Boxing Weight Classes
by Scotty L of Predictem.com
We get a common email from our readers asking "What are the weight classes in boxing?" It's a great question, so we decided to throw together a chart for our readers so they're able to view the different divisions a boxer will fall under. For fun, we also listed the best boxer of all time for each classification.
History: Boxing originally had eight weight categories (classes)—Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight, Welterweight, Lightweight, Featherweight, Bantamweight, and Flyweight. Over time, other divisions were created and there are now 17 weight divisions in boxing.
The lack of clarity today is a common sticking point with fans. In the old days, there were eight divisions with one champion in each class. Nowadays, there are at least four recognized world champions in each division, with some organizations having multiple champions in the same division. There are upwards of 75 world champions today.
Here is a brief explanation and history of the different weight classes in boxing.
Maximum Weight: Unlimited
Greatest Ever: A battle between Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, with Ali perhaps edging it out.
Boxing’s glamour division. Many feel the sport goes as the heavyweight division goes. After having been dominated by American fighters for a century, has fallen to an all-time low, with the balance of power having shifted to Eastern Europe. America’s best heavyweights may be playing NBA and NFL. Heavyweights are getting bigger. Not long ago, a 230-pound heavyweight was considered a behemoth and today would be seen as a little on the small side.
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Maximum Weight: 200 lbs.
Greatest Ever: Undoubtedly Evander Holyfield.
The cruiserweight division was created at the very end of the 70’s to bridge the gap between light heavyweight and heavyweight. Has long been considered a somewhat barren division with fighters not good enough to hack it at light heavyweight and too small to hang with the big boys. Having fluctuated between 190-195, was finally bumped up to 200. Many legendary Heavyweight Champions throughout history would have been cruiserweights. Pole Tomasz Adamek, who appears to be moving up to heavyweight permanently, owns the top spot in the division (as of 2009).
Maximum Weight: 175 lbs.
Greatest Ever: Archie Moore, possibly Ezzard Charles though he never held a title at light heavyweight.
Light heavyweight is a division that has enjoyed drastically varying degrees of popularity. Sometimes the division is red-hot and other times deader than a doornail. Nevertheless, some of the greatest ever have called this division home. It is also a division of very differently sized fighters, ranging from squat 5’7” brawlers like Dwight Qawi, to long 6’3” string beans like Bob Foster and Michael Spinks. 45 year-old Bernard Hopkins and 27 year-old Chad Dawson are the two top guys in the division, with Dawson’s recent body of work giving him a slightly better claim.
Maximum Weight: 168 lbs.
Greatest Ever: Possibly undefeated and recently-retired Joe Calzaghe.
Another new division, created in the 1980’s. Got a jump-start by Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns fighting in this class in their 1989 rematch. Since then, has become a constant source of good fighters and good fights. Currently might be the hottest division in the game with all the best in the division fighting in a round-robin tournament that will determine the best in the weight class.
Maximum Weight: 160 lbs.
Greatest Ever: Probably Sugar Ray Robinson, with Harry Greb, Carlos Monzon, and Marvin Hagler all able to make a claim.
Likely the #2 weight class in boxing history behind heavyweight. This division has always been considered the perfect blend of power, speed, and skills. Has been home to some of the bigger marquee fights in history. The current boss )as of 2009) is Kelly Pavlik.
Junior Middleweight (Super Welterweight)
Maximum Weight: 154 lbs.
Greatest Ever: Maybe Terry Norris.
Another more recently created division. The division started in the 1960’s, but was not able to build much momentum until the 1980’s. While more of stopover division, has still seen more than its fair share of huge fights over the past 30 years. Stalwarts such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez, Mike McCallum, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, and Floyd Mayweather have all called this weight class home.
Maximum Weight: 147 lbs.
Greatest Ever: Sugar Ray Robinson
Welterweight has always been a very important weight class in the sport. A disproportional amount of all time greats have been champion at this weight including Mickey Walker, Henry Armstrong, Robinson, Kid Gavilan, Jose Napoles, Leonard, Hearns, Duran, etc. It might be the hottest division in the sport today. The two best fighters in boxing (as of 2010), Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, fight in this division.
Junior Welterweight (Super Lightweight)
Maximum Weight: 140 lbs.
Best Ever: Wide open. Cases can be made for Nicolino Locche, Aaron Pryor, Kostya Tszyu, and perhaps others.
Another stopover division. There have been some fighters who make a home here, a little too big to be a lightweight, while not big enough to handle welterweights that can run upward of 6’2.” Has been home to such quintessential fights as Pryor-Arguello, Chavez-Taylor, and the Gatti-Ward trilogy. Top guy as of 2010 is Timothy Bradley.
Maximum Weight: 135 lbs.
Best Ever: A virtual coin flip between old-timer Benny Leonard and Roberto Duran.
A look at the all-time greats list will reveal an abundant amount of lightweights. Great lightweights have ranged from the most fearsome brawlers (Duran) to the most exquisite of boxers (Leonard, Whitaker). Juan Manuel Marquez is the recognized champion as of 2010.
Junior Lightweight (Super Featherweight)
Maximum Weight: 130 lbs.
Best Ever: Very debatable, but maybe Alexis Arguello.
Started in the 20’s. Gained occasional foothold, but not until the 1970’s did it become a division worth consistently following. A ton of great fighters have fought in this division. Robert Guerrero might be the man as of now (2010).
Maximum Weight: 126 lbs.
Best Ever: Willie Pep.
This weight class has long been a favorite among lighter-weight enthusiasts, providing thrills and great fights and fighters since the early 20th century. Undefeated Indonesian stylist Chris John currently rules the roost in 2010.
Junior Featherweight (Super Bantamweight)
Maximum Weight: 122 lbs.
Best Ever: Wilfredo Gomez
Junior featherweight came into existence in the 1970’s and immediately struck a chord, thanks in part to murderous punching and long-reigning Wilfredo Gomez. Since then, great fighters have made their home at 122 lbs. Most fighters, however, use it to bide time between bantamweight and featherweight. Nearly 6 feet-tall Celestino Caballero might be the #1 guy right now (as of 2010).
Maximum Weight: 118 lbs.
Best Ever: Eder Jofre
Bantamweights have provided an eclectic mix of fighters and styles to the sport, from skilled boxers like 5’11” Panama Al Brown and Jofre to KO punchers like Ruben Olivares and Carlos Zarate. Best guy in the division right now is probably Japan’s Hozumi Hasegawa. (as of 2010)
Junior Bantamweights (Super Flyweight)
Maximum Weight: 115 lbs.
Best Ever: Khaosai Galaxy or maybe Gilberto Roman.
Was greeted in the 1980’s with skepticism by those who questioned the need for a division to bridge the six-pound gap between flyweight and bantamweight. Some of that criticism has worn off in light of the handful of excellent fighters who have reigned in this weight class. As of 2010, Vic Darchinyan is the recognized champion, with a guy who knocked him out—Nonito Donaire hot on his heels.
Maximum Weight: 112 lbs.
Best Ever: Jimmy Wilde
A longtime standout weight class in boxing, though not a favorite of U.S. fight fans. Manny Pacquiao first won a title in this weight class. As of 2010, the top spot is up for grabs contested by a group of excellent fighters. 112 lbs. is one of the sport’s deepest divisions.
Maximum Weight: 108 lbs.
Best Ever: Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez, Jung-Koo Chang, Michael Carbajal, Myung-Woo Yuh.
Junior flyweight was created in the 1970’s, and has been home to many of the great Asian and Latin American fighters for over a quarter-century. As of 2010, the top dog at 108 lbs. is longtime Puerto Rican stalwart Ivan Calderon.
Maximum Weight: 105 lbs.
Best Ever: Ricardo Lopez (by a landslide)
Boxing’s little guys. This division was a laughingstock of sorts until legitimized by all-time great Ricardo “Finito” Lopez, who reigned for almost a decade and was undefeated in over 50 fights. Fighters in this division are almost exclusively from Asia and Latin America. Several undefeated titlists are currently contesting the #1 spot.
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