Most current boxing fans are not old enough to remember it, though we have all heard about it from our fathers or grandfathers or old men at the bar. Once upon a time in boxing, there was only one world champion per division.
If a man was called a world champion, it meant he had proved himself against the best men his size in the world.
In the 1960s, the WBA and WBC begun to recognize competing claims. But unification bouts were still often easy to arrange. And even when they didn't happen, being a WBA or WBC champion was still a pretty big deal.
The IBF emerged in the 1980s and the WBO in the decade after that. For as long as many current fans can remember, four competing organizations have recognized their own world champions.
But it hasn't stopped with that. Not only do the different alphabet-soup agencies recognize conflicting champions, too often they recognize more than one.
The WBA is the worst offender here, in some cases recognizing three or four different "world champions."
It makes for an absurd situation, wherein some cases we now have "world champions" who have fought nobody of note and aren't even well-known outside of their own region, if at all.