What Does Undisputed Mean In Boxing

What Does Undisputed Mean In Boxing? (13 Undisputed Champions)

Boxing is one of those sports with a whole barrowload of technical terms. While boxing enthusiasts somehow understand all these terms and use them at will, it can be much harder to interpret the meanings from the outside.

When it comes to discussing who is the best boxer in each weight class, it can get complicated. Each boxing governing (or sanctioning) body has different versions of world titles, and there are currently 4 governing bodies in boxing (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO). This is where the term “undisputed” comes in.

An undisputed champion is a boxer who holds all 4 major championship belts from each governing body at the same time. So what exactly does undisputed mean in boxing? And how is being an undisputed champion different from being a unified champion?

Today, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of gaining the undisputed champion title, and take a closer look at the 13 awesome boxers who have made history by becoming undisputed champions holding 4 belts simultaneously.

What Does Undisputed Mean In Boxing?

The standard definition of undisputed is something which cannot be challenged or questioned, in other words it cannot be disputed.

So it follows that, in boxing, to become an undisputed champion nobody can question your champion status. This is because an undisputed champion holds world titles – the 4 major belts – awarded by each major governing body.

Major Boxing Sanctioning Bodies

Currently, the 4 major sanctioning bodies are:

  • WBA – The World Boxing Association, the oldest of these 4 sanctioning bodies, established in 1921 in the USA. It used to be called the National Boxing Association (NBA) but changed its name in 1962 when it began to gain international recognition.

Find out more here.

  • WBC – The World Boxing Council. This body was originally established in 11 countries in 1963. Today there are 161 member countries! The title awarded by this body is perhaps the most prestigious currently, highly prized by professional boxers.

Find out more here.

  • IBF – The International Boxing Federation was established in 1983 in the USA where is was originally known as the United States Boxing Association (USBA). Within the IBF alone there are a whole load of divisions: 17 ranging from mini flyweight to heavyweight.

Find out more here.

  • WBO – The World Boxing Organization is the newest sanctioning body on the list, formed in 1988. It is based in Puerto Rico and gained recognition in the 1990s following the success of long-term champions such as Chris Eubank and Naseem Hamed.

While each organization runs separately and rarely cooperate, they recognise the long-standing, international legitimacy of one another, and their histories are tightly bound together.

The clear distinction between the governing bodies makes it incredibly hard to become a champion within each world championship – as you can imagine, this is a pretty rare occurrence! But it hasn’t always been this way…

Brief History Of Undisputed Champions In Boxing

Prior to 1960, there were many more undisputed champions knocking about compared with today. This is because the undisputed title was awarded to every champion within each weight division. A reigning champion’s undisputed title was disputed when an opponent beat them in a match. This lead to the establishment of a lineal championship.

Lineal championships in professional boxing are those in which the lineal champion is established through fighting and beating all opponents within a champsionship, thereby becoming the overall champion. It is a common form of championship within prize fighting. You may hear the lineal champion being casually called “the man who beat the man”. This was a controversial concept in boxing and therefore regulations were changed.

The number of sanctioning bodies grew with boxing’s popularity, and so the number of crowned champions grew. This lead to widespread dispute over who was the “real” world champion. Fighters moving between different weight classes also complicated the situation.

Following Word War II, there was an attempt to unite the championships through the creation of the World Championship Committee (WCC). This disbanded only 10 years later due to lack of organisation and regulation.

The creation of various different commissions including the WBC and the IBF aimed to unite all international boxing commissions over the years, but the undisputed champion title continued to be fragmented. Unification began when the heavyweight title was coordinated and Mike Tyson became the first undisputed champoin (winning belts from the WBA, WBC and IBF) since 1978 when Leon Spinks held the title.

With the establishment of the WBO which represented a wider array of countries than the previous organisations, 4 governing bodies began to be recognised in 2004. All 4 of these bodies were recognised legitimately from 2007. Before this, many considered an undisputed champion title as awarded to boxers who held belts from the WBA, WBC and IBF championships.

Unified Champion Criteria Through Time

The criteria for being an undisputed boxing champion has changed over time, as turbulent as the sport’s history! Here is a quick break-down of the requirements from the 1920s through to present day:

  • 1920-1963: an undisputed champion was a boxer who held the NYSAC (New York State Athletic Commission) and NBA (now WBA) titles simultaneously.
  • 1963–1983: during this era, an undisputed champion was a boxer who held 2 titles – the WBA and WBC titles – at the same time.
  • 1983–2007: in this period an undisputed champion was recognised as a boxer who held 3 titles – the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles – simultaneously.
  • 2007–Present: nowadays, a boxer who holds all 4 major titles – the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles – at the same time is considered an undisputed champion.

Who knows what the next era of boxing will bring! Perhaps in 10 years time a boxer will have to hold 5 or more titles in order to claim the undisputed champion status!

List Of 4 Belt Undisputed Champions

Since the 4 belt title was introduced in 2004, there have actually only been 8 men and 5 women who have been considered as undisputed champions. One of these women has the extra impressive claim of having been an undisputed champion in two different weight divisions – a historical achievement!

Undisputed Champions: Men

1. Bernard Hopkins: 4 middleweight titles, September 2004.

Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins (above) was a professional boxer from the USA who competed between 1988 and 2016. His impressive record stands at 55 wins, 8 losses and 2 draws. He is perhaps best known for his longevity in the sport and well regarded for his incredibe defensive abilities.

You can find out more here.

2. Jermain Taylor: 4 middleweight titles, July 2005.

Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor competed between 2001 and 2014. He is also from the USA, and gained his undisputed title by beating Bernard Hopkins. This fight made history as it was the only single fight which awarded the winner with all 4 titles, making Jermain Taylor the undisputed champion. His record stands at 33 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw.

More information here.

3. Terence Crawford: 4 light welterweight titles, August 2017.

As of today, Terence “Bud” Crawford stands undefeated with an incredible professional record: 38 wins, 0 losses and 0 draws. Also an American boxer, he debuted in 2008.

Find out more here.

4. Oleksandr Usyk: 4 cruiserweight titles, July 2018.

A Ukrainian boxer, Oleksandr “The Cat” Usyk debuted in 2013 and has a standing record of 19 wins, 0 losses, and 0 draws. He gained his unified heavyweight champion status after defeating Anthony Joshua in 2021.

More information here.

5. Josh Taylor: 4 light welterweight titles, May 2021.

Like Oleksandr Usyk, Josh “The Tartan Tornado” Taylor’s record stands at stands at 19 wins, 0 losses and 0 draws. He is from Scotland and debuted in 2015.

Find out more here.

6. Canelo Álvarez: 4 super middleweight titles, November 2021.

A fighter from Mexico, Canelo Álvarez (real name Santos Saúl Álvarez Barragán) debuted in 2005. His record currently stands at 57 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws.

More information right here.

7. Jermell Charlo: 4 light middleweight titles, May 2022.

Another American boxer, Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo’s record stands at 35 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw. He debuted in 2007.

Read more here.

8. Devin Haney, 4 lightweight titles, June 2022.

The current undisputed champion Devin “The Dream” Haney has a standing record of 28 wins, 0 losses and 0 draws. He is from America and debuted in 2015.

More information here.

Undisputed Champions: Women

1. Cecilia Brækhus: 4 welterweight titles, September 2014.

Cecilia “First Lady” Brækhus (above) is a boxer from Norway with a professional record standing at 36 wins, 2 losses and 0 draws. She is a former kickboxer, and made her boxing debut in 2007.

More information here.

2. Claressa Shields: 4 middleweight titles, April 2019.

Claressa “T-Rex” Shields is an American boxer and MMA fighter. Her professional boxing record stands at 12 wins, 0 losses and 0 draws. She debuted in 2016, and it particularly notable as the only boxer in history to hold 2 undisputed champion titles in 2 different weight classes! (See below).

More information right here.

3. Katie Taylor: 4 lightweight titles, June 2019

Katie “KT” Taylor is a former footballer turned professional boxer who debuted in 2016. She is from Ireland and her current record stands at 21 wins, 0 losses and 0 draws.

You can find out more here.

4. Jessica McCaskill: 4 welterweight titles, August 2020.

Jessica “CasKILLA” McCaskill is an American boxer with a professional record standing at 12 wins, 2 losses and 0 draws. She won her undisputed champion status after beating Cecilia Brækhus in 2020.

See more here.

5. Claressa Shields: 4 light middleweight titles, May 2021

After transferring to the light middleweight division, Claressa Shields achieved undisputed champion status again in 2021. She also made history at the Olympics, winning gold medals in consecutive games in 2012 and 2016 – the first American boxer to do so.

6. Franchón Crews-Dezurn: 4 super middleweight titles, April 2022

The current undisputed super middleweight champion Franchón “The Heavy Hitting Diva” Crews-Dezurn has a current record standing at 8 wins, 1 loss and 0 draws. She is from America and debuted in 2016.

Find out more here.

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