Boxing has long been regarded as a gentleman’s sport. Not a senseless brawl, but a fist duel between two fighters to determine who the better man is. Even in the sport’s early days, most boxing fights were sporting contests with clear rules and level playing fields for each fighter (Marquess of Queensberry Rules). Even if safety has not been a priority, fairness has.
In an unarmed contest, the bigger man usually has the advantage when the skills are relatively equal, so weight limits were implemented in boxing to prevent freakish mismatches between opponents with too big of a size difference.
The history of weight classes from their implementation to the present day is a long one, and weigh-ins are a crucial aspect of every boxing bout. But do you know everything there is to know about weight classes?
Read on to learn or refresh your knowledge about weight classes. Or click on the links below to skip to a specific weight class.
Table of Contents
Professional Boxing Weight Classes
|WEIGHT CLASS||WEIGHT UPPER LIMIT|
|Strawweight / Minimumweight||105 pounds / 47.6 kg / 7 st 7 4 lb|
|Light Flyweight / Junior Flyweight||108 pounds / 49.0 kg / 7 st 10 lb|
|Flyweight||112 pounds / 50.8 kg / 8 st 0 lb|
|Super Flyweight / Junior Bantamweight||115 pounds / 52.2 kg / 8 st 3 lb|
|Bantamweight||118 pounds / 53.5 kg / 8 st 6 lb|
|Super Bantamweight / Junior Featherweight||122 pounds / 55.3 kg / 8 st 10 lb|
|Featherweight||126 pounds / 61.2 kg / 9 st 0 lb|
|Super Featherweight / Junior Lightweight||130 pounds / 57.2 kg / 9 st 4 lb|
|Lightweight||135 pounds / 61.2 kg / 9 st 9 lb|
|Super lightweight / Junior Welterweight||140 pounds / 63.5 kg / 10 st 0 lb|
|Welterweight||147 pounds / 66.7 kg / 10 st 7 lb|
|Super Welterweight / Junior Middleweight||154 pounds / 69.9 kg / 11 st 0 lb|
|Middleweight||160 pounds / 72.6 kg / 11 st 6 lb|
|Super Middleweight||168 pounds / 76.2 kg / 12 st 0 lb|
|Light Heavyweight||175 pounds / 79.4 kg / 12 st 7 lb|
|Cruiserweight||200 pounds / 90.7 kg / 14 st 4 lb|
Why are there weight classes in boxing?
Weight classes exist in boxing to guarantee a fair fight by ensuring that both fighters are of comparable size. The reality of human biology is that in an unarmed fight, the bigger and stronger man often wins.
Martial skills can negate a lot of that advantage, and there are plenty of examples both in a boxing ring, in the MMA cage, and in the real world. But when both men have the skills, the bigger guy has the advantage in power, reach, and length.
Having no weight divisions is harmful to boxers, but is also bad for the spectators. People like to watch dramatic, unpredictable, and intense fights, and there is nothing dramatic about watching a 250-pound man trample a 110-pounder.
The number of weight classes has been steadily growing (to an unreasonable amount) over the years to provide more opportunities for competition for more boxers. Nevertheless, the main idea is to provide a safe and fair fighting field.
Weight classes were first introduced in the 19th century, and the glamour divisions (the traditional 8 classes which we will take a look at later) were all finalized in their current form in the first two decades of the 20th century.
Today, weight limits are universal amongst governing bodies. However, the names aren’t, so it’s common to come across different names for the same division in different organizations, but the glamour divisions are the same all across the board.
Back in the 19th and early 20th century boxers were generally much smaller and most of the divisions had lower weight limits (most heavyweights in the 19th century weighed around 170lbs.). As the weight of the fighters increased, the need for new divisions to cover the lower weights arose.
Except for heavyweight, where there is no upper weight limit, each weight class has a lower and upper limit. A boxer must weigh in inside this limit at a specific time before the fight.
This weighing-in has become an official part of boxing and is an event in itself in the professional ranks. It is an important ritual, and even heavyweights who don’t have an upper limit to match still do weigh-ins.
Professional boxing weigh-ins
Weigh-ins usually take place a day before the fight. All fighters step on the scale and must weigh inside the limit of the pre-agreed limit, which can be one of the established divisions or a catchweight (more on that shortly).
If a fighter fails, the fight may be canceled and he will lose his title if one is on the line. Oftentimes, boxers prefer to go on with the fight and keep the show rolling to the delight of fans, but the offenders usually lose some of their fight purses.
In order to have a weight advantage, most boxers go through a weight-cutting process in the final week before the fight. This process includes loading up with water in the first couple of days of fight week, which is then shed in excess through dehydration.
Once they are off the scale, a process of rehydration starts, and with more than 24 hours to go until the fight, boxers regain all of the lost weight. This means on fight night they weigh more than the limit. This is done, of course, to gain an advantage over the opponent, and you’d be surprised at the extreme cuts some fighters can pull off, losing and then regaining 10% or more of their body weight.
Such abuses are very detrimental to the long-term health of fighters and can negatively impact their fight performance. Some organizations like the IBF enforce rules under which boxers must weigh in again closer to the fight and cannot exceed a certain amount of weight. These are called rehydration clauses and can be agreed upon by the fighter’s teams even if the sanctioning body does not have them in place.
Amateur boxing weigh-ins
Amateur boxers also have to weigh in under a certain limit, but the whole procedure differs from that of the pros. Especially at lower levels of competition, weigh-ins are usually done just a couple of hours before the actual competition, so there is no time for water weight cutting. This means boxers must fight at their actual weight limit and still perform to their best ability.
Then high-level amateur boxing tournaments are a few days long and if one wins, he has to fight again in 1 or 2 days, which again changes the dynamic of making weight drastically. Amateur boxing weight classes also differ not only in names but in weight limits as well.
The system in use by International Boxing Association uses the metric system, so the professional weight classes are rounded to the nearest kilogram, making them slightly different.
What is catchweight?
Despite a large number of weight classes available, they do not always suffice. A catchweight is a pre-agreed weight at which the boxers fight which is different than the original weight class. This can happen for a few reasons. In the event of a failed weigh-in, the fighters can agree to go at a different weight and not cancel the fight.
More often than not, though, the catchweight is negotiated much earlier. When fighters from different weight classes want to fight, not always are they willing to go all the way to the other division. Especially in the heavier classes, where there are bigger gaps between them, going up means fighting a bigger man and giving him an advantage.
This could mean that a 160 lb middleweight and a 168 lb super middleweight may want to fight at 165 lbs weight in the middle between the two. These arrangements are usually made for non-title bouts, but when big-name boxers are involved, the sanctioning bodies are often happy to put a belt on the line despite the non-traditional weight.
The glamour divisions
When boxing quickly gained popularity in England and the USA in the 19th century, the weight discrepancies were becoming more dangerous for the smaller fighters and unsatisfying to spectators, so the first weight classes were implemented to separate the lighter fighters from the heavyweights.
By the turn of the century, there were eight formal weight divisions called the glamour divisions, also known as the traditional or classic. These are flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight.
Since then, 9 more (10 if you count the recently established but still not widely recognized bridgerweight by the WBC) have been added, but the original divisions are still considered much more prestigious and have produced the most legendary champions. The names and weight limits for the glamour divisions are uniform across all organizations.
Weight divisions breakdown
With all the information about weigh-ins and why there are weight classes in the first place, it’s time to tackle each weight class one by one and see some of the boxers that carved their legends in them.
Strawweight (105 pounds / 47.63 kg)
The minimum weight for a boxing contest is just 105 lbs. Also known as strawweight or mini flyweight, this division was officially recognized in 1987 but has been around long before that. With such a low weight limit, the strawweight class has been thoroughly dominated by fighters from Thailand, Japan, and Mexico.
The greatest fighter operating at the lowest weight class is Ricardo Lopez, who defended his WBC title 21 times, retired undefeated at 51-0-1, and scored an insane 38 knockouts at 105 lbs. The current consensus king of the mini flyweights is Thammanoon Niyomtrong, better known by his super cool ring name Knockout CP Freshmart.
Light flyweight (108lbs – 48.99 kg)
Another “pre-flyweight” division was established much later than the classic divisions. The light or junior flyweight class had been around since the early 20th century, but it was in 1975 when the WBC officially resurrected the division and the first proper world champion was crowned.
The most notable fighters fighting in this division are the hard-hitting South Korean Jung-Koo Chang, who ruled in the 1980s, while Michael Carbajal and Chiquita Gonzalez helped the rise in popularity of the division in the 1990s. The current best 108-pounders are Japanese standouts Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kenshiro Teraji.
Flyweight (112lbs – 50.8 kg)
We reach the full flyweight division, which is the smallest of the glamour divisions. When the division was first officially recognized in the early 1900s, the men were generally smaller, and the division produced many legendary champions. The first champion flyweight to be recognized both in the UK and the USA was Jimmy Wilde, who reigned between 1916 and 1923 with an insane 103-win streak. He is also considered one of the greatest pugilists of all time.
Other notable flyweights include Donnie Nietes, Roman Gonzalez, Nonito Donaire, and many others. In 2022, there are 4 different champions, one for each organization, with Junto Nakatani and Julio Cesar Martinez standing out.
Super flyweight (115lbs – 52.16 kg)
The super flyweight division is also known as a junior bantamweight, and the first title match was held in 1980 after many Asian and Latin American fighters fell between flyweight and bantamweight and pushed for the creation of a new weight class.
The Thais have been the best for the most part, with Khaosai Galaxy ruling the division from 1984 until 1991. The current great super flyweights are Roman Gonzalez, Juan Franciso Estrada, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
Bantamweight (118lbs – 53.52 kg)
The 118 lb. bantamweight division is one of the oldest established weight classes. When boxing was still fought under the London Prize fighting rules, the weight limit for bantamweights was lower at 105 lbs., and it was first increased to 116 lbs. and finally to the current 118 lbs. in 1910.
The Brazilian Eder Jofre is widely considered the best bantamweight of his era. George Dixon, Orlando Canizales, Ruben Olivares, and many others have made their name at bantamweight and the division has always had a surprising number of knockout artists despite the low weight. The current unified champion of the division, Naoya Inoue, who is also ranked in the top 5 on the P4P lists, will undoubtedly join the ranks of the greatest bantamweights.
Super Bantamweight (122lbs – 55.34 kg)
The super bantamweight division was established in 1920 and widely recognized in the late 1970s. It is also known as a junior featherweight. At the moment, the division is in a low period with no star names, with Guillermo Rigondeaux being the most recent prolific super-bantamweight fighter.
Before him, Mexican rivals Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales ushered in a golden age for the division in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Manny Pacquiao has also won gold at super bantamweight, but perhaps the greatest boxer at the weight was Puerto Rican knockout artist Wilfredo Rivera.
Featherweight (126lbs – 57.15 kg)
Another one of the original boxing divisions, featherweight has been around since the 1860s. The greatest defensive mastermind, Willie Pep, is without a doubt the best to ever do it at featherweight and the best defensive boxer of all divisions, according to most boxing pundits.
As we move up the weights, more and more legendary boxers come to mind, and here we can point to Henry Armstrong, Vincente Saldivar, Salvador Sanchez, and many others. In our own time, the best featherweights are Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russel Jr., and Emanuel Navarette.
Super Featherweight (130lbs – 58.97 kg)
Despite being a tweener division, super featherweight has seen some tremendous boxing champions after it was established in 1920, but its best eras are after 1970.
It’s hard to pinpoint a single best super featherweight, but Julio Cesar Chavez began his championship run at that weight, Alexis Arguello was a prominent super featherweight champion, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. was at his best at super featherweight. Vasily Lomachenko also had a brief but notable reign over the division before moving up to dominate the lightweight division.
Lightweight (135lbs – 61.23 kg)
Along with heavyweight and middleweight, lightweight is one of the first weight classes. It was first used in 1738 under Broughton’s Rules, albeit at a different weight limit. The current 135 lb. limit was set in 1909. There are too many greats at lightweight to name them all, but Roberto Duran and Pernell Whitaker are often chosen as the top duo.
The lightweight titles have been hotly contested in recent years by some of the best boxers of our time. Vasily Lomachenko was the king of the division, but now the crown belongs to Devin Haney with like of Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, and Shakur Stevenson waiting in wings. So we can say that we are in a very strong, if not a golden age for the lightweight class.
Light welterweight (140lbs – 63.5 kg)
Light-welterweight was originally founded in the 1920s but became more widely known in the 1950s.
When Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. went up in weight, he became a great light-welterweight, but the top honors of the division go to Aaron Pryor, who was unstoppable during his title reign from 1980 until 1985. Other legends include Antonio Cervantes, Niccolino Locche, and Kostya Tszyu, while Terence Crawford was the undisputed champion until 2017.
One of the few undisputed champions in boxing today still fights at light welterweight and his name is Josh Taylor.
Welterweight (147lbs – 66.68 kg)
Outside of heavyweight, welterweight is frequently regarded as the most prestigious division. The welterweight division has given us some of the best boxers of any weight, and a few of the great champions were considered the best of their time. In particular, Sugar Ray Robinson is often hailed as the best boxer ever. Other legendary welterweights are Sugar Ray Leonard, Henry Armstrong, Jose Napoles, and the two best boxers in the last 20 years, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
The current crop of welterweights still holds some of the best pugilists in any weight class, with Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. holding all the major titles.
Light middleweight (154lbs – 69.85 kg)
The 154 lb. division known as a light middleweight, super welterweight, and junior middleweight, was recognized in 1959. Thomas Hearns is the consensus number one in history, but his contemporary Mike McCallum is also in the running.
Others who’ve enjoyed success at light middleweight are Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto. In the last few years, the division has been ruled with an iron fist by the undisputed champion, Jermell Charlo.
Middleweight (160lbs – 72.57 kg)
The middleweight division is another of the oldest and most historically rich divisions in boxing and is one of the first implemented, dating back at least to 1840. Just like the other oldest division, middleweight has been the home of many of the greatest boxing legacies.
Sugar Ray Robinson climbed up and dominated the middleweight division after he conquered welterweight, but Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Carlos Monzon also had very successful title runs in the division.
The longest title reign belongs to Bernard Hopkins, who held the title for more than 10 years. Another great of the late 20th century, Roy Jones Jr, won his first title at middleweight, while in most recent history, Gennady Golovkin was the best for 8 long years when he defended it 22 times.
Super Middleweight (168lbs – 76.2 kg)
The super middleweight division is much newer than most other weight classes, but it’s been one of the most interesting in modern times. The current form of the division can be traced back to 1984, and all the major originations had world champions by 1988.
Many of the all-time greats of the recent past were super middleweight champions like Roy Jones Jr. and James Toney. Following them, Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward were also undefeated as super middleweight champions, and megastar Canelo Alvarez reigns as an undisputed champion today.
Light Heavyweight (175lbs – 79.38 kg)
Light heavyweight is a very old division, designed for those not big enough to challenge at heavyweight. But there are some prominent examples of men who captured the light heavyweight title before moving up and defeating the heavyweights. Ezzard Charles is the finest 175 lbr in history and is named the best light heavyweight of all time by the Ring magazine, despite not winning a title in the division. However, he climbed up and won and held the heavyweight title, a feat later repeated by Evander Holyfield.
Other big names fighting at light heavyweight include Archie Moore, Michael Moorer, Dariusz Michalczewski, and more recently, Sergey Kovalev. Right now, the division is again under Russian domination, with Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev holding all the titles.
Cruiserweight (200lbs – 90.72 kg)
Cruiserweight is the most recently established division, at least at its current limit, last altered to 200 lbs in 2003. Back in the late 1980s, before moving to heavyweight, the legendary Evander Holyfield unified all the major cruiserweight titles. It would take 20 more years before another fighter managed that feat, England’s David Haye.
All the titles were once again unified by Oleksandr Usyk after his win in the outstanding WBSS cruiserweight tournament in 2018.
Heavyweight (200lbs or more – 90.72 kg +)
The crown jewel of boxing is the heavyweight division. The most glamorous and prestigious one. The heavyweight champion in the past has often been called ‘The baddest man on the planet.‘ If there were no weight classes, there would be pretty much only heavyweights in boxing.
Many heavyweights have transcended the boxing ring into mainstream stardom, but none has made such a big impact as “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali. His company among the best heavyweights in history is not less impressive – Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Joe Frazier, Jack Johnson, Rocky Marciano, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, and many others were some of the best heavyweights of their own, and of all times.
The longest heavyweight title reign belongs to the recently retired Wladimir Klitschko. The division has seen its most competitive period in a very long time after that, with Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, Deontay Wilder, and Anthony Joshua vying for supremacy.
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