The fight game’s complex political landscape means even some fight fans struggle to name the current world heavyweight boxing champions.
Right now there are four accepted major governing bodies who each have a world champion – the World Boxing Council (WBC), the World Boxing Association (WBA), the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO).
Add to that the Ring magazine championship – awarded by publication which is widely perceived to be ‘the bible of boxing’ – and the beltless but still important ‘lineal’ championship, and it’s easy to see why people might become confused.
Currently all of the major titles reside in the UK and with speculation growing about a potential unification showdown between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, here is a rundown on the current situation as it stands:
The current heavyweight boxing world champions
WBC world heavyweight champion: Tyson Fury
The World Boxing Council was founded in 1963 and is based in Mexico. It is probably the most famous of all the governing bodies. It is now presided over by President Mauricio Sulaiman (son of former President Jose Sulaiman). Its hallowed green belt is something all top-level fighters want to hold at some stage in their career.
Tyson Fury (30-0-1) became the WBC world heavyweight champion in February 2020 when he crushed the previously unbeaten Deontay Wilder (now 42-1-1-) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Fury and Wilder had been contracted to meet for the WBC title again later this year – their third fight in total. However it appears the fight will not take place now. The challenge of a packed US TV schedule and COVID-19 meant time ran out.
Fury is now likely to meet another opponent at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Saturday December 5. The current favourites are Frenchman Carlos Takam (39-5-1) and German Agit Kabayel (20-0).
The mandatory contender for the WBC title right now is Russian Alexander Povetkin. He shattered the dreams of Dillian Whyte with a brutal fifth-round stoppage at Matchroom Fight Camp on August 22, 2020. Povetkin and Whyte will rematch on Saturday November 21, 2020 with mandatory status again on the line.
However the WBC has stated that Povetkin’s right to a title challenge does not kick in immediately. That allows Fury to instead pursue a unification match with Anthony Joshua.
WBA world heavyweight champion: Anthony Joshua
The World Boxing Association was founded back in 1921 and is based in Panama. It is the oldest of boxing’s major governing bodies and runs under the stewardship of President Gilberto Mendoza.
The current WBA world heavyweight champion is Anthony Joshua (23-1). He regained the title with a unanimous points victory over American Andy Ruiz Jr in their rematch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in December 2019. Joshua had earlier lost the belt to Ruiz, suffering his first professional career defeat in the process. That came at Madison Square Garden, New York in June 2019.
AJ had taken the WBA title for the first time with an epic victory over modern great Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in April 2017. Joshua was floored in Round 6 and looked booked for defeat before mounting a superb recovery to stop ‘Dr Steelhammer’ in Round 11.
IBF world heavyweight champion: Anthony Joshua
The International Boxing Federation was founded in 1983 and is based in New Jersey. It provided Anthony Joshua with his first world heavyweight title back in 2016. AJ stopped American Charles Martin inside two rounds at London’s O2 Arena. It was only his 16th professional fight.
Joshua lost the IBF belt in that stunning upset defeat to late stand-in opponent Andy Ruiz Jr in New York in June 2019. He then swiftly gained revenge by outpointing Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia in December 2019.
The IBF’s mandatory challenger for the world heavyweight title is 39-year-old Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev (28-1) and Joshua is due to face Pulev in his next fight. The bout had been due to take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20. It was postponed due to the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Joshua vs Pulev is now expected to take place at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday December 12, 2020. At this stage it is not known how many fans will be allowed to attend. Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has stated that the fight will take place even if it has to be behind closed doors.
WBO world heavyweight champion: Anthony Joshua
The World Boxing Organization was founded in 1988 and is based in Puerto Rico. It is the third of the world heavyweight titles held by Anthony Joshua.
AJ first won the WBO world heavyweight title with a unanimous decision against New Zealander Joseph Parker in Cardiff in March 2018. As with the IBF and WBA belts, Joshua then lost his WBO title in that stunner against Ruiz Jr in June 2019. He then won it back in their Saudi Arabia rematch in December 2019.
The mandatory contender for the WBO title is former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk (17-0). He faces Dereck Chisora on October 31. Assuming he is victorious there. the sanctioning body expects Usyk to get a title shot against the winner of Joshua vs Pulev. The Ukrainian has had just one fight so far since stepping up from 200lbs.
Lineal world heavyweight champion: Tyson Fury
Such is the political minefield caused by the various governing bodies and belts on offer, the title of lineal world heavyweight champion is in many ways the one most respected by hardcore fight fans.
The lineal world heavyweight champion in boxing is often explained as “the man who beat the man”. This avoids the confusion caused by fighters vacating some or all of their belts, or being stripped of them.
The current lineal world heavyweight champion is Tyson Fury. He took that moniker in November 2015 when he defeated previous champion Wladimir Klitschko on points in Dusseldorf. Fury has still to be defeated inside a ring. He confirmed his lineal status with that crushing defeat of Wilder in February 2020.
Ring magazine world heavyweight champion: Tyson Fury
The Ring magazine world heavyweight title is worthy of mention due to the standing the belt. It is a form of lineal title – and the publication itself is still revered in boxing circles.
The current title holder is Tyson Fury, who won the belt for a second time with that defeat of Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in February. He had previously won the title with the 2015 defeat of Wladimir Klitschko. He was stripped for inactivity in early 2018.