Boxing has many belts in each weight division. The IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO world titles are considered the major belts and whoever holds them is seen as a world champion. However, you may see the deep green IBO belt pop up, sporting the words 'World Champion.' This always seems to get people talking as they debate whether the IBO world title is a major world title belt.
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The International Boxing Organisation (IBO) is an independent organisation, which was formed in 1988. However, it is not recognised by the governing bodies of what are considered the big four, the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO. The big four only recognise each other in their rankings and title unification rules. In contrast to this, the IBO is seen as a recognised world title by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), the European Boxing Union (EBU), BoxRec and BoxingScene. However, the IBO is not seen as a genuine world title by The Ring magazine.
The IBO received acclaim when they would implement a computerised system known as 'The Independent World Boxing Rankings' in the late 90s. This helped boxing evolve, as it would remove subjective elements from the ratings in an effort to strengthen the credibility of the sport. Well-known boxing website BoxRec would become an employee of the IBO in 2014, as the independent boxing records keeper and computerised rankings website would work together to produce the IBO rankings.
An issue that people have with the acclaimed big four governing bodies, is that they have too many versions of a world title. The WBA has both a 'Regular' world champion and a 'Super' world champion, the WBC has a world champion and a franchise champion and the WBO has a world champion and a global champion. The IBF is the only of the big four with one world champion, however, all of these bodies have 'Interim' champions too. However, the IBO has only ever permitted one world champion per weight division. The president of the IBO Ed Levine has gone on record to say: "We have never had more than one champion per weight division nor will we."
The IBO also recognises regional champions and uses an Inter-Continental title to recognise these. The Inter-Continental title is a valuable title to win, as the IBO implements a system where if you were to win an Inter-Continental title, and go on to defend it successfully three times, you are to receive a mandatory opportunity at the IBO world champion.
The IBO title has been held by some major names in boxings past. The heavyweight division has seen a star-studded cast hold the title since 1999. Lennox Lewis lost the belt to Hasim Rahman in a shock upset in South Africa in April 2001, before regaining it in the rematch in November of that year. Lewis would vacate the belt in 2004, before next seeing it being contested in a bout between Wladimir Klitschko and Chris Byrd in 2006. Klitschko would defeat Byrd and defend the belt a whopping 18 times over 9 and a half years, before being dethroned by Tyson Fury in 2015. The belt was declared vacant in 2016, and Klitschko was given the opportunity to regain his IBO belt when he faced Anthony Joshua at Wembley Stadium in 2017. Joshua would defeat Klitschko, before defending the belt three times, before being subject to a shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. Joshua would regain the belt in the rematch, but lost it in September 2021, when he was defeated by Oleksandr Usyk.
A time the credibility of the IBO world title was questioned in the UK was when Chris Eubank Jr. took on Renold Quinlan in London for the IBO super-middleweight title in 2017. Eubank Jr. had taken to social media to announce the fight and claimed he was going to become a world champion, however, many boxing fans disagreed that the IBO title was a legitimate world title, and his opponent was considered highly unknown, leading to people intensifying their belief that the IBO isn't a true world title. Eubank Jr. would defeat Quinlan and become the IBO champion.
Ricky Hatton won the IBO super-lightweight title back in 2007 when he defeated Juan Urango to pick up the vacant belt. In Hatton's second defence of the belt, he faced off with Juan Lazcano at his dream fight venue, The City of Manchester Stadium, now known as the Etihad Stadium. Hatton would defeat Lazcano by unanimous decision in front of a record-breaking 55,000 crowd. Hatton would however lose his IBO title in May 2009, when he was knocked out by the legendary Manny Pacquiao.
The featherweight division saw one of the most eccentric and exciting fighters to ever grace the boxing ring hold the IBO title, as Prince Naseem Hamed would win the IBO strap in his final fight before retirement. Hamed only had one defeat in his illustrious career, and that came at the hands of Marco Antonio Barrera in a bout that saw the vacant IBO title on the line.
Britain currently has five IBO world champions. The lightweight belt is held by Maxi Hughes, who produced a sensational performance to dethrone Jovanni Straffon as champion back in 2021. The super welterweight title is held by Sam Eggington, who won the title last Saturday with a bruising performance over Przemyslaw Zysk. Lerrone Richards holds the IBO super-middleweight title, as he dethroned Carlos Gongora with a composed performance in Manchester in December 2021. The IBO cruiserweight title is also in the UK, as Jack Massey knocked out Bilal Laggoune in three rounds back in November 2021 to win the vacant title. Hannah Rankin holds the female IBO super-middleweight title, as she defeated Maria Lindberg in November 2021 to pick up the vacant belt.
Notable names like Oleksandr Usyk and Gennady Golovkin hold the IBO titles in their weight divisions. Usyk's coming with his victory over Anthony Joshua in September 2021, and Golovkin's came in October 2019, when he picked up the vacant belt against Sergey Derevyanchenko.
One of the greatest female fighters to grace the ring Amanda Serrano currently holds the featherweight IBO world title. Undisputed world welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill also holds the IBO title alongside her four other world titles. Alycia Baumgardner holds the super featherweight IBO title, following her sensational knockout victory over Terri Harper back in November 2021.
To conclude, the IBO title may not be recognised by everyone as a legitimate world title. However, some of the biggest names in boxing have proudly worn the deep green belt, and it has been a part of some of the greatest nights in boxing history.