In many sports, the relative physical size and shape of the competitors is irrelevant. Runners competing in a 100m race at the Olympics are not stood back-to-back to make sure only those of similar heights compete. Football teams are not made up of players based on the size of their feet. But in some sports, generally combat sports, it is desirable and indeed imperative that competitors are put into weight brackets. This is certainly the case in boxing in which a mismatch in terms of size could result in serious injury to one of the fighters.
This article will look to break down the different weight classes that make up modern-day professional boxing. As well as providing information about the different weight classes, we will also shed some light on some of the divisions’ greatest champions. Boxing is one of the most inclusive sports on the planet and caters to men and women of any size.
The 18 Weight Divisions
Here we will focus on the 18 weight divisions from men’s professional boxing that are recognised by the four main sanctioning bodies, the WBA, the WBC, the IBF and the WBO. Let’s start our detailed review at the bottom of the scales with the atomweights.
Atomweight – Weight Limit 102lb / 46.3kg / 7st4lb
Also known as Light Minimumweight (by the WBA), atomweight is the lightest of the light when it comes to professional boxing for the men. It was only introduced in 2007 and there aren’t many bouts at this weight compared to most others.
Minimumweight – Weight Limit 105lb / 47.6kg / 7st7lb
Also known as strawweight and mini flyweight by some of the sanctioning bodies, this weight class has been around since continuously 1987. It’s fair to say none of the champions are exactly household names. Since 2012, Mexico has had four world champions at the weight and Japan have had three.
Light Flyweight – Weight Limit 108lb / 49.1kg / 7st10lb
Known as light flyweight or junior flyweight, fighters at this weight can’t weigh any more than 108 pounds. Fighters in this weight class will be some of the quickest in world boxing. Whereas some of the other weight classes we will cover are all about power, the light flyweight division is all about speed, precision and technique. Perhaps the greatest champion in this division is South Korean fighter, Myung Woo Yuh, who defended his world title a record seventeen times.
Flyweight – Weight Limit – 112lb / 50.8kg / 8st
Flyweight is the next lightest weight class with a limit of 112 pounds. This weight class was established before its light version with the class coming into fruition in 1909. Just like light flyweight, this weight class is all about speed and quickness. Some of the most famous flyweights have been Pancho Villa, Miguel Canto and Roman Gonzales.
Super Flyweight – Weight Limit – 115lb / 52.2kg / 8st3lb
The heaviest of all the flyweight divisions, super flyweight like its light version was established in 1920. However, it wasn’t a weight class that was recognised until the 1980s. It was the WBC who first staged a super flyweight bout in 1980, this was followed by the WBA in 1981, the IBF in 1983 and the WBO in 1989 (though the IBF and the WBO call this weight class junior bantamweight). Fighters within this weight class will be the most powerful of all the flyweight divisions.
Bantamweight – Weight Limit- 118lb / 53.5kg / 8st6lb
Bantamweight has a limit of 118 pounds. The fighters in the bantamweight class will be much bigger than their flyweight counterparts, but it’s still a division that relies heavily on speed and precision. The bantamweight division was one of the earliest weight classes to be established, with the division being recognised in 1890.
Eder Jofra from Brazil was one of the first bantamweight fighters to win a world title across the different boxing organisations. Other notable champions include Rafael Marquez and the division’s first-ever world champion Tommy Kelly.
Super Bantamweight – Weight Limit – 122lb / 55.3kg / 8st10lb
Super bantamweight is a relatively new weight class having only been recognised by the various boxing bodies in the 1970s, though it is called junior lightweight by some bodies. The first fight in the division was sanctioned by the WBC in 1976, the WBA would follow in 1977, the IBF in 1983 and the WBO in 1989.
The most famous Super Bantamweights has to be the boxing legend that is Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao a fighter from the Philippines is one of the most respected fighters in boxing history. He would fight across a wealth of different divisions but he was arguably at his most dangerous when at super bantamweight.
Featherweight – Weight Limit – 126lb / 57.1kg / 9st
One of boxing’s key weight divisions is the featherweight division with some of the most respected fighters in boxing history hailing from this division. Manny Pacquiao was a successful fighter at this weight as was Mexican legend, Marco Antonio Barrera, who was one of the toughest boxers we have ever seen.
The featherweight division was founded in the 1860s and fighters in this class started to mix tremendous hand speed with solid power. Knockdowns in this class can be emphatic. Fighters like Barrera easily had the power to hurt fighters in the weight classes above.
Super Featherweight – Weight Limit – 130lb / 59kg / 9st4lb
Some of boxing biggest’s names have had fights and won title belts at super featherweight, also known as junior lightweight. Super featherweight was a division that originated in the 1950s with the weight class being recognised by the various authorities across the decades. The WBO didn’t sanction fights at this class until 1989. Some of boxing’s most fabled fighters have fought at super featherweight. Its most notable fighters include Hall of Fame boxer and founder of GoldenBoy Oscar De La Hoya and arguably the greatest pound for pound fighter of all time in Floyd Mayweather.
Lightweight – Weight Limit – 135lb / 61.2kg / 9st9lb
Lightweight is one of boxing’s key cornerstone weight classes with the weight class hailing back to the sport’s early prize fighting days. Fighters at lightweight can be big and muscular and contain devastating speed, fighters in this class will be amongst the most technically sound.
There have been numerous world champions that have held title belts from across boxing organisations at this weight category. This weight class has given us bouts and contests that will live long in boxing folklore. The list of former champions is glamorous with names such as Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Roberto Duran and Juan Manuel Marquez all holding the belts at one stage in their illustrious careers. Lightweight is one of the few weight classes that has seen a boxer hold all four of the main title belts at one time, it’s a feat that was achieved by Australian fighter, George Kambosos Jr.
Super Lightweight – Weight Limit – 140lb / 63.5kg / 10st
Super lightweight, also known as junior welterweight, is another division in which the belts have been recently unified (by Scottish boxer Josh Taylor). It’s a weight class that was formally recognised by the various authorities in the 1960s and fighters operating in this class can also fight in the class above at welterweight. Fighters in this class can be some of the most engaging and entertaining. Champions, such as Ricky Hatton, Julio Chavez and Pernell Whitaker, have been some of the most revered fighters in recent boxing history.
Welterweight – Weight Limit – 147lb / 66.78kg / 10st7lb
To be called a world welterweight champion is one of the most prestigious honours that anybody can achieve in the world of boxing with boxing royalty and some of its most iconic names hailing from this special weight class. To be successful at Welterweight a boxer needs to have it all: speed, timing, technique, precision and power. Fighters operating within the welterweight division can have devastating power and we have seen some truly memorable bouts.
Icons, such as Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Sugar Ray Robinson, Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, can all call themselves former world welterweight champions. The division also boasts some of the most popular fighters in modern-day boxing with superstar fighters, such as Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Junior, currently dominating the division.
Super Welterweight – Weight Limit – 154lb / 69.9kg / 11st
Super welterweight (or junior middleweight) is another division that has seen the staging of many memorable fights. With the weight limit being set at 154 pounds this is one of the first weight classes that can see a huge variety of styles and punching power can become increasingly significant.
We have seen numerous fights in the past where boxers famed for their power have come up against boxers famed for their speed. The four sanctioning bodies recognised super welterweight in the 1980s and it can be a division that can act as a bridge between those fighting at middleweight and those at welterweight. Some iconic champions from this weight class include Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather.
Middleweight – Weight Limit – 160lb / 72.6kg / 11st6lb
Middleweight is another one of boxing’s blue riband weight classes with some of the sport’s most iconic names hailing from the division. Middleweight hails back to the 1800s and was popular for those who competed in the prizefighting days. Historians have been able to trace the first middleweight fight ever held with gloves which were believed to have taken place in 1867 with a bout between George Fulljames and Jack Dempsey. Dempsey won the bout and could be classed as the first-ever Middleweight champion.
Moving back to the modern-day and you could argue that middleweight is the sport’s most popular division. Middleweight boasts a whole host of stars ranging from Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin – the two have shared the ring on two occasions and both have been classic encounters. Retired fighters such as Bernard Hopkins, Marvin Hagler and Roy Jones are all Hall of Fame names. The middleweight division will continue to be one of the most attractive classes as the sport continues to move forward.
Super Middleweight – Weight Limit – 168lb / 76.2kg / 12st
The super middleweight division rose to prominence in the 1980s with a whole variety of top-class fights and fighters. It’s a weight class where British boxers have excelled with Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Carl Froch and Joe Calzaghe all being former World Champions.
The sport was also dominated for a period by one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in Andre Ward. In recent times it’s been Canelo Alvarez who has conquered all showing off a blend of speed and power that the super middleweight division has become famed for. Many are debating whether Canelo has plans of stepping up into the light heavyweight division which is the next weight class we will feature.
Light Heavyweight – Weight Limit – 175lb / 79.4kg / 12st
We’re starting to get towards the big bruisers of the boxing world now, but light heavyweights still have plenty of fast-punching fighters. In fact it can often through up bouts between those at the top and bottom of their ideal fighting weights which can make for some very interesting battles of pace against power. The likes of Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins and Sugar Ray Leonard have all been champions at this weight, as has Britain’s Nathan Cleverly.
Cruiserweight – Weight Limit – 200lb / 90.7kg / 14st4lb
Cruiserweight is a division that is a relatively new one with the weight class being sanctioned in 1979. Originally the Cruiserweight division was for fighters weighing in at 190 pounds but the weight was increased to 200 pounds in 2003.
Cruiserweight is the perfect weight class for fighters who might not have the size or power to trouble boxers in the heavyweight division. However, it has become an exceptionally skilful and varied weight class with boxers in the division displaying a variety of speed and power. There have been a few notable examples of fighters being able to make the transition from cruiserweight into the heavyweight division with both David Haye and more recently Oleksandr Usyk being able to capture a world heavyweight title.
Heavyweight – No Weight Limit
Arguably the most historic of all boxing weight classes, the heavyweight division has created icons that will be long remembered with names such as Mohammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko all being superstars of the division.
Heavyweight boxing can be traced back to the 1700s and is a division that has evolved through the ages. It was traditionally a division where heavy men who weren’t in the best of shape would compete against one another but it was Mohammed Ali who would shape and redefine the division. Ali’s mantra of ‘float like a butterfly and sting like a bee’ has ushered in a new age of big men, who have been able to move around the ring with a level of grace that was not befitting of their size.
New life has been breathed into the division following Antony Joshua’s ability to wrestle three of the heavyweight belts away from Wladimir Klitschko. With Joshua, Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Oleksandr Usyk all vying for heavyweight domination, the heavyweight division looks set to be one of the most enthralling for years to come.
Boxing: A Sport Fought Throughout the Ages
Boxing is one of the oldest sports there is, and sports historians are able to trace it back to the third millennium BC. And, fist fighting even had a place in the ancient Olympics! Throughout history, boxing has enjoyed many highs and lows. In the Middle Ages through to the 1700s, as society got more religious, boxing swiftly became outlawed. However, the sport would emerge from the shadows in the 1800s through the emergence of prizefighting.
Boxing Emerged from ‘Prizefighting’
Prizefighting became particularly popular in London but often the fights would turn bloody and brutal. Men would often fight each other with slim regard to weight or size, the fights would often be unfair and incredibly dangerous. Prizefighting would change thanks to a nobleman called the Marquess of Queensberry. Queensberry is seen as the forefather of modern boxing and his rules are still largely what shape the sport today.
Queensberry: The Forefather of Modern Boxing
Queensberry was instrumental in bringing in gloves, the knockdown rule and also the emergence of weight classes. Queensberry’s rules made boxing instantly fairer and safer – making it more palatable for the wider public. Fast forward to the present day and boxing has become one of the most popular sports on the planet. Boxers have become some of the most celebrated sportsmen and women on the planet and iconic figures such as Mohammed Ali, Jake LaMotta, Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez will be celebrated for decades to come.
The Four Boxing Organisations: WBO, WBA, IBF & WBC
What has become confusing in boxing are the different organisations that control the sport. Boxing is split into four separate organisations the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), the World Boxing Association (WBA), the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Council (WBC). Each of these organisations has a variety of different weight categories with each weight category having its own World Championship Belt.
Boxers from across the weight classes can compete for these belts and some of the best fighters in the world will hold multiple belts from different organisations. It’s becoming harder to do but there is an opportunity for a boxer to unify all the belts in a weight class and hold all four belts from the four different organisations. If a boxer can achieve this, they earn the right to be called an undisputed world champion.