Breaking Down Each Boxing Weight Class

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2017

Breaking Down Each Boxing Weight Class

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Boxing's 17 total weight classes span all the way from the diminutive 105-pound dynamos to the 200-, 300-pound heavyweight monsters. Designed to limit the number of mismatches between opponents of different sizes, over the years the number of weight classes has grown from the original eight divisions (flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, junior middleweight and heavyweight) to the 17 divisions used today.

    In theory, this creates a safer environment for competitive boxing matches and offers a chance for fighters who would otherwise be a tad too small or a tad too large for one of the original divisions to become champions.

    Here, Bleacher Report breaks down each weight class as it stands today, noting the historically great fighters who are lauded by historians as the division's best ever as well as the news-making fighters competing there today.

Strawweight (Minimum Weight)

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    Calderon was a crafty hitter with great ring awareness.
    Calderon was a crafty hitter with great ring awareness.RICARDO ARDUENGO/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 105 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Historians most often tab Mexico's Ricardo Lopez as the best minimum weight fighter of all time. His undefeated boxing career (51-0-1) included a decade-long run as champion with 22 title defenses against heavy opposition. Other important figures include Cuba's slick-moving Ivan Calderon and Thailand's Chana Porpaoin.

    Top Fighters Today: Converted muay thai boxer Knockout CP Freshmart is probably the best strawweight maurader on planet earth right now, and he's for sure the one with the coolest boxing nickname (his given name is Thammanoon Niyomtrong). Wanheng Menayothin and Byron Rojas are also top contenders in a division most popular outside the confines of the United States.

Junior Flyweight

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    Carbajal made the most of his big fight opportunities.
    Carbajal made the most of his big fight opportunities.Holly Stein/Getty Images

    Weight Limit: 108 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Jung-Koo Chang was a hard-hitting, South Korean dynamo who ruled the 1980s with an iron fist, while Michael Carbajal's superb technical skill and thunderous power punching against Chiquita Gonzalez in 1993 probably garnered the division newfound respect among mainstream boxing fans. Both are equally revered in boxing circles as all-time greats. 

    Top Fighters Today: Undefeated Japanese fighters Ken Shiro and Kosei Tanaka appear to be on the verge of making names for themselves in their homeland, while Mexico's Pedro Guevara remains a relevant alternative in a division most often associated with fighters from outside the United States. 

Flyweight

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    Nietes hopes to fill the vacated talent pool with the help of others.
    Nietes hopes to fill the vacated talent pool with the help of others.JAY DIRECTO/Getty Images

    Weight Limit: 112 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Great Britain's Jimmy Wilde is considered one of the best fighters in the history of boxing. He still holds boxing's longest win streak total at 103, and by the time he retired in 1923, he was one of boxing's most beloved pugilists. At stark contrast was Mexico's Pancho Villa, who died at the tender age of 23 but solidified himself as one of the most talented fighters ever in just a three-year professional career.

    Top Fighters Today: Today's flyweight division isn't what it was just a year or two ago, wth many of the top stars moving up in weight, but Japanese fighters Kazuto Ioka and Daigo Higa, alongside Filipino bottle rocket Donnie Nietes, still provide plenty of action-packed excitement for flyweight fans.

Junior Bantamweight

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    Galaxy was out of this world.
    Galaxy was out of this world.Stanley Ignacio/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 115 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: The 1980s were full of quality junior bantamweight bouts, and the cream of the crop was from Thailand. The heavily muscled Khaosai Galaxy defended his belt 19 times during that timeframe, and tough guy Gilberto Roman roved the division in a complementary manner to make the era one of the best in 115-pound history. 

    Top Fighters Today: Today's junior bantamweight field is just as impressive. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai supplanted longtime little fighter kingpin Roman Gonzalez as the division's best, with the rugged Juan Francisco Estrada and "Little Monster" Naoya Inoue rounding out a field of four fighters as good as any in the sport today.

Bantamweight

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    Warren was a U.S. Olympian three times.
    Warren was a U.S. Olympian three times.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 118 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Suffering only two losses in almost 80 fights, Brazilian bantamweight Eder Jofre usually tops historical lists at 118 pounds. His impressive power allowed him to amass 50 knockouts over the course of his career. Meanwhile, George Dixon, the first African-American man to hold a world title in the sport, was seen by his peers as the best fighter of the 19th century.

    Top Fighters Today: Rising stars Ryan Burnett and Luis Nery are attempting to carve out their share of the championship pie before the inevitable invasion of Rungvisai, Inoue and Estrada make their jobs more difficult than ever. Former titleholders Juan Carlos Payano and Rau'shee Warren still loom large as legitimate divisional threats, too.

Junior Featherweight (Super Bantamweight)

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    Morales and Barrera were proud champions who left everything they had in the ring.
    Morales and Barrera were proud champions who left everything they had in the ring.MARK J TERRILL/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 122 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: The late 1990s and early 2000s encompassed the division's golden era, with Mexican rivals Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales solidifying themselves as two of the all-time best competitors at 122. Still, the greatest junior featherweight ever was probably Wilfredo Gomez, a heavy-handed, ultra-competitive, classically skilled boxer who ruled the roost 20 years prior.

    Top Fighters Today: For the past few years, the junior featherweight division has been undefeated Cuban star Guillermo Rigondeaux, the lineal champion, and everybody else. The crafty southpaw is fast, powerful and superbly skilled, and his ability to handily defeat whatever competition is handed to him has kept other name fighters from attempting to usurp his authority. Jessie Magdaleno and Rey Vargas are comparatively new names that might be able to stem the tide soon.

Featherweight

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    The rubber match between Santa Cruz and Frampton is pivotal at featherweight.
    The rubber match between Santa Cruz and Frampton is pivotal at featherweight.John Locher/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 126 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Willie Pep is generally considered the best featherweight ever as well as the greatest defensive boxer of all time. His fancy footwork and unbelievable dodging skills made him a nightmare for offensive-minded opponents, even against historically great war machines like Sandy Saddler, who Pep defeated in 1949 when Pep was clearly past his prime.

    Top Fighters Today: Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton, who have split against each other in a two-fight series, lead a stacked featherweight scene full of ferocious characters. The otherworldly fast Gary Russell Jr., who is an impressive physical specimen, and the well-traveled Abner Mares help give this division a plethora of interesting stylistic matchups for fans to enjoy over the next few years. 

Junior Lightweight (Super Featherweight)

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    Retired Mayweather was probably at his best at junior lightweight.
    Retired Mayweather was probably at his best at junior lightweight.Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 130 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: The most recent historically great junior lightweight was Floyd Mayweather Jr. He was most aggressive at 130 pounds, where his natural athletic skill against similar-sized opponents was just too much to handle. But with fellow greats Alexis Arguello, Julio Cesar Chavez and Flash Elorde being so exceptional at what they did, it's hard to pinpoint any one fighter being particularly better than another.

    Top Fighters Today: Titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko is considered by most experts to be pound-for-pound elite. The perfectly balanced southpaw technician blends precise timing with expert footwork to overwhelm most everyone he has fought to date. But older stalwart Orlando Salido, a ferocious combination puncher, still looms large as a threat to Lomachenko by virtue of his decision win over Loma in 2014.

Lightweight

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    Duran's nickname was "Hands of Stone."
    Duran's nickname was "Hands of Stone."Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 135 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: There's been no better lightweight than Panama's Roberto Duran. He was the perfect blend of ferocity and skill, and was virtually unbeatable at 135 pounds. Other historically terrific lightweights include master class boxer Benny Leonard and pioneering technical savant Joe Gans.

    Top Fighters Today: After a brief pause due to promotional conflicts, Mikey Garcia has reaffirmed his hold on the lightweight mantle through a continued display of precise technical mastery and artful footwork. Meanwhile, the athletically gifted Jorge Linares is riding a tidal wave of resurged excellence to lay his claim to being one of the best lightweights in the world today.

Junior Welterweight (Super Lightweight)

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    Crawford looks unstoppable at 140 pounds.
    Crawford looks unstoppable at 140 pounds.Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 140 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Aaron Pyror was a fearsome boxer-puncher who ran roughshod of junior welterweight competition in the early 1980s. He was so gifted and feared he failed to secure bouts against other similar weight greats of that timeframe like Sugar Ray Leonard. Meanwhile, Julio Cesar Chavez, also listed among the greatest junior lightweights, was just as formidable as a junior welterweight.

    Top Fighters Today: Lineal champion Terence Crawford is the perfect fighting machine. He can fight equally dangerous from both the orthodox and southpaw stance, and he has a penchant for delivering concussive results. Other top junior welterweights include Mikey Garcia and Sergey Lipinets. 

Welterweight

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    Mayweather-Pacquiao settled the score for a generation but not for all generations.
    Mayweather-Pacquiao settled the score for a generation but not for all generations.John Locher/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 147 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: While recent history has given us the impressive likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the most historically great welterweights include names like Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong and Sugar Ray Leonard. Robinson, in particular, is often hailed as the best fighter in any weight class ever. He was fast, strong and could knock his opponents out with either hand. 

    Top Fighters Today: The two best welterweights in the world today are Errol Spence and Keith Thurman. Spence is a hard-charging body puncher with excellent reflexes and a mean streak. Thurman is a boxer-puncher with tremendous knockout power in his right hand and gliding footwork. Other top welterweights include Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and an aging Manny Pacquiao.

Junior Middleweight (Super Welterweight or Light Middleweight)

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    Charlo's newfound firepower is exquisite.
    Charlo's newfound firepower is exquisite.Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 154 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Contemporaries who never faced each other to settle the score, both Thomas Hearns and Mike McCallum are candidates for the title of best junior middleweight ever. Hearns' stay at the weight was brief but spectacular. His boxing skill and punching power at the weight alone made him almost impossible to defeat. McCallum was atypical in a special way: He was all around excellent at just about every facet of the sport.

    Top Fighters Today: Southpaw Cuban Erislandy Lara has long been considered the best of the bunch, but former stablemate Jermell Charlo's recent power surge has many fight fans wondering if Charlo has surpassed Lara as the division's toughest out. Meanwhile, Jarrett Hurd is absurdly large for the division and has chopped down his opponents as if they were trees. Hurd, of course, is the axe.

Middleweight

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    Hagler is one of the most decorated middleweights ever.
    Hagler is one of the most decorated middleweights ever.Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 160 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Both Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler enjoyed terrific title reigns as middleweight champions, but this historically deep weight class also includes the likes of an older but still fantastic Sugar Ray Robinson as well as a young and ethereally exceptional Roy Jones Jr. Add to the mix the mechanical precision and long title reign of Bernard Hopkins, and you have one of the better bunches of divisional talent in history. 

    Top Fighters Today: Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin battled to a draw in September, leaving many people still wondering who the best middleweight in the world is today. At the same time, both Billy Joe Saunders and Daniel Jacobs are fighting at their peaks. The middleweight division is locked and loaded for the foreseeable future, and either of those four could be the man to come out on top. 

Super Middleweight

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    Ward was unparalleled at 168.
    Ward was unparalleled at 168.RICH SCHULTZ/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 168 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: Recent history has provided the two best examples of super middleweight excellence. Both Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward retired undefeated and on top of the sport. Calzaghe was a fast-handed, stinging puncher who boxed with a unique rhythm and cadence. Ward was a pristine example of pure fundamental boxing. His form was as perfect as any fighter ever, and he had deceptive power in both hands.

    Top Fighters Today: Undefeated Mexican Gilberto Ramirez is a whirlwind of activity. He, alongside James DeGale, George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr. should make for entertaining, high-class boxing exhibitions for the next few years. Ramirez tends to bring the most offense to the table, while the other three fighters are better at picking their spots. 

Light Heavyweight

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    Kovalev is a knockout artist.
    Kovalev is a knockout artist.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 175 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Ezzard Charles fought a who's who of stalwart competition at 175 pounds to stake his claim as the best of a generation. And what a generation it was. Charles' competition included Archie Moore, Charles Burley and Joey Maxim. Meanwhile, 1980s great Michael Spinks proved the best of a tough bunch, too, and eventually went on to become the first light heavyweight to capture the heavyweight crown in 1985.

    Top Fighters Today: Lethal punching southpaw Adonis Stevenson has long been the lineal champion at 175 pounds, but his choice of long layoffs and lame-duck opposition is off-putting. Sergey Kovalev, a mean and crafty power puncher, is the real fan favorite. He punches with serious intent and knows how to run his opponents into hard hands. Moreover, fast-rising star Artur Beterbiev and Dimitri Bivol should make 175 more intriguing than ever.

Cruiserweight

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    Haye is one of the best cruiserweight in the division's history.
    Haye is one of the best cruiserweight in the division's history.JON SUPER/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: 200 pounds

    Top Historical Fighters: One of boxing's lesser known facts to a mainstream sports audience is that Evander Holyfield, in addition to being one of the better heavyweights of all time, is by and large considered the best cruiserweight ever. During the 1980s, Holyfield dominated and unified the division in a way that had never been done before. In fact, only David Haye, another excellent cruiserweight in the 2000s, was able to win all the major title belts in the division to match Holyfield's feat.

    Top Fighters Today: The cruiserweight division often provides exciting matches, but the bouts are hard to find on TV for American fans, as it has become a particularly overseas affair. Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk and Russian Murat Gassiev appear to be the best cruiserweights today, with veterans Denis Lebedev and Krzysztof Glowacki rounding out as top contenders.

Heavyweight

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    Ali's resume at heavyweight is hard to beat.
    Ali's resume at heavyweight is hard to beat.jt/Associated Press

    Weight Limit: Unlimited

    Top Historical Fighters: The two greatest heavyweights of all time are Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. Louis still holds the record for successful title defenses (25) and is considered by many to be the best offensive fighter ever. Meanwhile, Ali's fast hands and excellent reflexes garnered him the heavyweight crown three times during perhaps the division's most excellent time period. Other historically great heavyweights include the first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson; Jack Dempsey, a fighter who rivaled baseball's Babe Ruth in popularity in the early 20th century; and Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire (and remain retired) undefeated.

    Top Fighters Today: Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are considered the two best heavyweights in the world today. Each laying claim to a portion of the heavyweight championship, Joshua is a big, strong and fundamentally solid heavyweight who compares nicely to former all-time great Lennox Lewis. Wilder, on the other hand, is an athletic freak with absurd striking power in both hands. Cuba's Luis Ortiz and New Zealand's Joseph Parker are also hot commodities in an increasingly interesting division, and former lineal champion Tyson Fury remains on the comeback trail, too.