On May 8, live on DAZN worldwide except Mexico, Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez forced Billy Joe Saunders to retire after eight rounds of their super-middleweight unification fight in front of over 70,000 fans in Texas.
Heading into the fight, Alvarez was already a unified 168lbs champion with the WBA, WBC and The Ring titles to his name. That victory added Saunders' WBO belt to his haul.
Last year, the pound-for-pound king said he wanted to become an undisputed champion in the division. While he has been dominant so far, he hasn't quite reached his end destination yet.
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Here is more about what unified and undisputed champions are, and the difference between the two.
What does it mean to be a unified champion?
A unified champion is one who holds two or more of the major sanctioning titles in a division:
Current men's unified champions include:
- Heavyweight: Anthony Joshua — IBF, WBA (super), WBO
- Light heavyweight: Artur Beterbiev — IBF, WBC
- Super middleweight: Canelo Alvarez — WBA, WBC, WBO
- Junior middleweight: Jermell Charlo — IBF, WBA (super), WBC
- Welterweight: Errol Spence Jr. — IBF, WBC
- Junior welterweight: Jose Ramirez — WBC, WBO
- Junior welterweight: Josh Taylor — IBF, WBA (super)
- Lightweight: Teofimo Lopez — IBF, WBA (super), WBO
- Super bantamweight: Murodjon Akhmadaliev — IFB, WBA (super)
- Bantamweight: Naoya Inoue — IBF, WBA (super)
What is an undisputed champion in boxing?
An undisputed champion is a fighter who holds all four major championship belts (IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO) in a division.
Since the four-belt era began in 2004, there hasn't been an undisputed heavyweight champion. The last undisputed champion in the heavyweight division was Lennox Lewis back in November 1999, when he defeated Evander Holyfield in their rematch. At the time, there were three major belts (WBC, WBA, IBF).
During the four-belt era, there have been four undisputed champions in men's boxing: Oleksandr Usyk (cruiserweight), Bernard Hopkins (middleweight), Jermain Taylor (middleweight) and Terence Crawford (junior welterweight).
On the women's side, there have been five undisputed champions, with three currently holding all four belts:
- Lightweight: Katie Taylor
- Welterweight: Jessica McCaskill
- Light-middleweight: Claressa Shields
Previously, Cecilia Brækhus held all four 147-pound titles before losing them to McCaskill in August, and Shields has also achieved undisputed status at middleweight.
Will anyone become undisputed boxing champion in 2021?
There are five men's fighters in particular who are aiming to become an undisputed four-belt champion in 2021. Barring any unforseen setbacks, three of them should indeed achieve exactly that.
Eddie Hearn says Joshua vs. Fury is set for Saudi Arabia in August . As it stands, all four bodies will allow this to be for all the gold, even if one or more decide to strip the winner shortly afterwards.
Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez bring two belts apiece into their winner-take-all clash on May 22, in what should give us the fifth undisputed champion of the four-belt era.
And, of course, there's Canelo.
Is Canelo an undisputed champion?
Though Alvarez has held 15 different versions of a world title (including the 'lineal' version used by The Ring magazine that is recognised by many media outlets), undisputed super-middleweight champion status is missing one piece of the jigsaw.
Caleb Plant is the reigning IBF champ at Canelo's weight, and the Mexican wasted no time calling the American out after beating Saunders.
Many expect that fight to be made for the weekend closest to Mexican Independence Day in September. The winner would be the undisputed super-middleweight champion of the world, with the four 'alphabet' titles as well as The Ring title in their possession.