Guide To The Boxing Heavyweight Division & Champs In 2023


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Blog / Oct 05,2023

Boxing, as a sport, has long been a spectacle of strength, skill, and strategy. At its pinnacle, the heavyweight division has produced some of the most legendary figures in sports history: from Jack Johnson and Joe Louis to Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. In 2023, the heavyweight boxing division remains as intriguing as ever. Let's delve into the current landscape of heavyweight champions and the contenders who seek to dethrone them.

 

The Sanctioning Bodies

 

main world professional boxing organizations logos

The first thing to understand is that there are sanctioning bodies in professional boxing. Each of these bodies recognizes its own world champion, which is why we can have multiple "world champions" at the same time in the same weight class rankings.

WBC (World Boxing Council): Founded in 1963, the WBC is perhaps the most recognized of the four. The green belt has been held by boxing greats like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and Lennox Lewis. The WBC often introduces new policies and innovations, such as the mandatory eight count and the creation of additional weight classes.

WBA (World Boxing Association): The WBA is the oldest among the major organizations, dating back to 1921 when it was founded as the National Boxing Association (NBA). Due to its structure, it's not unusual for the WBA to have a "Super" champion and a "Regular" champion in the same weight division.

IBF (International Boxing Federation): Established in 1983, the IBF grew in prominence during the 1980s and 1990s. It has a strict policy regarding mandatory challengers and is known to strip champions of their titles if they refuse mandatory fights.

WBO (World Boxing Organization): Founded in 1988, the WBO became more widely recognized in the 2000s. The likes of Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury have held the WBO heavyweight title.

IBO (International Boxing Organization): The IBO is a younger sanctioning body, established in 1988. While not always recognized as a major title by some purists, several prominent fighters have held the IBO title alongside other belts, lending it credibility. Its computerized ranking system distinguishes the IBO. This system is devoid of the politics and subjective decision-making often found in other organizations.

The Ring Magazine Title: "The Ring" title, often just referred to as the "Ring title," is presented by the well-respected boxing magazine of the same name. It dates back to 1922. The title is awarded using specific criteria, primarily focusing on the top two fighters facing off. If the top two in "The Ring's" own rankings fight, the winner is awarded the title. It can also be awarded in certain other situations where the champion faces a top 5 contender. The Ring title has prestige because it is seen as less influenced by boxing politics. While there's no physical belt for the lineal champion, "The Ring" belt often serves as its stand-in, especially in divisions where the lineal champion is clear.

Lineal Champion: Beyond belts and official titles, the lineal championship represents a conceptual lineage tracing back to the original champion of a weight class. It follows the principle: "The Man Who Beat The Man." If a boxer beats the lineal champion, they inherit that title. There are disputes at times, especially when the current lineal champ retires or moves weight classes. This title holds historical significance and can exist independently of any other title. It often adds an additional layer of prestige to fighters who hold it.

WBA Regular Champion: The WBA's system of having multiple champions in a single weight class can be perplexing. The "Super" and "Regular" champion designations often lead to confusion. Typically, a boxer becomes the "Regular" champion by winning a vacant title or a specific mandated fight. The "Super" champion title was initially introduced to allow unified champions the flexibility to fight across different sanctioning bodies without being stripped of the WBA title. Over time, however, its use has expanded. Critics argue that this system dilutes the value of a championship. However, it does provide more boxers the opportunity to win a version of the WBA title.

 

Current Heavyweight Division Champions

 

WBA  Oleksandr Usyk

WBC  Tyson Fury

IBF  Oleksandr Usyk

WBO  Oleksandr Usyk

IBO  Oleksandr Usyk

Ring Magazine  Oleksandr Usyk

Lineal Champion  Oleksandr Usyk

WBA Regular Champion  Daniel Dubois

 

The Reigning Kings

 

Several names dominated the heavyweight division:

Oleksandr Usyk - The Ukrainian who moved up from the cruiserweight division, where he was undisputed champion, to challenge the big boys in the heavyweight realm. Known for his incredible footwork and boxing IQ, Usyk presents a unique challenge to traditional heavyweights. Usyk has had a great journey of success.

Tyson Fury - The "Gypsy King" is another British heavyweight who has captured the attention and imagination of boxing fans worldwide. His larger-than-life personality is matched only by his skill in the ring. With an uncanny ability to move with agility despite his size and an unwavering spirit, Fury has battled through personal and professional challenges to claim his spot at the top.

Daniel Dubois - Another British talent, Dubois is young, hungry, and power-packed. He has a bright future ahead, with many boxing pundits predicting world titles in his future.

 

Emerging Contenders

 

Every champion must be on the lookout for those rising through the ranks. A few contenders include:

Anthony Joshua (AJ) - A British national treasure, AJ held multiple world titles and boasted an impressive record. Known for his charisma outside the ring and his prowess within it, Joshua's skill set combined both power and technicality. He's faced almost every top contender of his generation.

Deontay Wilder - The American powerhouse with one of the most devastating right hands in boxing history. Though he's faced criticism for his technical abilities, no one can deny Deontay Wilder's sheer unstoppable force and fear factor he brings to every match.

Filip Hrgovi? - The Croatian hard-hitter is a true threat, with both an extensive amateur background and a growing list of professional accolades.

 

2023 and Beyond

 

While the aforementioned boxers have made significant marks on the division, the ever-evolving nature of the sport means there are always shifts. As of 2023, here are a few updates to watch for:

Changing of the Guard - It's not uncommon for new champions to emerge, pushing past legends or becoming the next great legend themselves. Stay attuned to title fights and mandatory challenges.

Potential Superfights - Boxing politics and promotions can sometimes delay dream matchups. However, the clamor of fans often leads to mega-fights that define eras. Look out for potential super fights that could reshape the division's hierarchy.

Outside Challenges - With the rise of crossover events, champions from other combat sports or even celebrities might step into the boxing ring for lucrative matchups. While purists may frown upon such events, they undoubtedly bring added attention to the sport.

 

Conclusion

 

The heavyweight division in 2023 continues to be a centerpiece of global boxing attention. The combination of established champions, rising stars, and the ever-present possibility of shock upsets keep fans on the edge of their seats. As history has shown, heavyweight boxing is not just about the power or the knockouts; it's about the drama, the stories, and the legends that are born from epic battles in the squared circle.