Boxing Sanctioning Bodies

BOXING SANCTIONING BODIES – A Brief Chronology and Rundown 1

 1814-Pugilistic Club

Founded in London by former champion “Gentleman” John Jackson and others, this first known boxing organization was responsible for drawing up the London Prize Ring Rules of 1838 (replacing Broughton’s Rules of 1743). The PC issued revised LPR Rules in 1853, but folded after Parliament passed a tough anti-prize fighting law in 1861.

1891-National Sporting Club

Built on the foundations of the tottering Pelican Club (est. 1887) by ex-boxer A.F. “Peggy” Bettinson and John Fleming at Covent Garden, London, England, the N.S.C. issued an expanded version of John Graham Chambers’ 1865 Queensberry Rules and set itself up as a combination venue, promoter, and pugilistic governing body. In February,1909, the N.S.C. standardized divisions and weight limits prior to sanctioning British title bouts in all classes and awarding Championship Challenge Belts donated by Lord Lonsdale.

1912-International Boxing Union

French boxing journalist Victor Breyer conceived the idea of a world governing body for boxing– especially-European boxing-in 1909. He met with officials of the National Sporting Club, but the N.S.C. was not anxious to become a member of any other body, and the idea lagged until March, 1912, when Breyer formed the IBU with boxing powers in France and Switzerland.

1915-American Boxing Association

America’s Progressive Age saw the first attempt to establish a U.S. professional boxing organization. The ABA, formed in Cleveland on August 22, 1915, was made up, not of commissions, but of promoters, managers, referees, and journalists. Well known Cleveland referee Matt Hinkel was elected president and Philadelphia’s Harry Edwards as v.p. and Omaha’s Gene Melady as secretary-treasurer. (None were salaried). The stated purpose of the organization was “to protect the public, the boxer, the manager, and the promoter.”

1921-National Boxing Association

William A. Gavin founded the NBA as a national body of American state commissions in January, 1921. Originally more comparable to the present American Association of Boxing Commissions than to its offspring and successor, the World Boxing Association, the NBA sanctioned title fights, published lists of outstanding challengers, withdrew titular recognition, but did not attempt to appoint its own title bout officials or otherwise impose its will on championship fights. It also did not conduct purse bids or collect “sanctioning fees.” The present National Boxing Association, has nothing to do with the old NBA.

1929-British Boxing Board of Control

Founded in 1918, the BBBC was completely re-established as a much more powerful body in 1929, with the fall from power of the National Sporting Club. Reorganized again-becoming sill more powerful-in 1936, the BBBC is an autonomous private body with no official connection to the British government.

1941-American Federation of Boxing

Organized in New York, it gained little recognition, but sanctioned a series of eight-rounders for the world junior featherweight title. Champions included Lou Barbetta, Davey Crawford, Aaron Seltzer, and Joey Iannotti. The ABF lasted less than a year.

1946-European Boxing Union

Founded out of the ashes of the International Boxing Union (which virtually ceased functioning with the Nazi invasion of Europe), the EBU has governed European championships since 1946. Unlike the IBU, the EBU has not concerned itself with world title bouts, the one exception coming in the bantamweight division after Jose Becerra announced his retirement in 1960, when the EBU crowned Alphonse Halimi, and then Johnny Caldwell, as successors. The EBU survived the one assault upon its authority-the so-called “EURO” titles-about ten (1988) years ago. It has governed European championships prudently, wisely, and authoritatively since its inception more than 50 years ago.

1954-Orient Boxing Federation

Formed in Tokyo by Japanese, Korean, and Filipino boxing commissioners. The OBF changed its name to the Orient & Pacific Boxing Federation when Australia joined in 1977.

1962-World Boxing Association

The National Boxing Association changed its name to the World Boxing Association at its annual convention in 1962. The reasons?  Increased membership of foreign bodies, the growing internationalization of the sport, and the fact that, with the growing popularity of professional basketball (thanks in no small part with network television), the NBA’s initials meant the National Basketball Association to most sports fans.

1963-World Boxing Council

The NBA’s change in name to the WBA did little to satisfy its growing non-U.S. membership. Fed up with the WBA’s voting rules, which gave one vote to a state like Vermont (which had little or no boxing) and one vote to an entire country like Mexico (which had fights by the thousands), the “foreign connection” bolted and formed its own group at the WBA’s 1962 convention. (The non-Americans would have to wait until the 1970s to gain control of the WBA.)

1969-North American Boxing Federation

The WBC, anxious to establish a permanent voting scheme, established “continental federations” where none had existed before, notably the Central America & Caribbean Boxing Federation and the NABF. The North American Boxing Federation’s first title bout pitted former world heavyweight champion Charles (Sonny) Liston against former amateur star Leotis Martin in a 12-rounder in Las Vegas in December. Martin, trailing on points, knocked out the awesome Liston in the ninth to take the title, but relinquished it a few months later due to a detached retina. The NABF has been part of boxing ever since.

1979-United States Boxing Association

The WBA established its own U.S. body with the United States Boxing Association in the wake of the disastrous “U.S. Championship Tournament.”.

1981-World Athletic Association

Pat O’Grady formed the group in Oklahoma after the WBA withdrew recognition as world lightweight champion from his son. The WAA sputtered out after Sean was knocked out by Andrew Ganigan on October 31 of that year. Another World Athletic Association (no connection to this one) was established in the 1990s.

1983-International Boxing Federation

When USBA president Robert W. Lee’s 1982 bid of the WBA presidency failed–the last serious attempt to bring control of the WBA back to the U.S – he and several American state commissioners formed the USBA International early in 1983. The name was changed to the International Boxing Federation in 1984; its by-laws state that the president must be an American. The IBF gained needed recognition when it listed deposed WBC title holder Larry Holmes as heavyweight champ and, in a somewhat similar situation, recognized ousted WBA junior welterweight champion Aaron Pryor.

1988-World Boxing Organization

This group, which rose to power in a few short years, came about when discontented Puerto Ricans broke away from the WBA. By 1988 its president Fernando Varcarcel had pushed the WBO into a position rivaling the three major world bodies (WBA, WBC and the IBF).

1990-Intercontinental Boxing Council

Formed by millionaire Marty Cohen when the WBA withdrew recognition as junior featherweight champion from Jesus Salud,  the IBC now calls itself the International Boxing Council. This is the first world sanctioning body not made up of actual commissions, paving the way for the IBO, WBF, et. al.

1992-International Boxing Organization

The establishment of the IBO marked the beginning of the present situation, in which there seem to be more sanctioning bodies than promoters.

1993-World Boxing Federation

Most of this body’s title bouts are held in Thailand.

1994-World Boxing Union

Founded and run by Britain’s dynamic Jon W. Robinson. Sprang into prominence in 1995 by recognizing George Foreman as heavyweight champion after the WBA, and then the IBF, had stripped him of their titles.

1996-International Boxing Association

Founded and run by former IBC vice president (and former major league pitching star) Dean Chance.

1997-World Boxing Commission

Surfaced for one contest and then disappeared.

We decided, for the time being, to stop at this juncture.

  1. Goldman, Herb. International Boxing Digest January 1998 pp 58-59