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What is an undisputed boxing champion? Difference between undisputed and unified, history of unifying titles

What is an undisputed boxing champion? Difference between undisputed and unified, history of unifying titlesFAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images
A new undisputed champion was crowned on Saturday night.

There is a new undisputed champion in the sport of boxing after Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury on May 18 to claim all four world title belts at heavyweight. 

It was a thrilling contest in Riyadh which saw Usyk trouble Fury throughout all 12 rounds, especially in the ninth where the Ukrainian almost stopped his British rival who was saved by a standing count by the referee. 

Usyk's success in becoming an undisputed champion in a second weight class has now made him an all-time great after doing the same at cruiserweight which came after a stellar amateur career. 

DAZN explains the meaning behind a fighter becoming an undisputed champion. 

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:

  • IBF
  • WBA
  • WBC
  • WBO

Current men's unified champions include: 

  • Light heavyweight:  Artur Beterbiev - IBF, WBC and WBO
  • Middleweight:  Janibek Alimkhanuly - IBF and WBO
  • Junior middleweight:  Sebastian Fundora - WBC and WBO
  • Welterweight:  Terence Crawford - WBA (super), WBC and WBO
  • Junior flyweight:  Kenshiro Teraji - WBA and WBC

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. 

During the four-belt era, there have now been nine undisputed champions in men's boxing: 

  • Bernard Hopkins (Middleweight)
  • Jermain Taylor (Middleweight)
  • Terence Crawford (Junior welterweight and welterweight)
  • Oleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight and heavyweight)
  • Josh Taylor (Junior welterweight)
  • Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (Super middleweight)
  • Jermell Charlo (Light middleweight)
  • Devin Haney (Lightweight)
  • Naoya Inoue (Bantamweight and super bantamweight)

When it comes to women's boxing, there have been 10 undisputed champions with two fighters achieving the status in multiple weight divisions:

  • Cecilia Braekhus (Welterweight)
  • Claressa Shields (Middleweight and junior middleweight)
  • Katie Taylor (Lightweight and junior welterweight)
  • Jessica McCaskill (Welterweight)
  • Franchon Crews-Dezurn (Super middleweight)
  • Chantelle Cameron (Junior welterweight)
  • Amanda Serrano (Featherweight)
  • Alycia Baumgardner (Super featherweight)
  • Savannah Marshall (Super middleweight)
  • Seniesa Estrada (Minimumweight)

Has 'undisputed' always meant four belts? When did the four-belt era begin?

There was of course a time when weight classes had one world champion, and that was it. The sport eventually ended up with two recognised titles, then three, and now four. 

Here's a brief timeline of the changes:

  • 1922–1963, a boxer who held both the NYSAC and NBA (WBA) world titles simultaneously
  • 1963–1983, a boxer who held both the WBA and WBC world titles simultaneously
  • 1983–2007, a boxer who held the WBA, WBC, and IBF world titles simultaneously
  • 2007–present, a boxer who holds the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO world titles simultaneously

So, the 'four-belt' era began in 2007, but fighters of yesteryear including Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Rocky Marciano, Roy Jones Jr. and more are nonetheless former undisputed champions of the world.

Who will be the next undisputed champion?

The next undisputed champion will be crowned on July 20 in Dallas when Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano meet for Taylor's undisputed women's lightweight title. 

This is a rematch of their fight in April 2022 when Taylor beat Serrano by split decision in a contest which was a candidate for fight of the year. 

Does 'The Ring' championship count towards undisputed?

No. For now, The Ring magazine's version of the title, while a prestigious title, remains outside of the criteria. Because of its attempts to stick to the lineal timeline of titleholders (you have to beat the champion to be the champion) for the most part, it nonetheless remains a coveted belt by most fighters.

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