Boxers compete in weight classes to level the playing field between competitors. You just can’t have one guy outweigh another and call it a fair fight. Weight divisions were created so that only fighters of similar size and build would be able to compete with each other in the ring.
Generally, boxers are expected to compete in their own weight divisions for the majority of their careers. Some champions spend years defending their belts in a single weight class. There are those, however — special athletes with the physical ability to move up and down in weight — who are capable of competing in multiple divisions.
But it’s not for everyone. It takes a very special athlete to be able to cross divisions effectively. For one, a boxer must be able to effectively carry his power as he moves up in weight. At the same time, he also needs to be able to have ample punch resistance as opponents become naturally bigger.
Among the many key characteristics of a boxer’s ability to compete across multiple weight divisions, apart from being simply a rare physical specimen, is supreme skill. The more skill a boxer possesses, the more likely success can be found in different weight classes.
Throughout boxing’s rich history, there are a handful of great examples of special fighters who have been able to move up and down in weight. Today, Evolve Daily shares the five greatest boxing world champions who have won world titles across multiple weight divisions.
5) Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao
Record: 59-7-2 (38 KO’s)
Titles Held: Flyweight (1998), Super Bantamweight (2001), Featherweight (2003), Super Featherweight (2008), Lightweight (2008), Junior Welterweight (2009), Welterweight (2009), Light Middleweight (2010)
Legendary Filipino boxer Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is a rare breed of fighter. His ability to move up and down in weight is second to none in the sport. Beginning his championship run by winning his first world title as a flyweight, Pacquiao exhibited nearly two decades of excellence, winning a world title as high up as light middleweight — an impressive feat.
At just 5’5”, Pacquiao is a short fighter compared to his opponents, most of which were marginally larger than he was in size. Behind his unparalleled speed and vaunted left straight, however, Pacquiao blazed a trail of destruction, becoming the only boxer in history to win world titles in eight different divisions.
Some count only seven, but his victory over Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003 earned him The Ring Magazine lineal featherweight title, adding to his overall total. All in all, Pacquiao won 11 major world titles in his career and became the only boxer to win lineal championships in five different weight divisions.
4) Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr.
Record: 50-0 (27 KO’s)
Titles Held: Super Featherweight (1998), Lightweight (2002), Junior Welterweight (2005), Welterweight (2006), Junior Middleweight (2007)
Self-proclaimed TBE (The Best Ever), Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. is one of the most popular boxers in the history of the sport. There is not a soul that follows the sport of boxing who does not know of Mayweather and what he has accomplished in over two decades of excellence.
Mayweather began his fighting career with an Olympic bronze medal in 1996, two years later making his professional debut at super featherweight. Behind his vaunted defensive shell, pinpoint accurate combinations, and unparalleled ring intelligence, Mayweather became a multiple-division world champion.
In 2012, Mayweather defeated Miguel Cotto to win the WBA super welterweight title, in his fifth weight class. Yet Mayweather is more notable for being the richest fighter in history, amassing nearly a billion dollars over the course of his career. His 2015 showdown with the man next on this list earned him close to USD$300 million in a single evening.
3) “Sugar” Ray Leonard
Record: 36-3-1 (25 KO’s)
Titles Held: Welterweight (1979), Junior Middleweight (1981), Middleweight (1987), Super Middleweight (1988), Light Heavyweight (1988)
The great Sugar Ray Leonard won his first world title at the tender young age of 24 and is responsible for a slew of notable moments throughout boxing history.
He competed from 1977 to 1997, winning world championships in five divisions, including the lineal championship in three of those five divisions. At one point, he was the undisputed welterweight champion of the world. Leonard was considered part of the legendary “Fabulous Four” — a group which included other great names such as Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, and Marvin Hagler.
His most memorable battles came against Duran, twice, a classic showdown with Hearns at welterweight, and a shock victory over Hagler in 1987 wherein he came from a long hiatus to win a world title.
2) Roy Jones Jr.
Record: 66-9 (47 KO’s)
Titles Held: Middleweight (1993), Super Middleweight (1994), Cruiserweight (2017), Light Heavyweight (1997), Heavyweight (2003)
American boxing legend Roy Jones Jr. was the original pound-for-pound king of boxing. Before there was Floyd Mayweather Jr., Jones lit up the box office, dominating opponents with a unique flair and unrivaled showmanship. Though he is more known to the new generation as a declining fighter who fought way past his prime, the best of Roy Jones is still a beautiful memory in the history of boxing.
Jones’ one-sided destruction of great champions such as Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Mike McCallum and Virgil Hill will last forever, despite his rapid fall from grace in the latter stages of his career. Moreover, Jones’ ability to move up and down weight classes has seen him win titles in five divisions.
1) “Sugar” Ray Robinson
Record: 173-19-6 (109 KO’s)
Titles Held: Welterweight (1946), Middleweight (1951)
Sugar Ray Robinson is widely considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time. He competed between 1940 and 1965, moving between welterweight and middleweight, winning titles in both divisions. Robinson is well-known for combining pure boxing skill with scintillating one-punch knockout power.
Robinson first won his welterweight world title when he was just 25-years old, defeating Tommy Bell via unanimous decision. Years later, he won the world middleweight title, exhibiting the same fearsome knockout power as a lighter weight fighter. Robinson is the first boxer in history to win a divisional title five times and is also known for his 91-fight win streak between 1943 and 1951 — the third longest streak in boxing history.
Robinson is also credited with being the originator of the modern sports “entourage”, conducting himself flamboyantly outside of the ring. ESPN once called him the greatest fighter of all time in an article written in 2007.
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