd Mayweather retired and gave up the WBC welterweight title; he was also the lineal welterweight champion. The WBC could have done itself a service by advocating a contest between two of the best welterweights in the world at the time, such as a rematch between Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams. Instead, they opted for a fight between Andre Berto and the unknown Miguel Angel Rodriguez, which was an insult to boxing fans. Berto won but it's debatable whether he even deserved to be in the division's top ten as he had yet to defeat anyone approaching world-class status at the time. In most cases, the alphabet groups avoid each other's title-holders which means they have to settle for ordinary or unproven fighters challenging for their belts because the talent is spread so wide.

Of course, the lineal championship system is not always perfect. George Foreman's second reign as the genuine world heavyweight champion (from 1994 to 1997) is a classic example; he blatantly avoided top contenders. However, during that same timespan the likes of Bruce Seldon and Frank Bruno held alphabet belts, so the alphabet groups failed to do themselves any favours there.

Overall, lineal championships make more sense and are better for the sport. This can never be overstated. Try to picture more than one Super Bowl in US football? How about more than one US Open in tennis? Would soccer fans tolerate three or four different World Cup tournaments in their sport? How about at least a couple of rival World Series in baseball? And should there be half a dozen or so alternative world championship series in Formula One grand prix racing? No other sport is as messy and uncoordinated as boxing when it comes to determining a champion.

Is cruiserweight crucial?


Don't you think there is a need for the cruiserweight division?

Young Corbett IV

During the creation of this website, the cruiserweight division was given serious consideration. But there is a real concern over whether it warrants recognition. It has a lame history and has been weak overall. The best fighters that have fought there (and there are few to choose from) include Evander Holyfield and James Toney, both of whom made their mark at heavyweight (and made far more money too). Other quality fighters, such as Michael Spinks, Michael Moorer and Roy Jones skipped cruiserweight completely when moving up from light heavyweight. For the time being, this website intends to stick with the original 8 divisions. By the way, great name!
Vitali a two-time champion?

Dear Lineal Champs

What's your take on Vitali Klitschko's comeback when he regained the WBC title by beating Samuel Peter in October 2008? I think it just plain sucks! There's no way he's a two-time champion by beating a lethargic plodder like Peter.

Joe Venkman
Dublin, Ireland

Wladimir and Vitali’s claim to be the first brothers to simultaneously hold the “heavyweight championship” is way off-base. Wladimir could claim to be the lineal champion when he beat Sultan Ibragimov in February 2008 and the only way that Vitali could become a true two-time champion would be to take on his younger brother and beat him. Vitali has only reigned once as the lineal champion and simply won an alphabet belt when he made a comeback.

  As for the Vitali-Samuel fight itself, it had perhaps the best build-up ever. The Pussycat Dolls performing their latest single beforehand was a pleasant bonus - and they certainly provided more excitement in the ring than the main event did! What followed was a treasure for all boxing fans; messages from a quintet of heavyweight legends. Images of George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson were beamed down, but why did they all wish Vitali good luck and not Samuel? It was blatantly biased. Was it because Vitali was once a legitimate lineal champion himself? If that was the case, and he had a bunch of former lineal champions to support him, why weren't a bunch of former alphabet title-holders brought in to back Samuel, who was an alphabet title-holder? They could have had Herbie Hide, Tony Tubbs, Francesco Damiani, Bruce Seldon and Frank Bruno provide a bit of encouragement for the "Nigerian Nightmare"!

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