The Weight Divisions Explained
Known as the richest prize in sport the heavyweight division as we know it today has its roots in England, the history of modern pugilism taking us right back to the 1720s when James Figg, an expert with the sword and quarterstaff, opened his theatre on Oxford Road, London. Over the years Figg has become recognised as being the man who brought bare-fist fighting into the public domain. A little-known fact unearthed by Tony Gee in his excellent book, Up to Scratch, records that Figg had been a scholar of the noted Timothy Buck in Clare Market, London and had risen to the position of ‘Master of the Noble Science of Defence’ by 1714 under his tutor.
It is Jack Broughton, however, who is generally credited with bringing the sport into prominence, and as its true founder he was the man who should be seen retrospectively as being the first real champion of the bare-knuckle era prior to laying down the prize ring’s first set of rules in 1743. Some of the big names who followed him included Jack Slack, Tom Johnson, Ben Bryan (sometimes known as Brian, Brain or Bryant), Daniel Mendoza, Gentleman John Jackson, Jem Belcher, Hen Pearce, John Gully, Tom Cribb, Tom Spring, Jem Ward, James Deaf Burke, William Bendigo Thompson, Ben Caunt, William Perry, Tom Sayers and Jem Mace. Incidentally, it was only after Mace that I can find the term ‘heavy weight’ regularly in use, but by the 1870s it was prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic.
The first glove fight of 25 rounds or more took place at the Cambridge Hall, Newman Street, Westminster, London, England on 4 September 1877 between Jack Knifton and Tom Scrutton. Although The Sportsman and Sporting Life reported it to be for the English title it should not be seen as such, with Scrutton being an amateur and Knifton, a newcomer with just three three-round fights behind him. With both men totally out of condition it was a farce right from the beginning, the referee calling it off in semi-darkness during the ninth round and refusing to give a decision. Almost two months later, Tom Allen, who had been claiming the English title without donning the gloves, took on Tompkin Gilbert in a defence of his claim. A year earlier, in 1876, Allen had lost his bare-knuckle title in America to fellow-Englishman, Joe Goss, after being disqualified in the 21st round.
With bare knuckles becoming popularised in America by the mid-1800s and maintained mainly by British-born fighters, it was left to John L. Sullivan, ‘The Boston Strong Boy’ from America, to bring the curtain down on championships under London Prize Ring Rules when defeating Jake Kilrain in 75 rounds on 8 July 1889.
At the start of gloved boxing it was pretty much accepted in Britain that men under 158/160lbs were middleweights while those above were heavyweights. However, because there were many men who boxed in catchweight contests above that weight and who were too light for the heavyweight ranks prior to the light heavyweight division being introduced in 1899, I have set the heavyweight band at all weights above 166lbs.
Prior to Jess Willard beating Jack Johnson on 5 April 1915, I have listed all English, black and white title bouts regardless of the fact that there was a generally recognised line of succession following James J. Corbett's victory over Sullivan on 7 September 1892. This has been done in order to show a clear picture of how the weight class evolved at championship level.
166lbs + (1877 to 18 August 1899)
170lbs + (On 29 August 1899, Joe Choynski beat Australian Jim Ryan on points to win the inaugural light heavyweight title, thus setting up a weight class for men between 160 and 170lbs)
175lbs + (Although the light heavyweight division had not really taken off, on 22 April 1903 a contest between Jack Root and Charles Kid McCoy further established the weight class, with the limit rising to 175lbs. Following the National Sporting Club (NSC) formally introducing eight named weight divisions on 11 February 1909, with the light heavyweight division recognised in Britain for the first time, and shortly after in Europe, the minimum poundage became well and truly established)
190lbs + (On 8 December 1979, the new cruiserweight division got underway for men weighing between 175 and 190lbs, a contest between Marvin Camel and Mate Parlov deciding the championship. With heavyweights getting bigger all the time, this was implemented to allow the lighter men among the weight class more of a chance against men of similar weight)
195lbs + (At the end of their November Convention in 1981 the WBC increased the cruiserweight poundage to 195lbs)
190lbs + (In November 1988 the WBC dropped their cruiserweight limit from 195lbs to 190lbs, thus falling into line with the IBF and WBA)
200lbs + (Both the WBA and WBC increased the cruiserweight limit from 190lbs to 200lbs in early October 2003, followed by the WBO and IBF a short while later)
A name that was once used to describe light heavyweights, and emanating from the description of battleships of a lighter build rather than of maximum size, the cruiserweight class came into being in 1979 when the World Boxing Council (WBC) introduced it at 190lbs to give more opportunities to men too light to take on full-blown heavies. It is also known as the junior heavyweight division.
In order to find a champion the WBC set up eliminators involving Marvin Camel (who had recently won the vacant North American Boxing Federation (NABF) cruiserweight title when outpointing Bill Sharkey over 12 rounds at the Adams Fieldhouse, Missoula, Montana, USA on 5 June 1979) against David Cabrera, and Mate Parlov versus Tony Mundine. Having knocked Cabrera out in the third round at the Villa Real Convention Centre, McAllen, Texas, USA on 30 August 1979, Camel went on to fight Parlov, who had outscored Mundine over 12 rounds at the Sports Palace, Gorizia, Italy on 26 September 1979.
175lbs to 190lbs (8 December 1979 to 25th November 1981)
175lbs to 195lbs (At their end of November Convention in 1981 the WBC increased the poundage to 195lbs, while the WBA remained at 190lbs)
175lbs to 190lbs (In November 1988 the WBC dropped their weight-class limit from 195lbs to 190lbs, thus falling into line with the IBF and WBA)
175lbs to 200lbs (Both the WBA and WBC increased the weight limit from 190lbs in early October 2003 to allow small heavyweights an even chance when competing for a title, and were soon followed by the IBF and WBO)
Light Heavyweight Division
Originated in America following a series of articles written by Lou Houseman, a newspaperman based in Chicago who also managed a stable of fighters, the division was first ‘thought up’ in 1899. Although Houseman is mainly remembered for steering Jack Root to the ‘title’, he first promoted a fight in Dubuque in 1899 between Joe Choynski and Australian Jim Ryan as being for the vacant light heavyweight championship. According to the Dubuque Herald, Choynski was already claiming to be the champion. There were quite a few men who would have benefited from an interim weight class, but because the middleweight and heavyweight divisions were so prestigious it took many years before the light heavies were taken seriously.
160lbs to 170lbs (29 August 1899 to 22 April 1903)
160lbs to 175lbs (With the weights for the 22 April 1903 Jack Root v Charles Kid McCoy fight set at 175lbs, the weight class would be contested at varying poundage within those limits until standardised. That came about on 11 February 1909 when The National Sporting Club (NSC) formally introduced their eight named weight classes, with the middleweight limit staying at 160lbs and the new light heavyweight class set at 175lbs)
168lbs to 175lbs (On 28 March 1984, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) launched the super middleweight division for all men between 160 and 168lbs)
Super Middleweight Division
One of the most recent divisions, and also known as the junior light heavyweight class, it took a while in coming, probably due to the highly prestigious middleweight division being established over a long period. Introduced as we know it by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) in 1984 as a means of furthering fighters' opportunities, it was, in truth, sorely needed, with a 15lb weight differential holding many good men back.
Although the IBF are to be given credit for developing it to full international status, ‘world’ titles at 168lbs, even if little known, had been in existence previously in America. On 3 April 1967, at the Valley Music Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah, Don Fullmer won an advertised version of the 12 stone title, stopping Joe Hopkins in the sixth of a scheduled 12 rounds. There is no evidence that Fullmer ever saw his new title as more than a stepping-stone for a crack at the middleweight crown.
Five years later, Billy Douglas, the father of Buster, knocked out Danny Brewer in the second round of another advertised 12-stone title fight at the Ohio State Fairground, Columbus, Ohio on 25 November 1974, but had no interest in the artificial title whatsoever and moved on immediately.
Apart from the World Athletic Association, a minority group who named Jerry Halstead as champion in 1982, it was left to the recently formed IBF to announce Murray Sutherland and Ernie Singletary as the nominations for their first ever championship contest.
160lbs to 168lbs
The weight class can be traced back at least to 1853 when Leicestershire’s Nat Langham defeated the future heavyweight champion, Tom Sayers (his only loss), under London Prize Ring Rules, prior to successfully defending the bare-knuckle crown against George Gutteridge the following year. Langham, who weighed around 155lbs, popularised the middleweight division, which effectively came into being to fill the void between lightweights and the heaviest of men.
At the start of the 1870s sparring sessions with gloves were beginning to catch on, mainly in public houses, with Bat Mullins soon being recognised as a leading exponent. This quickly developed into competitive boxing under Marquess of Queensberry Rules (MoQ Rules), with Mullins winning an English middleweight championship competition over three rounds at 154lbs when outpointing Ted Whyman (at the Jolly Butchers Public House, Camden Town, London on 11 November 1871). Mullins then went on to beat Ben Bendoff (at the Camden Arms Public House, Leicester Square, London on 14 November 1871) and Plantagenet Green (at the same venue on 12 December 1871) in what were called catchweight competitions that were open to the world. This was followed by Charley Davis winning a 161lbs championship competition when outpointing Mullins over three rounds at the Victoria Tavern, Kilburn, London on 1 February 1872. Just a week later, at 160lbs, Davis lost to Jack Hicks (who outpointed him over three rounds at the Beavers Arms Public House, Bakers Row, Whitechapel, London on 8 February 1872). Another championship competition winner, this time at 154lbs, was Bill Brooks (who outpointed Jem Stewart over five rounds at the Prince of Wales Running Grounds, Bow, London on 16 April 1872). He was followed by Davis (who won a 144lbs competition when outpointing Denny Harrington over three rounds at Jemmy Shaw’s Brown Bear Public House, Soho, London on 13 May 1872).
Prior to the advent of the welterweight division in 1887, I have set the middleweight band at the start of the gloved era for those boxing between 140lbs and 166lbs. While there were many who saw men who weighed between 160 and 166lbs as heavyweights, in Britain fighters of those weights often boxed in what came to be known as 'catchweight' contests and competitions before the advent of the light-heavyweight class. These contests are included in this section.
140lbs to 166lbs (1873 – 1 June 1887)
146lbs to 166lbs (This came about with the advent of the welterweight division in America and John Reagan claiming the American title at 146lbs on 1 June 1887)
148lbs to 166lbs (146 to 148lbs was recognised as belonging to the welterweight division when Mysterious Billy Smith extended his claim on 24 January 1889)
148lbs to 160lbs (On 18 August 1899, Joe Choynski was matched against Australian Jim Ryan to decide the new light heavyweight title, covering men weighing between 160lbs and 170lbs)
150lbs to 160lbs (After Joe Walcott and Young Peter Jackson contested the welter title at 150lbs on 18 June 1903, the new British welterweight class also began operating up to that weight)
147lbs to 160lbs (On 11 February 1909, the NSC formally introduced their eight named weight classes, with the welterweight limit set at 147lbs and the middleweight class remaining at 160lbs)
154lbs to 160lbs (Reformed and renamed in August 1962, one of the first tasks of the WBA, formerly NBA, was to legislate for a junior middleweight class for fighters between 147 and 154lbs)
Junior Middleweight Division
Recognised by the amateurs since 1951 because the weight gap between welter and middle was too great, the 147 to 154lbs weight class was introduced to the pro ranks in 1962 thanks to the World Boxing Association (WBA). Men boxing in this division are also known as super welterweights or light middleweights.
However, before the WBA could get a vacant title contest between Denny Moyer and Joey Giambra underway the Austrian Boxing Commission supported a bout between America’s Ted Wright and Emile Griffith, the world welterweight champion who was having difficulty making 147lbs, as being for their version of the championship. Although the Austrians had hoped to get the support of the European Boxing Union (EBU) and the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), unable to do so they ultimately went it alone.
147lbs to 154lbs
Adapted from horse racing terminology, the ‘welter’ division first came into being in America in order to bridge the gap between light and middle. Thought to be fighting just above 140lbs, Paddy Duffy is generally recognised as the first bare-knuckle champion under London Prize Ring Rules after beating Bob Lyons by an 11th-round kayo in April 1884 (Boston, Massachusetts).
Having successfully defended the title against Bill Young, via a second-round kayo win in March 1886 (Baltimore, Maryland), he next claimed to be the division's first Marquess of Queensberry Rules (MoQ Rules) champion, but that claim was disputed by John Reagan, albeit at a heavier weight
140lbs to 146lbs (1887 to 14 April 1898)
140lbs to 148lbs (On 14 April 1898, Mysterious Billy Smith extended his welterweight claim to take in 148lbs)
140lbs to 150lbs (After Joe Walcott and Young Peter Jackson contested the welter title at 150lbs on 18 June 1903, the new British welterweight class also began operating up to that weight)
135lbs to 147lbs (On 11 February 1909, in London, the NSC formally stipulated that the lightweight class limit would be 135lbs and that the new welterweight division would be set at 147lbs)
140lbs to 147lbs (On 15 November 1922, the NBA launched the junior welterweight class for men between 135lbs and 140lbs)
Junior Welterweight Division
This division, contested by men at 135 to 140lbs who are sometimes called super lightweights or light welterweights, first came into prominence in 1922 when Pinky Mitchell was proclaimed world champion on 15 November after the result of a ‘poll’ taken by a weekly boxing magazine in Minneapolis called the Boxing Blade. There had been 20 names in the hat and 766,000 casting votes, many of them coming from outside America, but it was Mitchell who led the way with 100,800 to Harvey Thorpe’s 60,400.
Following that, on 16 November 1922 it was announced that the publisher would be awarding Mitchell a diamond-studded belt emblematic of the junior welterweight championship of the world that he would be asked to defend every six months against a selected opponent in the name of the National Boxing Association (NBA).
Unfortunately, the NBA - which had been formed on 10 January 1921 when Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Toronto came together as a group - failed to reach agreement among its membership at their convention in January 1923, as to whether they should even support a 140lbs weight class let alone recognise Mitchell as its champion. This decision left Wisconsin in the invidious position of operating the championship without the support of the NBA, and although threatening to withdraw from the Association it made no difference.
135lbs to 140lbs
The term ‘light weight’ became popularised in the early part of the 19th Century when it had become clear that some bare-knuckle fighters gave away too much weight. One of the earliest contemporary references that can be found relates to Jack Randall, the original ‘Nonpareil’, who weighed in the region of 147lbs. In the 1821 edition of Boxiana, Pierce Egan, in discussing the Randall v Ned Turner affair of 1818, writes: “To conquer Randall seemed the enviable object of all the ‘light weights’”.
In 1829, within the new series of Boxiana, Egan says: “Since the fighting period of the late Jack Randall no boxer of the ‘light weights’ has stood anything like so high on the Pugilistic Role of Fame as Dick Curtis”. There can be no doubt that Curtis, ‘The Pet of the Fancy’, was considered to be the lightweight champion in the 1820s and would be best remembered for his famous 50-minute win over Barney Aaron in 1827. He weighed around 130lbs and was followed in the 1830s by Owen Swift, who was yet another heroic figure around that weight.
From then on the lightweight class involved many memorable bare-knuckle contests, none more so than one on 6 October 1872 when two Englishmen fought for the American title under London Prize Ring Rules and a purse of $2,000, the champion, Arthur Chambers, beating his great rival, Billy Edwards, on a 35th-round disqualification at Squirrel Island, Canada.
At the beginning of gloved fighting under Marquess of Queensberry Rules (MoQ Rules), the lightweight band appears to have been all weights between 126lbs and 140lbs, and the latter poundage is what the English Amateur Boxing Association also decided on when their championships were eventually launched. Below are the individual weights contested within the lightweight band between November 1871 and August 1877 prior to the first major glove fight taking place in November 1877.
126 to 128lbs: This weight class first came to light when Bat Mullins outpointed Greenwich Jack Ward over five rounds at the Prince of Wales Running Grounds, Bow, London on 16 April 1872 in the final of the Bow Cup. It was later reported in Bells Life on 18 August 1877 that Mullins had retained the cup after being unable to find a proper opponent.
128 to 130lbs: On 27 January 1872, Bat Mullins challenged Ted Napper to no avail, followed by the latter challenging the world on 10 February. Further activity came on 4 January 1876 when Punch Dowsett outpointed Bill Green over four rounds at the Griffin Public House, Shoreditch, London to win a silver cup. A few days earlier the pair had been involved in a no contest after the judges had been unable to find a winner.
130 to 132lbs: Ted Napper challenged the world at all weights between 130lbs and 136lbs on 10 February 1872, prior to claiming the world title at 132lbs. Meanwhile, Bat Mullins continued with the knuckles before claiming the 132lbs world gloved title on 1 February 1873. The first test of endurance came on 27 April 1874 when Billy McLeod (131½) drew with Tom Scattergood (126½) over 33 rounds of a finish fight in Cloak Street, Hulme, Manchester. Refereed by the famous bare-knuckle fighter, Ned Donnelly, the fight was broken up by the police, who failed to prove that it was anything other than a sparring match.
132 to 134lbs: The earliest note of this weight class came on 6 November 1871 when Bat Mullins outpointed Ted Whyman over three rounds at the Jolly Butchers Public House, Camden Town, London. Just five days later, Mullins beat the same opponent at the same venue to win a 154lbs championship competition. Back at 134lbs, Mullins won yet another championship competition when outpointing Denny Harrington over three rounds at the Spencer Arms Public House, Soho, London on 6 February 1872. Despite being eliminated by Mullins in an earlier round on 16 January, Ted Napper challenged the world on 10 February 1872. Other competition winners included Young Bill Kennedy, who outpointed Young Donnelly over three rounds on 28 July 1874 and then Bob Purvey over the same distance on 8 September 1874, both contests taking place at the Hall of Science, St Luke’s, London. Next came Punch Dowsett, who outpointed Jem Laxton over three rounds at the same venue on 16 February 1875, and Laxton, who beat Punch Callow by a third-round disqualification at the Griffin Public House, Shoreditch, London on 11 January 1876.
134 to 136lbs: Ted Napper challenged the world at the weight on 10 February 1872 and repeated same on 11 December 1875 before announcing on 10 June 1876 that he had retired from boxing.
136 to 138lbs: Prior to 1877 there appears to have been no first-class activity in this weight class.
138 to 140lbs: English competition winners at 140lbs included Bat Mullins (who outpointed Jim Warden over three rounds at the Royal Victoria Palace Theatre, Southwark, London on 22 March 1872), Lumpy Hughes (who outpointed Tom Hooker over three rounds at the Hall of Science, St Luke’s, London on 12 January 1875), Young William Charlton (who walked over Hughes at the Running Grounds, Hackney Wick, London on 26 July 1875), Bob Habbijam (who outpointed Jem Laxton over three rounds at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, London on 18 March 1876), Laxton (who outpointed Bob’s brother, Punch Habbijam, over three rounds at the St Helena Gardens Concert Rooms, Rotherhithe, London on 27 March 1876), Bob Habbijam (who outpointed Laxton again over three rounds, this time at McDonald’s Music Hall, Hoxton, London on 12 March 1877) and Soldier Robinson (who outpointed Laxton over three rounds at Saddlers Wells Theatre, Clerkenwell, London on 30 March 1877).
126lbs to 140lbs (27 November 1877 to 27 August 1895)
128lbs to 140lbs (On 27 August 1895, George Dixon extended his featherweight claim when beating Johnny Griffin at 128lbs)
130lbs to 140lbs (At the end of 1902, Young Corbett, the recognised featherweight champion in America who was increasing in weight, decided to defend the world title at weights up to 130lbs, receiving fair support in doing so)
126lbs to 140lbs (Following Young Corbett’s defeat at the hands of Jimmy Britt on 25 March 1904, and with Britt remaining in the lightweight ranks, the featherweight limit reverted to 122lbs in America and 126lbs in Britain)
126lbs to 135lbs (On 11 February 1909, the National Sporting Club (NSC) formally introduced eight named weight divisions, the featherweight limit being set at 126lbs and the lightweight limit not to be above 135lbs)
130lbs to 135lbs (On 18 November 1921, the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) introduced the junior lightweight class set at 130lbs when Johnny Dundee beat George KO Chaney on this date to win the title)
Junior Lightweight Division
Also known as the super featherweight division the 130lbs weight class was the earliest of the ‘junior’ divisions to provide a champion, if you disregard the light heavyweights.
In The Ring magazine (June 1980, page 73) it was reported that Fritz Schmidt, followed by Battling Kid Nelson and Benny Kid Berger, all unknown fighters, had claimed to be champions at 130lbs in 1914. This cannot be verified and now appears to be fictional. It is almost certain that the fights attributed to them in England did not take place. The information had been supplied to the magazine by Joe Nudelman, who supposedly fought under the name of the former lightweight champion, Nelson.
Three years later, Artie O’Leary was said to have claimed the 130lbs title after outpointing Jimmy Kane over 15 rounds on 15 March 1917. According to the October 1951 edition of The Ring magazine the fight took place in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, but the papers in that region certainly did not cover it, the weight not even being recognised at championship level in America at the time. Years later, on 6 December 1970, in the New York Times, O’Leary was quoted as saying the fight took place at the old Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York, but that also defeated the researcher. According to BoxRec it would have been Kane’s first contest and O’Leary’s seventh. Although O’Leary did outpoint Kane over 15 rounds at the Pioneer Sporting Club, Manhattan on 11 December 1920, with both men being announced as weighing 133½lbs that would hardly qualify as a championship claim for the winner.
The first meaningful step towards an officially recognised 130lbs division came on 24 January 1920 when the New York-based International Sporting Club recommended that it should be one of 13 weight classes. And after Jimmy Walker’s boxing bill was passed on 24 May 1920 the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) took 130lbs on board as a championship weight on 1 September 1920. The weight class was then recognised by the newly formed National Boxing Association (NBA) on 11 January 1921. Even then there was no great rush to find a champion, and it was only when the promoter, Tex Rickard, put up a belt valued at $2,500 that things got moving
126lbs to 130lbs
The division started life in the early 1860s when the first man to claim the bare-knuckle championship appears to have been Dick Hollywood, although the initial sign of positive action came when England's George Seddons beat America’s Tommy Kelly for the title in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA on 7 October 1868. Shortly afterwards, Kelly laid claim to the title when Seddons found he could no longer make the weight, and by the late 1870s Long Tom Ryan also found some form of recognition as a bare-knuckle champion.
As gloved fighting under Marquess of Queensberry Rules (MoQ Rules) got underway in Britain during the early 1870s, mainly in the form of championship competitions and claims, it was not until March 1886 that there was a distance fight at the weight of any consequence. Listed below, is the activity at every two pounds between January 1872 and March 1886, taking in all weights between 116lbs and 126lbs which became recognised as belonging to the featherweight class in Britain.
116 to 118lbs: This weight class is first heard of in 1879 when Cocky Joyce challenged George Dove to decide the English title, and although they were booked to meet somewhere in London on 11 February 1880 there is nothing in print to say they did. Other men who claimed the English 118lbs title included Harry Solomon (who outpointed Charlie Cheese over three rounds at the St Andrew’s Hall, Westminster, London on 3 January 1885), Sam Blakelock (who walked over Harry Williams at the Bridge House Tavern, Islington, London on 19 January 1885), Dave Burke (who outpointed Owen Hannon over three rounds at the St Andrew’s Hall on 4 February 1885) and Fred Johnson (who outpointed Bill Baxter over three rounds at the St Andrew’s Hall on 20 January 1886).
118 to 120lbs: In the first ever glove fight at the weight, Young Hundreds outpointed Little Alec Lawson over three rounds (at the Spencer’s Arms Public House, Soho, London) on 23 January 1872. This was followed by Lawson (March 1872), Arthur Chambers (September 1872), George Cunningham (May 1875), Pat Perry (April 1876) and Punch Dowsett (March 1877) claiming to be the English champion at the weight. Then came Bill Hook and Fred Johnson who drew over four rounds at the Blue Anchor Public House, Shoreditch, London on 6 November 1884. Hook then outpointed Johnson over four rounds in another championship competition at the Post Office, Mile End, London on 16 December 1884 before gaining the three-round points decision over Owen Hannon at the St Andrew’s Hall, Westminster, London on 12 January 1885. On 29 September 1885, it was claimed that Tom Sterck was again challenging the world at 120lbs, having had no responses to two earlier challenges.
120 to 122lbs: Little Alec Lawson, who claimed to be the best in the world at 122lbs on 10 February 1872, was the first man associated with the weight class. He was followed by George Cunningham (who challenged the world on 16 March 1878), Jem Laxton (who outpointed Harry Solomon over three rounds at the Lillie Bridge Grounds, Chelsea, London on 30 July 1883) and Reuben Baxter (12 May 1884).
122 to 124lbs: The weight class had first come to notice when Pat Perry challenged the world on 15 August 1877, an action that was followed by Billy Hawkes (June 1979), Owen Hannon (December 1884) and Dave Burke (July 1885) doing likewise.
124 to 126lbs: The English 126lbs title was first claimed by Young Hundreds (who outpointed Jem Cody over five rounds at Professor Alf Austin’s Bloomfield Street Rooms, London Wall on 20 December 1872). He was followed by Punch Dowsett (who won championship competitions when outpointing Dave Cable over three rounds at the Running Grounds, Hackney Wick, London on 26 July 1875 and Bill Steadman over three rounds at the High Street Hall, Hoxton, London on 22 October 1877). Other men to win championship competitions included Jim Steadman (November 1877), Jem Laxton (January 1979) and Harry Mead (who outpointed Harry Solomon over three rounds at the Five Inkhorns Public House, Shoreditch, London on 30 March 1879). Laxton won another championship competition (outpointing Jim Steadman over three rounds at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, London on 15 April 1979) before challenging the world on 29 September. Additional men to challenge the world were Funny Cook (October 1879), Jem Carney (November 1879), Punch Callow (February 1880), Billy Hawkes (November 1880), Ted Jones (October 1881), Laxton (who again outpointed Jim Steadman over three rounds, this time at the Blue Anchor Public House, Shoreditch, London on 15 March 1882), Con Donovan (January 1883) and Bill Hook (who outpointed Bill Baxter over four rounds at the Blue Anchor Public House on 12 November 1883). When it was printed in the Sporting Life on 2 April 1884 that Hook was calling himself the 126lbs English champion an indignant Mead (having beaten Hook twice) also claimed the title, being followed by Denny Cronin and Jack Williams (September 1884).
116lbs to 126lbs (March 1886 to August 1888)
114lbs to 126lbs (With Cal McCarthy coming to the fore in America, by the end of August 1888 the 114/115lbs weight class was considered by many of those running boxing in America as belonging to the featherweights)
116lbs to 126lbs (By the end of 1891, 114/115lbs was once again seen as belonging to the bantamweight class by the majority of Americans)
116lbs to 128lbs (On 27 August 1895, George Dixon extended his featherweight claim to 128lbs)
116lbs to 130lbs (At the end of 1902, Young Corbett, the recognised featherweight champion in America who was increasing in weight, decided to defend the world title at weights up to 130lbs, receiving fair support in doing so)
118lbs to 130lbs (In 1903, on 5 October, the National Sporting Club (NSC) recognised a bout between Joe Bowker and Bill King as involving the English bantamweight championship at 118lbs)
118lbs to 126lbs (Following Young Corbett’s defeat at the hands of Jimmy Britt on 25 March 1904, 128 and 130lbs should not be seen as belonging to the featherweight class. On 11 February 1909, the NSC formally introduced the eight named weight classes, with the bantamweight class limit being 118lbs and the featherweight class limit set at 126lbs, thus ending English champions at every two pounds)
122lbs to 126lbs (The World Boxing Council introduced the 122lbs weight class on 3 April 1976)
Junior Featherweight Division
Also known as the super bantamweight division, it was first heard of on 24 January 1920 when the New York-based International Sporting Club recommended that 122lbs should be one of 13 weight classes operating in New York. But even though the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) took it on board come 1 September 1920 under Walker Law it was never implemented as a championship weight, probably because Johnny Kilbane was still claiming the 122lbs featherweight title at the time.
Despite that, first Charlie Beecher and then Jack Kid Wolfe claimed the unofficial 122lbs title in 1922.
Beecher, who outpointed England’s Johnny Brown over 12 rounds at the Pioneer SC, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 31 January 1922, in a match supposedly made at 122lbs, put his title claim up for grabs against Australia’s Tibby Watson Jnr (w pts 12 at Queensboro Stadium, Queens, NYC on 16 September 1922) and then Red Chapman (l pts 10 at the Mechanics Building, Boston, Massachusetts on 19 December 1922). The manager of Beecher was still billing him as the champion in the May 1923 edition of The Ring magazine immediately before he was forced to retire due to blindness in one eye.
Meanwhile, Wolfe (122) outpointed the world bantamweight champion, Joe Lynch (118), over 15 rounds at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC on 21 September 1922, having claimed that Beecher could not make the weight if he tried. Advertised by the promoter as being a contest for the vacant junior featherweight title it was not given any credence as such by the NYSAC, who stated that it was not recognised by them as a title bout. They went on to say that if the winner cared to put his name forward he would be first in the queue if and when they ever set up a championship bout. Not hanging around, the 122lbs Wolfe put his newly-won ‘title’ on the line in two 12-round no-decision contests - a press draw against Midget Smith, inside 122lbs, at the McKinney AC, Canton, Ohio on 6 October 1922, and a press win on points over the 121½lbs Mickey Dillon at the French Street Arena, Erie, Pennsylvania on 8 December 1922 - before being outpointed over ten rounds at the Coliseum, Toronto, Canada on 26 December 1922 by Canada’s Russian-born Benny Gould (121). Although the fight received title billing it is difficult to ascertain whether it had official support or not, but regardless of that Gould does not appear to fight at the weight again.
Carl Duane (123½), who outpointed Wolfe (122¾) over 12 rounds at the Queensboro Stadium on 29 August 1923, next claimed the unofficial title despite both men coming in above the weight class. It was said that both men had weighed inside 122lbs the previous day before the fight was postponed. Having held on to his claim against Frankie Jerome (120½) when drawing over 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 21 September 1923, Duane (122) signed up for a return at the same venue on 23 November 1923, such was the excitement created in what had been a terrific contest. Although Duane (127½) outpointed Jerome (119) over 15 rounds, after coming to the ring well over the required 122lbs he was suspended for two months by the NYSAC. Obviously a growing lad, Duane was fighting at higher weights from thereon in, while the unfortunate Jerome died after meeting Bud Taylor just two fights later.
No more is heard of the 122lbs title until a little-known body called the American Federation of Boxing (AFB) appointed Lou Barbetta as their 122lbs champion. However, after Barbetta was outpointed in an eight-rounder (at the Queensboro Stadium) by Davey Crawford on 22 July 1941, and the latter was beaten over the same distance by Aaron Seltzer (at the New York Coliseum) on 2 September 1941, that was the last heard of the AFB
With the 122lbs weight class flourishing in Japan since 1964, giving it world championship status was merely a natural progression when resurrected by the World Boxing Council (WBC) in 1976. Following that, the Japanese champion, Waruinge Nakayama, was nominated to meet Rigoberto Riasco, who had already failed in a featherweight title shot against Alexis Arguello the previous year and whose natural weight was 122lbs.
118lbs to 122lbs
Named after the bantam cock, a ferocious bird from the illegal sport of cock fighting, the weight class goes back to the days of fights governed by London Prize Ring Rules. However, the earliest recorded information uncovered is in 1856 when an American bare-fist fighter, Charley Lynch, weighing around 112lbs, arrived in England to fight Simon Finighty. After 95 rounds Finighty was declared the winner, but then lost the title following 43 rounds of a return engagement in November 1859. Next came three Britons - Billy Shaw (1860), George Holden (1861) and Peter Morris (1862). Eventually, after running out of opposition on this side of the Atlantic, Morris went to America but unable to raise a challenge there either he retired undefeated in 1870, being one of the few bare-knuckle fighters to do so.
In 1872, with glove fighting becoming popular in Britain under Marquess of Queensberry Rules (MoQ Rules), George Dove beat Jerry Hawkes on points over five rounds to win the Bow Cup at the Prince of Wales Running Grounds, Bow, London. The weight the men fought at was 116lbs. Having successfully defended the cup when knocking Hawkes out in the second round in August 1877, little more is heard of Dove apart from his death being reported in December 1895.
All weights up to 116lbs (December 1877 to August 1888)
All weights up to 114lbs (When Cal McCarthy came to the fore in America at the end of August 1888 the 114/115lbs weight class was generally recognised by those running boxing in America as belonging to the featherweights. However, 105lbs was still seen by many in the country as being the limit, which caused much confusion for several years when trying to match the best men on either side of the Atlantic)
All weights up to 116lbs (By the end of 1891 114/115lbs was once again seen as belonging to the bantamweight class by the majority of Americans)
All weights up to 118lbs (With Joe Bowker meeting Bill King for the English 118lbs title on 5 October 1903, the boxing establishment in Britain recognised 118lbs as belonging to the former’s bantam claim at that moment in time)
112lbs to 118lbs (At a meeting of the National Sporting Club (NSC) on 11 February 1909 it was formally decided to introduce a new weight division below the bantams and recommended that the 112lbs limit would be set aside for ‘flyweights’. It was also announced that the bantamweight limit would stand at 118lbs, despite the American bantam limit being generally seen as 116lbs at that time)
115lbs to 118lbs (On 2 February 1980, the WBC’s newly-formed 115lbs weight class gained its first champion in Rafael Orono)
Junior Bantamweight Division
Under pressure from their membership, especially in the Far East, to increase the prospects of the smaller men, the World Boxing Council (WBC) introduced the 115lbs weight class in December 1979. Following the announcement, Rafael Orono, the Venezuelan bantam champion, and Seung-Hoon Lee, the South Korean flyweight champion, were nominated to meet for the inaugural title. It is also known as the super flyweight division.
112lbs to 115lbs
Established by the highly influential National Sporting Club (NSC) in Britain, and formalised on 11 February 1909 as one of eight standard weight divisions, flyweight was a term that had not been previously used when referring to smaller men. In fact, all weights below 112lbs up to that time had belonged to the bantam class. While the NSC were busy trying to organise a title fight at the weight not everybody was happy with the new arrangement, especially those who felt strongly that proper provisions had not been made for even smaller men. Because there was a proliferation of those men around at the time it was argued on their behalf that there should be at least two paperweight classes below the new flyweight division. Unfortunately for them, their pleas fell on deaf ears. Regardless of those who felt they were being victimised, English-born fighters laying claim to the new 112lbs title included Jim Kenrick, Johnny Hughes, Sam Kellar, Albert Cocksedge and Harry McDermott.
At the Drill Hall, Birkenhead on 25 March 1909, Curley Osborne knocked out Joe Percival in the 15th of a 20-round contest. Although no weights or billing were given it was later stated that Osborne had not only held on to the 104lbs championship, but had successfully defended his claim to the British (formerly English) 106lbs title with this victory. Two other fights in Britain that took place at weights well below 112lbs saw Osborne and Percival draw over 20 rounds at the Scottish National AC, Glasgow at 104lbs on 11 May and Paddy Carroll outpoint Percival at 108lbs over 20 rounds at the Drill Hall, Birkenhead on 3 June. Although there was no billing as such, Carroll later claimed that he won the British 108lbs title in this one, and on 2 December he consolidated that when Sid Smith, whom he was meant to fight on that date, forfeited when failing to make the weight. However, with no more title bout action at 108lbs the weight class faded away until being revived in more modern times. Other contests in 1909 involving the British 104lbs title saw Osborne outscore James Easton over 15 rounds at the Theatre Royal, Belfast on 25 June, before being forced to retire by Carroll inside 13 rounds at the Drill Hall, Birkenhead on 15 July. Billed as a fight that involved a claim to the British 104lbs title, Osborne struggled to make the weight, and with Carroll also unable to get down to 104lbs again the weight class lapsed.
On the other Side of the Atlantic in 1909, Johnny Coulon was claiming to be the 110lbs champion of America, having beaten Kid Murphy (nd-w rtd 5 at the Whirlwind AC, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 11 February) in a ten-round no-decision contest. Coulon would go on to defend that claim against Johnny Daly (nd-w pts 10 at the Whirlwind AC on 18 February), Eddie Doyle (nd-w pts 10 at the Whirlwind AC on 4 March) and Jock Phenicie (nd-w pts 6 at the Mars Club, Johnstown, Pennsylvania on 20 May), before meeting Tibby Watson (nd-w co 10 at the Gymnastic Club, Dayton, Ohio on 28 May) in a 20-round affair. Promoters were still clamouring to match up Coulon with Monte Attell to decide the American 116/118lbs title, but at that stage of his career he was too small for the latter even though he was now claiming the 115lbs title after meeting Joe Coster (nd-drew 10 at the Bedford AC, Brooklyn, NYC, New York on 1 March) at that weight.
112lbs limit (11 February 1909 to 4 April 1975)
108lbs to 112lbs (On 4 April 1975 the 108lbs junior flyweight division was introduced)
Junior Flyweight Division
The 108lbs weight class was introduced in 1975 by the World Boxing Council (WBC), who finally recognised that some fighters, especially in the Far East and Mexico, were just too light to take on fully-fledged flyweights. Within a matter of months the World Boxing Association (WBA) also accepted the need for the weight class, thus following the WBC’s example in setting up championship fights at the weight. It is also known as the light flyweight division.
108lbs limit (4 April 1975 to 14 June 1987)
105lbs to 108lbs (On 14 June 1987, the mini flyweight division was first contested by men below 105lbs)
Mini Flyweight Division
Set at 105lbs and better known as the mini(mum) flyweight division, the weight class was instigated by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) in 1987 with a view to giving better opportunities to its members in the Far East. It is also known as the straw weight division. A popular weight in the early days of gloved fighting it soon caught on, and within six months the World Boxing Council (WBC), followed by the World Boxing Association (WBA), had also organised title fights.