A Quick Guide to the Many Weight Classes in Boxing
29th December 2017.The noble sport of boxing has a long and storied history, with its origins stretching back in time many years. Over time after its inception as a sanctioned sport, many parts of the pursuit have changed. Fighting bare-knuckled faded away with the introduction of gloves, rounds became more standardised, and scoring became a more integral part of the competition. While some of these rules have changed, the basic concept ? two men climbing into the ring to square off in a fair fight ? has remained the same. Alongside this, the concept of the weight class has also remained surprisingly consistent over the years. The "fair" part of a "fair fight" in boxing doesn't just boil down to an attentive referee watching for illegal blows. It's also about ensuring that the two boxers in the ring are on the same general physical level as one another. It?s for this reason why the weight class is so important. It allows for an easy way to match boxers together in competition without one gaining a significant advantage over the other due to their size and weight. A heavier fighter has more power to put behind his punches. Matching up a huge boxer with a smaller one would clearly not be fair.
Weight Classes in Boxing
The limits and names that define these weight classes have undergone their fair share of changes. Today, the four major sanctioning bodies in boxing have come together and created an agreement standardising all the weight classes in which their fighters can compete. Though there were eight standard classes in older boxing, today there are 17, mainly because each main category often contains sub-classes that differ just by a few pounds; the goal is to create more opportunities for competition. Let's break down what the main weight classes are and check out some of the fighters that have stood out in their careers.
Flyweight: 112 pounds
The flyweight is one of the "youngest" classes, as it was the last to be designated as an official class. For the lightest boxers only, flyweight is a class most often seen in women's boxing, but which makes regular appearances in sanctioned men's bouts as well. There are also "light" and "super" flyweight classes to provide some leeway. Another sub-class, minimum weight, refers to boxers who barely weigh over 100 pounds. Typically, boxers in this class are small in stature and favour fast movements with very practised footwork. Among some of the most famous flyweight champions are figures such as Omar Andrés Narváez, an Olympic contender who has gone on to defend his world flyweight title more than a dozen times.
Bantamweight: 118 pounds
Previously the standard class for the lightest boxers, the weight limit for bantamweights was once as low as 110 pounds. With title fights in this class fought as early as 1889, it is one of the most common ways for boxers to enter the sport. Younger fighters who are still accumulating experience and developing their bodies often begin fighting as bantamweights. Like all the other current recognised classes, there are light and super bantamweight categories for fighters who fall a few pounds outside the typically recognised range. In the realm of bantamweight greats, Ryan Burnett is currently one of the biggest names to know. A unified world champion, his 18 wins (9 by KO) showcase some serious skill in a lighter weight class.
Featherweight: 126 pounds
Despite its name, the featherweight class houses some of the fiercest fighters the sport has ever known ? and it continues to do so today as the most active class across the boxing leagues. With its weight limit set at 126 pounds, it creates fighters who have a good mixture of technical, defensive skills and raw striking power. Because the extended reach of heavier-weight fighters does not yet come into play, featherweight fights often feature more movement and aggressive tactics. George Dixon, the first black champion, was a featherweight powerhouse. Today, the reigning super champion is Leo Santa Cruz ? a man nicknamed "The Earthquake" despite his light weight.
Lightweight: 135 pounds
Typically, a transitional class as boxers move up towards the welterweight category, lightweight boxing begins at 130 pounds and cuts off at 135 pounds. Oscar de la Hoya fought as a lightweight during his amateur career and as an Olympian, though he eventually ended up fighting as high as middleweight. Jorge Linares and Mikey Garcia are reigning lightweight champions in their respective sanctioned leagues, and one world title currently remains vacant. With more interest in the weight categories around this class, it does not feature as many active boxers.
Welterweight: 147 pounds
At the welterweight level, power starts to become serious and fights begin to slow down. These larger boxers do not need to rely on as much of the fancy, fast footwork that lighter fighters use. Like the lightweight class, it can also be a transitional class as fighters bulk up and gain mass over time. Some of the most famous fighters in the world have made their name fighting as light- and welterweight-class boxers, though, including the undefeated Floyd Mayweather, Jr., alongside others such as Manny Pacquiao, and "Sugar Ray" Leonard. Currently, the leading champion in this class is Keith Thurman, whose 29 wins featured 22 KOs.
Middleweight: 160 pounds
In the middleweight world, some of the strongest and most active boxers put their best skills on display. At this weight class there is plenty of room for manoeuvrability but also a real place for powerful punches. In no fighter is that skill more evident than it is in Gennady Golovkin, a Kazakhstani middleweight fighter. Regarded by some prestigious boxing publications as one of the top boxers in the world, pound for pound, he exemplifies the middleweight's ability to produce powerful punches. With a knockout rate of nearly 90% across his 38 fights as a pro, "GGG" as he is known continues in the footsteps of some of boxing's greatest.
Light Heavyweight: 175 pounds
Few fighters spend their time boxing at light heavyweight these days. in fact, two of the four world titles are currently vacant. Boxers often either fight at middleweight or move upwards to one of the two remaining weight classes. In the past, this class was more active and often featured contenders who went on to challenge heavyweight fighters for their titles. Stevenson Adonis, the current world title holder, has put up an impressive 29-1 record. However, Andre Ward, the dominant light heavyweight fighter until his retirement in 2017, managed an undefeated record of 32-0.
Cruiserweight: 200 pounds
In heavyweight boxing, there has at times been an arms race regarding size and power, boxers simply continued to grow larger and stronger. As a result, fighters who typically fought as heavyweights before were now outclassed. The cruiserweight category looks to eliminate that problem by establishing a class between light heavyweight and true heavyweight. In some cases, fighters only spend a little time in this class as they work towards fighting on the highest level.
Heavyweight: Greater than 200 pounds
The class that everyone knows about, heavyweights are often held up as the best the boxing world can produce. Greats like Joe Louis, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, and George Foreman all spent time fighting as heavyweights. With no upper bound on the weight limit, it produces some of the most interesting and exciting match-ups in the sport. Although this class was once home to an undisputed champion that the world crowned as boxing's greatest, that title has become diluted in recent years due to the numerous boxing organisations. Nonetheless, it reminds the home of some of the best talent in the entire sport.
The excitement is the same, no matter the class
From the humble flyweight to the towering titans of the heavyweight class, it's clear there is a tremendous amount of diversity in the types of fighters competing in this sport. Each class offers something unique, and as fighters grow heavier, their tactics and fighting style must change and adapt. That unpredictability is part of what makes boxing so exciting. Even the moment of the weigh-in has become a storied part of boxing's pageantry. Next time you sit down to tune in to a highly anticipated bout, you should have a better sense of what's going on when weight classes come up in discussion! Follow @SportNessUK