Boxing weight classes are used to separate fighters into different divisions and help ensure fair fights are made between those of similar sizes.
In the early days of boxing history, it’s believed there were no standard divisions to distinguish competitors, meaning dangerous size mismatches were common in the sport and became unsatisfying spectacles for fans.
In the later gloved era, there were eight original boxing weight classes (flyweight to heavyweight), which are known as the ‘glamour’ or ‘traditional’ divisions. These are regarded as the most prominent and widely recognised, having produced the most legendary champions.
More were added over time and they have become known as ‘tweener’ divisions (those added in between the originals), with there now being a total of 18 boxing weight classes today.
BOXRAW break down each of the boxing weight classes in order and outline the most historic fighters to have competed in those divisions throughout history.
What are the weight classes in boxing?
|Minimumweight||105 lb||47.63 kg|
|Light-Flyweight||108 lb||48.99 kg|
|Flyweight||112 lb||50.8 kg|
|Super-Flyweight||115 lb||52.16 kg|
|Bantamweight||118 lb||53.52 kg|
|Super-Bantamweight||122 lb||55.34 kg|
|Featherweight||126 lb||57.15 kg|
|Super-Featherweight||130 lb||58.97 kg|
|Lightweight||135 lb||61.23 kg|
|Light-Welterweight||140 lb||63.5 kg|
|Welterweight||147 lb||66.68 kg|
|Light-Middleweight||154 lb||69.85 kg|
|Middleweight||160 lb||72.57 kg|
|Super-Middleweight||168 lb||76.2 kg|
|Light-Heavyweight||175 lb||79.38 kg|
|Cruiserweight||200 lb||90.72 kg|
|Bridgerweight||224 lb||101.61 kg|
|Heavyweight||200 lb+||90.72 kg+|
The lightest boxing weight class there is, with fighters competing at a limit of only 105 pounds. Minimumweight is also known among boxing fans as strawweight, while different world title organisations also vary the names. This division, like many of the newer ‘tweener’ weights, have been prominent for decades but their true legitimacy wasn’t sanctioned until much later when popularity grew.
The consensus best fighter of the smallest division is Mexican legend Ricardo Lopez, who reigned as champion at his weight for a decade and earned 22 world title defences before retiring undefeated at 50-0-1. Nicaraguan great Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez is another who achieved success at minimumweight before moving up divisions and slick Cuban Ivan Calderon too.
The light-flyweight division was first introduced to the boxing scene in the 1920s with some match-ups fought on a lesser scale. But the weight class became more widely recognised in 1975 with the emergence of more high profile names.
Jung-Koo Chang was a hard-hitting South Korean champion through the 1980s, while Michael Carbajal and Chiquita Gonzalez helped build light-flyweight into a more mainstream division with their incredible fights. Japan always boast top fighters within the smaller weights and Ken Shiro and Kosei Tanaka are others to follow that trend in more modern times.
The smallest of boxing’s original glamour divisions and one that has produced many legendary champions. Flyweight was initially established back in 1909 for the much lighter fighters of those times.
Jimmy Wilde is one of the greatest boxers in history after his incredible reign as flyweight champion throughout the early 1900s. The Welshman holds the longest unbeaten streak in the sport’s history at 103 fights and retired in 1923 as a true all-time great. Pancho Villa is another famous flyweight, a Mexican icon who sadly passed away at just 23 years but did enough in a three-year career to be remembered as a great fighter.
Super-flyweight has been around boxing from the beginning of the 20th century but became more widely accepted among bigger audiences in the 1980s.
Khaosai Galaxy is the super-flyweight division’s most dominant champion ever with his reign lasting 19 title defences. Gilberto Roman was another Mexican great who enjoyed huge success at 115 pounds, while the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada rallied to the top of the division in recent years too.
One of boxing’s oldest and most established weight classes, bantamweight has been the division which where many legendary fighters have reigned. It’s believed to have first circulated around 1860 with a lower weight limit during the London Prize Ring Rules of that era. The 118 pounds limit was brought into effect in 1909 as the popularity of the weight classes continued to grow.
Of all the legendary fighters to have competed at bantamweight, Brazilian Eder Jofre is known as the top champion in history. George Dixon, the first black world champion ever in boxing, is another all-time great of the weight.
Established in the 1920s and becoming more recognised in the 1970s, super-bantamweight has been host to many great champions and is also known as junior-featherweight in boxing circles.
Mexican warriors Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales fought during a golden era for the super-bantamweight division in the late 1990s and 2000s, with their thrilling trilogy captivating fans. But the greatest of all time at 122 pounds is still seen to be Wilfredo Gomez, a heavy-hitting Puerto Rican who reigned 20 years before those fellow greats.
Featherweight is another one of boxing’s original glamour divisions, first being introduced around the late 1800s and becoming even more popular over the decades.
As well as being seen as the greatest defensive boxer ever, Willie Pep is also regarded as the best featherweight in history. His bitter rival Sandy Saddler, who he fought on four occasions, also has a claim to that label though. Others include all-time great Henry Armstrong, Alexis Arguello and Salvador Sanchez.
Established around the 1920s originally and becoming more universally recognised in the 1950s, super-featherweight has held some illustrious names and champions.
Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Alexis Arguello are the most prominent historical legends at super-featherweight. In modern times, Floyd Mayweather Jr. enjoyed huge success as ‘Pretty Boy’ before moving up in weight, while Vasyl Lomachenko has already sealed his legacy as an all-time great too.
One of the longest-standing boxing weight classes in history is lightweight. With a different weight limit, it was initially brought about in 1738 by Broughton’s Rules and the current 135 pounds limit was made official later in 1909.
Several fighters have claims to be the greatest lightweight in boxing history but the front runners are Benny Leonard, Joe Gans, Ike Williams and Roberto Duran. Other legends include Tony Canzoneri, Pernell Whitaker and Lou Ambers, while the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis and George Kambosos Jr. have enjoyed success in recent times.
Light-welterweight was originally founded around the 1920s and later became more recognised in the 1950s.
As well as being successful at lower weights, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. was a great light-welterweight as well, but Aaron Pryor is seen as the top dog of the division throughout history. Other legends include Antonio Cervantes, Niccolino Locche and Kostya Tszyu, while Terence Crawford was undisputed champion in recent times.
Arguably boxing’s most prestigious division outside of heavyweight, welterweight has boasted an abundance of illustrious champions. First formed in 1889 at a limit of 145 pounds, welterweight was readjusted to the current 147 pounds in 1909.
Modern day legends Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao did a lot of their best career work at welterweight, while Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. have starred in recent times at 147 pounds. Throughout history, the division has been graced by all-time greats such as Ted Lewis, Jack Britton, Barney Ross, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Henry Armstrong and Thomas Hearns.
Not widely recognised until the 1960s, light-middleweight was first introduced on the professional boxing circuit around 1920.
Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns is remembered as the best the light-middleweight division has ever had to show, while Mike McCallum is another great at the weight. Ronaldo Wright and Terry were others who enjoyed success alongside Oscar De La Hoya and Nino Benvenuti.
Another one of the most historic boxing weight classes, middleweight dates back to the 1840s and has been home to some of the most prestigious names ever in the sport.
Sugar Ray Robinson moved up and dominated the middleweight division after conquering welterweight and secured his legacy as the greatest fighter in history. Alongside him as the best champions ever at 160 pounds are Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon and Harry Greb, while Gennadiy Golovkin and Bernard Hopkins are also in the mix.
The super-middleweight division has become one of the most prominent in modern day boxing but it only widely came to be recognised and properly established from the 1960s.
Many all-time greats have reigned at 168 pounds including the likes of Roy Jones Jr, James Toney, Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward. Meanwhile, Canelo Alvarez has become the undisputed ruler at super-middleweight at the peak of his powers as he leads boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings.
Light-heavyweight was first introduced around 1738 by Broughton’s Rules and the weight limit was later altered to its current 175 pounds in 1920 to reflect the times. Despite the division not being truly seen as one of the ‘glamour’ boxing weight classes of its time, it has produced many legendary fighters.
In the earlier days of the sport, light-heavyweight fighters were seen as those just not big enough to challenge at heavyweight but many became all-time greats nevertheless. Georges Carpentier, Tommy Loughran, Gene Tunney and Billy Conn are old-time legends, while Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore and Charles Burley were the best of a talent-laden era in the 1940s and early 1950s.
Cruiserweight is one of the more recently established boxing weight classes, having first come to friction in 1979. At first, the limit was set at 190 pounds before the 200 pounds rule was altered in 2003.
Before moving up to conquer the heavyweight division, Evander Holyfield enjoyed a historic reign at cruiserweight and is considered by many the greatest ever fighter at 200 pounds. The main rival to that distinction is Oleksandr Usyk, who rallied to a famous undisputed success before emulating Holyfield again by winning a heavyweight title too.
The legitimacy of bridgerweight as an official boxing weight class has been under the spotlight since its inception in 2020. Only one world governing body, the WBC, recognise the 200 to 224 pounds division as they formed it themselves. The division is named after Bridger Walker, a young boy who saved his sister from being attacked by a stray dog and sustained serious injuries as a result.
There have been no top names to compete for the WBC at bridgerweight so far but Oscar Rivas became the first world champion ever at the weight by beating Ryan Rozicki in 2021.
Boxing’s biggest and most prestigious weight division. The eyes of boxing fans are always on the heavyweights and some of the most iconic fights and fighters have come from the heaviest weight class. When the heavyweight division is in a strong position, then the sport of boxing as a whole is as well.
The most famous athlete in the history of sport shook up the heavyweight division during his historic career, with Muhammad Ali transcending the ring to become a cultural icon. He’s widely regarded as ‘The Greatest’ ever heavyweight champion, but other legends of the division include Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and Mike Tyson.
How Weigh-Ins Work
Ahead of every fight a boxer must officially weigh-in successfully at their division limit. The weigh-ins typically take place a day before the bout, in order for fighters to then rehydrate and refuel before eventually taking to the ring. Sometimes, on lower-level events, boxers may be required to weigh in on fight night, just hours before their actual ring walks.
Due to the potential advantage in size and stature over an opponent, boxers may try to lose as much weight as possible in the lead up to the official weigh-in then rehydrate back to their usual size. If a boxer misses weight, they may be given extra time to meet the limit for another attempt, but bouts are often cancelled if a fighter cannot make this properly in the end.
Catchweights and Rehydration Clauses
Catchweights allow for an agreement to be made between both boxers to fight at a non-official division limit. This can happen when one fighter is reluctant to move too low in weight to a certain division and another can’t get to a heavier weight, therefore meeting in the middle.
A catchweight then takes place as a compromise. Famous examples of catchweight fights include Amir Khan vs. Kell Brook, Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez and all three Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward meetings.
In other instances, there will be rehydration clauses added to certain fight contracts. This means that a fighter cannot gain more than the pre-agreed weight before the bout and after they have officially weighed in.
Rehydration clauses are sometimes added as a way of limiting the potential gulf in size between boxers after a weigh-in has taken place. Sometimes a fighter goes through an extreme weight cut to make the limit, then they can gain in excess of 10 pounds or more before fight night.
The contractual clause therefore stops any unfair disadvantage deemed from such a sizeable rehydration between weigh-in and fight night. Also, it's put in place to stop such extreme weight cuts, as dehydration can cause significant damage to boxers long term in their careers and short term for their upcoming fight.
Having to make weight for any division is made a lot easier when pushing the limits throughout training and the right gear helps the process, from Sauna Suits for cutting the extra pounds to the best professional equipment for ensured protection.
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