by Cliff Rold
It’s a hard sport to keep track of at the place where it should be easy.
Who is the champion shouldn’t be a tough question but it is. That’s been true longer than many adherents of bygone eras will often admit. It’s really tough in an era with four major sanctioning bodies.
With seventeen weight divisions, sometimes more than a single champion for each of those most recognized sanctioning bodies, and arguments about lineal claims, boxing doesn’t make it easy even on the most hardcore fans.
A good example is Gennady Golovkin’s run at twenty consecutive title defenses at middleweight. Which title did he defend 20 times? Given the WBA didn’t recognize one of his defenses for their belt, how does one arrive at that number? Should they?
This is an attempt to make things easier, or at least place all the confusion in one place, with as close to a just the facts approach as possible. For many years, this scribe maintained a top ten for each class. Part of that was listing the number of defenses each champion had by belt. It was a time consuming process that grew more inconsistent.
As a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, the collective effort there is deemed a more reliable and consistent updating of the overall sport. For a current look at the sports top ten in each class, take a look at those weekly updated ratings at: http://www.tbrb.org/all-rankings/
Going forward, what used to be the ratings page here will focus exclusively on the various title claims out there, the historical defense records in each class, and lineages where they can be assigned.
Lineage is one of the tougher ones.
Boxing’s title lines break often, and sometimes decades can go by without a clear single champion. Promotional battle lines, geography, and economics often mean a fractured landscape.
Tyson Fury is listed here as the lineal champion at heavyweight. That will be a matter of dispute. He announced, then rescinded, a retirement, not fighting for a couple of years. TBRB removed recognition earlier than Ring, and for different reasons. Given his long stated intention to fight, and now formal return to the ring, he remains in the most purist sense possible: he is the man who beat the man (Wladimir Klitschko) and never lost the title in the ring.
Readers can determine what value to ascribe on Fury. The full title picture of the class is provided for contrast.
In classes where a lineage went vacant, winning recognition from TBRB or Ring alone won’t automatically fill lineage. For instance, Ring recognized Jorge Linares as their champion going into his fight with Vasyl Lomachenko. Linares defeated Anthony Crolla for their belt at a time when Linares was rated first and Crolla third by the publication, matching Boxing Monthly; ESPN rated them 1-2; TBRB rated them 2-3.
That’s enough dispute in the line to leave the lineage open.
Vacant lineages are best filled in moments when there is a crystal clear showdown. At cruiserweight this year, we will see Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev face off as the consensus top two in their class and with all the major belts on the line. They will decide history’s crown. The lineage at cruiserweight will resume with a winner there.
Here is how things are organized:
First off is the state of the title lineage with TBRB and Ring, both of which aim in different ways to highlight the ‘real’ champions of the sport, categorized there. Next grouped are the sanctioning body lead champions in each class, listed by the age of the sanctioning bodies. This is followed by any sub-titlists of the sanctioning bodies (i.e. regular, interim, and champion in recess designations). Finally, a listing of records for consecutive title defense records, lineal and sanctioning body, and the current defense total for a reigning lineal champion is provided.
In the case of lineal champions, their defense numbers will be totaled based on official fights at their weight whether a sanctioning body title was on the line or not.
Feel free to provide comments, feedback and corrections that should be made. Should there be a section at the top or bottom noting who the longest reigning champion in the sport is? What about a highlight for anyone closing in on a record? Is there something not being tracked that readers feel should be?
Updates will be made with changes in the title picture or the stats of reigning champions so time is on you side to make suggestions and see them potentially applied.
In the end, the hope is this will be a useful tool.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]