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Boxing’s many championships explained

By Mark Havey: The list of champions and various belts is an endless concoction of frustration and disarray. It puts new fans of and I am not surprised. I have met so many hardcore fans who find it difficult to comprehend. No wonder potential fight fans are looking at MMA before boxing.

I have been thinking about this subject for about 3 months. Back then I was talking to a friend who isn’t a fan of boxing, though I was trying to convert him. what better way than the Mayweather vs Pacquiao hype? I told him the situation and the divide in fans. He replied “it is easy to figure out which one is best. Which one is champion?”. It was a question as well as a statement. Looking at the clock and fearing that the next few hours of my life were going to be spent explaining the most complicated subject in boxing, I replied, “it’s very confusing”. How could I explain to a novice that they are, or were, both champions?


I am going to break it down using the rules of the WBA. Each organization is different, but not vastly.

Super champion: The WBA claims only a unified champion or a person who makes five to ten defenses of their title can become super champion. However, it’s added circumstances as it sees fit, and even the rule that it can elevate a champion after only five defenses is a new addition. If a WBA regular champion also becomes a WBC, IBF or WBO champion, then he’s elevated to super champion. It’s a win-win for the WBA – they give super champions longer times to make mandatory defenses, so they don’t look bad for stripping boxers. It also allows the WBA to cash in by having twice as many “title” fights.

Regular champion: This is the man who is actually the champion. Except when there’s a super champion. Then, the regular champion is something less than a champion. He can still strut around calling himself the man, but in reality, if there’s a super champion, then the regular champion isn’t even the champion for his own sanctioning body.

Interim champion: Officially, under the WBA rules, the only way you can have an interim champion is if there’s a champion in recess, e.g. the titlist can’t defend because he’s injured or there are some other meaningful circumstances. But I remember a time when the WBA had 5 Interim champions and all the real champs were actually fit to fight. Why do this? The WBA gets more sanctioning fees from having an interim title fight instead of a title eliminator, so as a way to steal more money, they have slowly been replacing title eliminators with fights for an interim title.

Champion in Recess: According to the WBA rules, when an active champion is unable to defend his title within the prescribed time period for debilitating medical reasons, legal reasons or any other legitimate reason, the WBA can make him champion in recess and appoint an interim titlist. Good example: Ruslan Chagaev was unable to fight because he was being tested for hepatitis, so he was made champion in recess. Not a good example: Felix Sturm is caught in a legal battle over his contract, so the WBA made him super champion instead of champion in recess.

I hope this has helped to clear up some questions you may have had.

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