Can someone please explain how you can unify belts in boxing?

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I’m not a huge boxing fan but i sometimes watch very hyped fights. And i saw that there are several federations (IBF, WBO, WBA…), each with it’s own belt. And i know that boxers fight in a weight category. How come that some boxers are only WBO champions and others hold belts from multiple federations?

In: Other

Let’s say you were the IBF heavyweight champion. Then you decided to fight the WBA heavyweight champion and you beat him. Now you’re the heavyweight champion in both the IBF and WBA, so you’ve brought the two titles together on to one fighter. You’ve unified the titles.

Because boxing is a dangerous sport, bouts are generally staged either under the supervision of the authorities, or under the supervision of a private company that is licensed by the authorities to supervise fights. Fundamentally, that’s what the WBO, WBC, IBF etc are – private companies that are licensed to supervise boxing matches.

It’s important to understand what these organizations are, specifically that they aren’t leagues or whatever. A boxer doesn’t fight for the WBC, or fight in the WBC, or under contract to the WBC. Instead, individual promoters arrange fights and as part of the arrangements, they find a sanctioning body that is willing to supervise the fight. A boxer might fight a WBC supervised bout and then their next fight might be supervised by the IBF.

That said, many of these supervising companies maintain rankings of boxers. If a particular company (the WBC for example) is asked to supervise a fight between their two highest ranked boxers, they will typically award a title belt to the winner. If however, these same two fighters arrange a fight supervised by someone else (say the WBA), then the WBC won’t award anything. In this way, boxers generally only win a single title at any one time. And, of course, a sanctioning body might choose to supervise a fight but not award a title to the winner if they so choose.

So to unify belts, you must first become the second ranked fighter for two separate supervising bodies. Then you arrange to fight the current champion of one body in a bout that is sanctioned by that body. You follow this up by fighting the current champion of the second sanctioning body in a fight supervised by that body. If you win both, you unify the belts.

The belts, however, don’t stay unified. If you are currently the holder of two title belts (for example, WBA and WBC) and you arrange a fight with a second ranked fighter, you might choose to have the WBA supervise the fight, in which case the challenger can only win your WBA title (deunifying the titles). Or you might choose to have the WBC supervise with similar outcome. Or you might choose to have the fight jointly sanctioned by both the WBA and the WBC, in which case the winner stands to win both titles.