Once upon a time, there were real world champions in boxing. Competing claims might emerge on occasion, but if they were legitimate, they were generally resolved in the ring in a prompt manner.
By and large, the world champion at each weight class was clearly established, and there was only one.
Then, in the 1960s, the WBA and WBC emerged with competing claims to legitimacy, and the two sanctioning bodies began to recognize competing champions.
Still, there were only two world champions, and unification bouts happened with regularity.
But in the 1980s and '90s, the picture began to get more complicated, with the formation of the IBF and then the WBO. Not only do all four promotional organizations recognize their own champions at each weight class, they also frequently muddy the waters by recognizing all kinds of different "interim" and "super" world champions.
In today's boxing world, not everybody holding an alphabet-soup title is even a legitimate top-10 fighter in his weight class. Even many die-hard fans barely pay attention to them.
Still, many of the recognized world champions are major stars. And there are a bunch of potential title-unification fights that would be blockbusters.
I doubt we'll ever see boxing get back to the point where there is only one world champion. But more unification bouts would still be a trend in the right direction.