Exploring The History of Weight Divisions in Boxing
ProBoxing-Fans.com takes pride in our in-depth weight class rankings for every division. But there’s much more to the boxing weight divisions than simply who is in the top 10 right now. The sport has evolved a great deal over the years and as such, today there are many more divisions than there used to be.
Below, you’ll learn all about the originals and the newer divisions, when they were added, what the weight limits are, what they’re also known as, who were the most prominent champions and much more. Dive in and have a look.
The Introduction of Weight Divisions
A few hundred years ago, boxing was quite different than it was today. No rounds, no rings, no gloves and no weight classes would make for a very different sport indeed. The introduction of Broughton’s Rules though began to distinguish between fighters of different sizes.
The original weight classes weren’t quite so crowded as they were today. At first, there was nothing beyond heavyweight or “heavier weights” and “lighter weights”. The cutoff between heavier weight and lighter weight was 160 lbs at the time.
From that basic beginning of separation, weight divisions continued to evolve thanks to the London Prize Ring Rules, and eventually the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, which truly established the modern sport of boxing as we know it today. Two divisions became eight divisions, eight divisions became 14 divisions, and gradually the ranks filled out to the total of 17 weight divisions that exist today.
The Original Eight Boxing Weight Divisions – The Glamour Divisions
|Light Heavyweight||168-175 lbs|
Hockey has its “Original Six” teams, even though they weren’t the true originals of the professional sport. Just the same, boxing has its “Original Eight” weight divisions, also known as the traditional, classic divisions or glamour divisions of the sport.
These have been established and recognized dating back to 1909-1910, when they were made official by the NSC, the National Sporting Club of London. They may not be the first weight divisions ever recognized or competed under, but like the “Original Six” to the NHL, they do represent a turning point in the history of the sport and the first true, widely recognized divisions.
So while many of these classes had already been established, they were not universally recognized, or were recognized at different weight limits than what they are today. Therefore, the NSC rules made things standardized and basically served to get everyone on the same page for competition. This was important for the improving standards and legitimacy of the sport, and the unity of the sport from one locale to another.
Already at that point though, the focus of boxing throughout the world had largely shifted to the United States, so it was up to the American governing bodies of the time to agree or standardize those divisions. In 1920, New York state put forward the Walker Law, which established the New York State Athletic Commission, and officially legalized boxing under a strict set of rules.
Additional weight classes were added – even beyond the “original” eight – and some weight limits were further modified and standardized. However, many of the weight divisions which were added with the Walker Law weren’t recognized or sanctioned for decades afterward, up to 50+ years in several instances, and are listed further below in the newcomer divisions accordingly.
*Note: Longest title reigns listed below include consecutive title defenses only; titleholders, not necessarily world or undisputed champions; defenses include draws where title was maintained, as well as unification fights
Heavyweight 200+ lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Joe Louis – 25 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: John L. Sullivan, James J. Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, James J. Jeffries, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis
- Year Established: 160+ lbs in 1738 by Broughton’s Rules; 175+ lbs in 1920 by Walker Law; 190+ lbs in 1979 and finally 200+ lbs
Light Heavyweight 168-175 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Dariusz Michalczewski – 24 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Georges Carpentier, Tommy Loughran, Maxie Rosenbloom, John Henry Lewis, Billy Conn, Archie Moore, Dick Tiger, Bob Foster, Michael Spinks, Michael Moorer, Virgil Hill, Roy Jones Jr, Dariusz Michalczewski, Antonio Tarver
- Year(s) Established: Established at 1975 lbs in 1909 by NSC
Middleweight 154-160 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Bernard Hopkins – 20 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Jack Nonpareil Dempsey, Stanley Ketchel, Harry Greb, Freddie Steele, Mickey Walker, Tony Zale, Marcel Cerdan, Jake LaMotta, Sugar Ray Robinson, Gene Fullmer, Emilie Griffith, Nino Benvenuti, Carloz Monzon, Marvin Hagler, Mike McCallum, Gerald McClellan, James Toney, Roy Jones Jr, Bernard Hopkins
- Year(s) Established: Fights dating back to 1840s; Officially established at 160 lbs in 1909 by NSC
Welterweight 140-147 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Henry Armstrong – 19 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Ted “Kid” Lewis, Jack Britton, Barney Ross, Henry Armstrong, Fritzie Zivic, Sugar Ray Robinson, Kid Gavilan, Carmen Basilio, Emile Griffith, Jose Napoles, Pipino Cuevas, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Donald Curry, Marlon Starling, Buddy McGirt, Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Vernon Forrest
- Year(s) Established: 145 lbs in 1889; Officially established at 147 lbs in 1909 by NSC
Lightweight 130-135 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Roberto Duran – 12 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Jack McAuliffe, Joe Gans, Battling Nelson, Freddie Welsh, Benny Leonard, Tony Canzoneri, Barney Ross, Henry Armstrong, Lou Ambers, Ike Williams, Joe Brown, Carlos Ortiz, Ken Buchanan, Roberto Duran, Esteban De Jesus, Alexis Arguello, Jose Luis Ramirez, Hector Camacho, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Jose Luis Castillo, Floyd Mayweather
- Year(s) Established: Under 160 lbs in 1738 by Broughton’s Rules; 140 lbs in 1889; Officially established at 135 lbs by NSC in 1909
Featherweight 122-126 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Eusebio Pedroza – 19 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: George Dixon, Young Corbett II, Abe Attell, Kid Chocolate, Henry Armstrong, Willie Pep, Sanny Saddler, Davey Moore, Alexis Arguello, Eusebio Pedroza, Salvador Sanchez, Azumah Nelson, Jeff Fenech, Jorge Paez, Kevin Kelley, Luisito Espinosa, Prince Naseem Hamed, Freddie Norwood, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John
- Year(s) Established: 118 lbs in 1860 by London Prize Ring Rules; 110 lbs in 1889; 115 lbs in 1889; 126 lbs by NSC in 1909
Bantamweight 115-118 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Orlando Canizales – 16 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Tommy “Spider” Kelly, Panama Al Brown, Sixto Escobar, Manuel Ortiz, Eder Jofre, Ruben Olivares, Carlos Zarate, Lupe Pintor, Jeff Chandler, Jeff Fenech, Orlando Canizales, Tim Austin, Paulie Ayala, Rafael Marquez, Hozumi Hasegawa
- Year(s) Established: 105 lbs in 1860 by London Prize Ring Rules; Progressed in several steps up to 116 lbs in 1898; 118 lbs by NSC in 1909 & standardized at 118 lbs by Walker Law in 1920
Flyweight 108-112 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Pongsaklek Wongjongkam – 17 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Jimmy Wilde, Pancho Villa, Frankie Genaro, Small Montana, Little Dado, Pascual Perez, Fighting Harada, Miguel Canto, Sot Chitalada, Hilario Zapata, Fidel Bassa, Yuri Arbachakov, Mark Johnson, Irene Pacheco, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Vic Darchinyan
- Year(s) Established: Established at 112 lbs by NSC in 1909 & standardized by Walker Law in 1920
The Newcomer Weight Divisions – Tweeners
|Super Middleweight||160-168 lbs|
|Junior Middleweight or Super Welterweight||147-154 lbs|
|Junior Welterweight or Super Lightweight||135-140 lbs|
|Super Featherweight||126-130 lbs|
|Super Bantamweight or Junior Featherweight||118-122 lbs|
|Super Flyweight or Junior Bantamweight||112-115 lbs|
|Junior Flyweight or Light Flyweight||105-108 lbs|
|Strawweight or Minimum Weight||< 105 lbs|
The weight divisions listed in the first section are the traditional divisions. Those eight were prominent and continued to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds even as new weight classes were introduced. Most of the newer weight classes took quite some time to develop real traction and legitimacy in the sport.
These “tweener” weight divisions, mostly recognized with either a Super or Junior in front of their names, sprouted up at various times and reached legitimacy at others. Still, many have been prominent for about half a century, while the newest additions like Cruiserweight, Strawweight and Super Middleweight have rounded out the professional boxing scene in just the last 20+ years.
Additionally, as mentioned above, many of these divisions were indeed created with the Walker Law in 1920, however were never utilized or recognized until many years later. In some instances there were few if any title fights or sanctioned championships and then the divisions were revived in spurts in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Cruiserweight 175-200 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Anaclet Wamba – 7 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Carlos De Leon, Evander Holyfield, Anaclet Wamba, Juan Carlos Gomez, Vassiliy Jirov, Steve Cunningham
- Year(s) Established: Established in 1979 at 190 lbs; changed to 200 lbs in 2003
Super Middleweight 160-168 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Joe Calzaghe – 21 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, James Toney, Roy Jones Jr, Joe Calzaghe, Mikkel Kessler
- Year(s) Established: Established & recognized in stages from 1967-1988
Junior Middleweight/Light Middleweight/Super Welterweight 147-154 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Gianfranco Rosi – 11 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Emile Griffith, Nino Benvenuti, Wilfred Benitez, Thomas Hearns, Mike McCallum, Julian Jackson, Gianfranco Rosi, Terry Norris, Fernando Vargas, Felix Trinidad, Winky Wright
- Year(s) Established: Established 1920 by Walker Law; Modern day recognition 1962
Junior Welterweight/Light Welterweight/Super Lightweight 135-140 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Julio Cesar Chavez – 12 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Tony Canzoneri, Barney Ross, Carlos Ortiz, Duilio Loi, Nicolino Locche, Antonio Cervantes, Aaron Pryor, Meldrick Taylor, Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker, Kostya Tszyu
- Year(s) Established: Established 1920 by Walker Law; Modern day recognition 1959
Super Featherweight or Junior Lightweight 126-130 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Brian Mitchell – 13 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Flash Elorde, Alfredo Escalara, Alexis Arguello, Julio Cesar Chavez, Azumah Nelson, Genaro Hernandez, John John Molina, Floyd Mayweather, Diego Corrales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao
- Year(s) Established: Established 1920 by Walker Law; Modern day recognition 1959
Super Bantamweight or Junior Featherweight 118-122 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Wilfredo Gomez – 18 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Wilfredo Gomez, Daniel Zaragosa, Jeff Fenech, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Kennedy McKinney, Manny Pacquiao, Israel Vazquez
- Year(s) Established: Established 1920 by Walker Law; Modern day recognition 1976
Super Flyweight or Junior Bantamweight 112-115 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Khaosai Galaxy – 19 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Jiro Watanabe, Mark Johnson, Johnny Tapia, Khaosai Galaxy, Gilberto Roman, Fernando Montiel
- Year(s) Established: Established 1920 by Walker Law; Modern day recognition 1980
Junior Flyweight or Light Flyweight 105-108 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Myung Woo Yuh – 17 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Yoko Gushiken, Jung-Koo Chang, Dodie Boy Penalosa, Myung Woo Yuh, Michael Carbajal, Humberto Gonzalez, Jorge Arce
- Year(s) Established: Established 1920 by Walker Law; Modern day recognition 1975
Strawweight or Minimum Weight < 105 lbs
- Longest Title Reign: Ricardo Lopez – 21 title defenses
- Prominent Champions: Ricardo Lopez, Ivan Calderon
- Year(s) Established: Modern day recognition 1987
As you can see, there’s quite a bit to know about all of the weight divisions in boxing, and each and every one of them has its own unique history and background. If our weight divisions helper guide here has made you thirsty for more boxing knowledge, be sure to check out our boxing history section, with all of the information you need on the history of the Sweet Science.