The World Boxing Council (WBC) is one of four major organizations which sanction world championship boxing bouts, alongside the International Boxing Federation (IBF), World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO). Owing to the many historically high-profile bouts sanctioned by the organization, and legendary fighters who have been recognised as WBC World champions, the organization still remains one of the major four sanctioning bodies. All four organizations recognise the legitimacy of each other, and each have interwoven histories dating back several decades.
It was initially established by 11 countries: the United States, Puerto Rico, Argentina, United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Philippines, Panama, Chile, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil. Representatives met in Mexico City on 14 February 1963, upon invitation of Adolfo López Mateos, then President of Mexico, to form an international organization to unify all commissions of the world to control the expansion of boxing.
The groups that historically had recognized several boxers as champions included the New York State Athletic Commission, the National Boxing Association of the United States, the European Boxing Union and the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC); but for the most part, these groups lacked the all-encompassing 'international' status they claimed.
Today, it has 161 member countries. The current WBC president is Mauricio Sulaiman. Former presidents include Luis Spota and Ramon G. Velázquez of Mexico, Justiniano N. Montano, Jr. of the Philippines, and José Sulaimán of Mexico from 1975 until Sulaimán's death in 2014.
The WBC's green championship belt portrays the flags of all of the 161 member countries of the organization. All WBC world-title belts look identical regardless of weight class; however, there are minor variations on the design for secondary and regionally themed titles within the same weight class.
The WBC has nine regional governing bodies affiliated with it, such as the North American Boxing Federation (NABF), the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF), the European Boxing Union (EBU) and the African Boxing Council (ABC).
Although rivals, the WBC's relationship with other sanctioning bodies has improved over time and there have even been talks of unification with the WBA. Unification bouts between WBC and other organizations' champions are becoming more common in recent years. Throughout its history, the WBC has allowed some of its organization's champions to fight unification fights with champions of other organizations, although there were times it stepped in to prevent such fights. For many years, it also prevented its champions from holding the WBO belt. When a WBO-recognized champion wished to fight for a WBC championship, he had to abandon his WBO title first, without any special considerations. This, however, is no longer the case.
In 1983, following the death of Kim Duk-koo from injuries sustained in a 14-round fight against Ray Mancini, the WBC took the unprecedented step of reducing the distance of its world championship bouts, from 15 rounds to 12—a move other organizations soon followed (for boxers' safety).
Among those to have been recognized by the WBC as world champions were the undefeated and undisputed champion (46-0) Joe Calzaghe, Rocky Marciano (49-0), Floyd Mayweather Jr (50-0), Roy Jones, Jr., Wilfred Benítez, Wilfredo Gómez, Julio César Chávez, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Mike Tyson, Salvador Sánchez, Héctor Camacho, Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzón, Rodrigo Valdez, Roberto Durán, Juan Laporte, Félix Trinidad, Edwin Rosario, Bernard Hopkins, Alexis Argüello, Nigel Benn, Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko, Erik Morales, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Tony Bellew and Mairis Briedis.
In its discretion, the WBC may designate and recognize, upon a two-thirds majority vote of their Board of Governors, one or more emeritus world champions in each weight class. Such a recognition is for life and is only bestowed upon present or past WBC world champions. The following boxers have earned the Emeritus Championship appellation throughout their careers: Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko, Roy Jones Jr, Bernard Hopkins (Honorary Champion), Mikkel Kessler, Sergio Gabriel Martínez, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Kostya Tszyu, Manny Pacquiao, Danny García, Érik Morales, Toshiaki Nishioka, Vic Darchinyan, Édgar Sosa and Tony Bellew. During the WBC's 51st Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, Floyd Mayweather was named "Supreme Champion", a designation that nobody before him has ever achieved.
The WBC bolstered the legitimacy of women's boxing by recognizing fighters such as Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker as contenders for World Female titles in 16 weight divisions. The first WBC World Female Champion (on 30 May 2005) was the super-bantamweight Jackie Nava from Mexico. With her former-champion father at ringside, Laila Ali won the super-middleweight title on 11 June 2005.
The WBC has also created a "Silver" world title in 2010. Justin Savi was the first to win it on 16 April 2010, fighting against Cyril Thomas in France. The Silver title was created as a replacement to the interim title. But unlike its predecessor, a boxer holding the Silver title cannot inherit the full title vacated by the champion. The WBC continues to recognize Interim and Silver champions, as well as Interim Silver champions.
A year later, the WBC brought Silver belts to the International title ranks.
In September 2009, the WBC created its new "Diamond Championship" belt. This belt was created as an honorary championship exclusively to award the winner of a historic fight between two high-profile and elite boxers. The inaugural Diamond Belt was awarded on 14 November 2009 to Manny Pacquiao, who won his sixth world title (in 5 different divisions) via a 12th-round technical knockout (TKO) over Miguel Cotto at welterweight in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Other holders of this title have included Callum Smith (super middleweight), Bernard Hopkins (light heavyweight), Sergio Martínez and Saúl Álvarez (middleweight), Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (super welterweight), Nonito Donaire (super bantamweight), Léo Santa Cruz (featherweight), Jean Pascal, Sergey Kovalev (light heavyweight), Mikey Garcia (super lightweight) and Jorge Linares (lightweight). Although this title can be defended, it is not a mandatory requirement. The title can also be vacated in the case of a fighter's long-term absence or retirement from boxing.
WBC Eternal Championship is an honorary title awarded to dominant champions that have never lost a world title, and retired undefeated while having a solid number of successful title defenses. Jiselle Salandy was awarded the Eternal title as she defended the WBC female super welterweight title five times before her death on January 4, 2009. On December 12, 2016, Vitali Klitschko was recognized as "Eternal Champion", as he had ten successful WBC heavyweight title defenses during his career before his retirement in 2013 and has never been knocked down throughout his career.
In early 1998, Roy Jones, Jr. announced that he was relinquishing his WBC light heavyweight title. In response, the WBC ordered a bout between Graciano Rocchigiani from Germany and the former champion Michael Nunn to fill the vacancy, sanctioning it as a world championship match. On 21 March 1998, Rocchigiani won the fight and a WBC belt; in the subsequent WBC rankings, he was listed as "Light-Heavyweight World Champion".
Jones, however, had a change of heart and asked if the WBC would reinstate him as the champion. In a move that violated nearly a dozen of its own regulations, the WBC granted the reinstatement. Rocchigiani received a letter from the WBC advising that the publication of his name as champion was a typographical error, and he had never been the official title holder.
Rocchigiani immediately filed a lawsuit against the WBC in a U.S. federal court, claiming that the organization's actions were both contrary to their own rules, and injurious to his earning potential (due to diminished professional stature). On 7 May 2003, the judge ruled in Rocchigiani's favor, awarding him $30 million (U.S.) in damages and reinstating him as a former WBC champion (Rocchigiani had lost a bout since his WBC title match).
The following day, the WBC sought protection by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (i.e., corporate debt restructuring) in Puerto Rico. The organization spent the next 13 months trying to negotiate a six-figure settlement with Rocchigiani, but the fighter at first rejected the proposal.
On 11 June 2004, the WBC announced it would enter Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation (i.e., business closing and total asset sell-off) proceedings, effectively ending its existence. This action prompted some in the boxing community to plead with Rocchigiani to settle the dispute, which he did in mid-July 2004. The WBC continues.
Days before his fight with Saul Alvarez on 21 November 2015, the World Boxing Council asked their recognized world Middleweight champion, Miguel Cotto, to pay them $300,000 dollars in fees to sanction the bout. Cotto refused, and the WBC stripped him of the title, recognizing Gennady Golovkin as their interim champion instead. When Alvarez won the fight with Cotto, the WBC gave Alvarez partial recognition as their world Middleweight champion.
Many in the boxing community have accused the WBC of bending its rules to suit the powerful boxing promoter Don King. The journalist Jack Newfield wrote, "...[WBC President Jose Sulaiman] became more King's junior partner than his independent regulator". Another journalist, Peter Heller, echoes that comment: "Sulaiman...became little more than an errand boy for Don King". Heller quotes British promoter Mickey Duff as saying, "My complaint is that José Sulaimán is not happy his friend Don King is the biggest promoter in boxing. Sulaiman will only be happy when Don King is the only promoter in boxing."
Newfield and Heller take issue with the following actions of the WBC:
As of April 5, 2018.