The World Boxing Organization (WBO) is a sanctioning organization which recognizes professional boxing world champions. It is recognized by the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) as one of the four major world championship groups, alongside the World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC), and International Boxing Federation (IBF). The WBO's headquarters are located in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The WBO started after a group of Puerto Rican and Dominican businessmen broke out of the WBA's 1988 annual convention in Isla Margarita, Venezuela over disputes regarding what rules should be applied.
The WBO's first president was Ramon Pina Acevedo of the Dominican Republic. Soon after its beginning, the WBO was staging world championship bouts around the globe. Its first championship fight was for its vacant super middleweight title, between Thomas Hearns and James Kinchen; Hearns won by decision. In order to gain respectability, the WBO next elected former world light heavyweight champion José Torres of Ponce, Puerto Rico, as its president. Torres left in 1996, giving way to Puerto Rican lawyer Francisco Valcarcel as president. Valcarcel has held that position since.
While the IBF had awarded recognition to Larry Holmes soon after its inception in 1983 (as they did with several established champions in the lower weight divisions), the WBO sanctioned a fight between two relatively unknown fighters, Francesco Damiani (winner of the super heavyweight silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics) and Johnny DuPlooy, to determine the inaugural holder of its own heavyweight title in 1989. All other sanctioning bodies of boxing recognized the then-undefeated Mike Tyson as the undisputed heavyweight champion. Damiani, meanwhile, went on to become the first WBO heavyweight champion. At heavyweight, especially in the United States, the organization initially struggled to gain credibility as a major sanctioning body, with WBO heavyweight champions Michael Moorer, Riddick Bowe, and Henry Akinwande relinquishing the title to pursue other options. Boxing publication The Ring also did not recognize the WBO, despite having recognized the IBF after its inception in 1983, five years prior to the WBO.
In the lighter weight divisions, however, long-reigning champions during the 1990s such as Chris Eubank, Dariusz Michalczewski, Johnny Tapia, and Naseem Hamed gave the WBO title increasingly more prestige. The WBO was also made popular by boxers such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar De La Hoya, Nigel Benn, Ronald "Winky" Wright, Joe Calzaghe, and Wladimir Klitschko, all of whom held its title.
In Europe, the WBO was more accepted during its early years than in the U.S., and WBO champions always fared well in unification bouts with WBA, WBC, and IBF champions. For example, WBO light heavyweight champion Michalczewski unified his title with the WBA and IBF titles by defeating Virgil Hill. WBO featherweight champion Naseem Hamed also defeated the reigning IBF, WBA, and WBC champions in the same weight class. By 2000, the WBA was giving the same recognition to WBO champions as it did to WBC and IBF champions.
In 2004 the WBC began naming WBO champions on its ranking listings. The IBF did not recognize the WBO in May 2006, but was doing so by February 2007. WBO regulations explicitly recognize the other three sanctioning bodies. For many years, as with the IBF, boxers based in Japan were not permitted to fight for WBO titles. In 2012, the Japan Boxing Commission (JBC) recognized the governing body. In August 2016, the WBO Asia Pacific Championship was recognized by the JBC and the Japan Professional Boxing Association (JPBA).
Since the early 2000s, the WBO has awarded the honorary title of "Super Champion" to certain boxers, in any given weight class, who fulfil a set of distinguished criteria. Boxers who have been named WBO Super Champion include: Joe Calzaghe, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Kelly Pavlik, Wladimir Klitschko, Juan Manuel Márquez, Juan Díaz, Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Jr., Fernando Montiel, Jorge Arce, Omar Narváez, Donnie Nietes, Iván Calderón, Marco Huck, and Sergey Kovalev.
This title is not an actual world championship in the same vein as the WBA's Super titles; it is more akin to a lifetime achievement award. A boxer awarded the status of WBO Super Champion cannot win the title from or lose it to another boxer; recognition as Super Champion can be maintained even if a boxer moves to another weight class.
On August 23, 1997, WBC minimumweight champion Ricardo López won the WBO minimumweight title by knocking out Puerto Rican fighter Alex Sánchez. After the bout, López told a Mexican newspaper that he wanted to give his newly won championship belt to his father, who is a boxing fan. WBO president Francisco Valcarcel said he viewed that comment as a public resignation and declared the title vacant without holding a hearing or notifying López. The WBO sanctioned a bout between Eric Jamili (10–5–1) and Mickey Cantwell (13–4–1) to fill the vacancy despite protests by López.
The WBO twice moved Darrin Morris up in its super-middleweight rankings in 2001, despite the fact that he was dead. In addition, Morris had only fought once in the three years before his death, beating a fighter with only 17 wins out of 81 fights. Morris was Number 7 at the time of his death and Number 5 when the WBO discovered the error. Valcarcel said, "We obviously missed the fact that Darrin was dead. It is regrettable." Valcarcel also stated that other boxing sanctioning organizations had made similar errors in the past by continuing to rank another boxer after he was dead. One week after British newspaper The Independent broke the story that one of the three men ranking the boxers, Gordon Volkman, still had not heard that Morris was dead.
The series finale of Japanese manga series Bleach revolves around the main cast gathering to watch a fight in which a character named Yasutora Sado is involved, having become a professional boxer ten years after the storyline and challenging for the WBO World Heavyweight Championship.
As of April 6, 2018.
The WBO, which was introduced in 1989, was not generally considered a legitimate heavyweight belt at the time. The organization's first heavyweight champion was Francesco Damiani whose short reign came during Mike Tyson's run as undisputed champion.
And the WBO belt has NEVER been carried into the ring by the true heavyweight champion of the world. The first WBO heavyweight beltholder was Francesco Damiani, who won the bauble by knocking out Johnny DuPlooy in 1989
For the purpose of unification of titles, the Champions of the World Boxing Association ('WBA') and the World Boxing Council ('WBC') may be designated as 'elite contenders' and may be permitted to fight for the unified title. Unification bouts with other organizations will be considered on a case to case basis.