While boxing is a hugely popular sport around the world. It is often hard to quantify where exactly the sport is most popular and which are the top boxing countries in the world?
The top 10 countries in boxing according to current and former champions of note. Range from Thailand, Germany, Ireland to Ukraine, Japan, Philippines, Cuba, Great Britain, Mexico and the United States of America.
The sport of boxing is one of the very oldest in the entire world. With documented events of pugilists performing in their version of the then sport dating back a far as 3,000 BC in ancient Sumerian. Boxing is truly one of the original combat sports.
Today boxing is widely practised around the world and has gone on to give us some of the greatest athletes and personalities the world has ever known. But at the very same time, boxing is a very dangerous sport and has one of the highest instances of deaths out of all combat sports we see today.
But that does not stop our fascination as fans and most certainly does not stop boxers wanting to compete in the sport. In a struggle almost as old as human civilisation itself. Boxing continues to bring intrigue as we seek to find out who exactly is the very best boxer on the planet.
The comprehensive list of the 10 best countries in the world for boxing. Gives you a thorough insight into some of the history of the nation. As well as information on their champions both past and present.
While Germany is not the first country to spring to mind when we think of the best boxers in the world. The country has produced quite a few elite-level fighters who have gone on to prove themselves on the world stage.
Germany has a strong boxing tradition and as a result, many fighters choose to fight their entire career within its borders. One famous example of this would be heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko who while not German by birth, fought many of his bouts in his adopted home country. With many saying this did not help in his lack of appeal to boxing fans outside of Germany.
German Boxing Champions
- Max Schmeling the NBA and world lineal heavyweight champion.
- Felix Sturm who was the WBA Super World Middle and World Middle and IBF World Middleweight Title.
- Sven Ottke who held both the IBF and WBA super-middleweight world titles.
- Arthur Abraham may be originally from Armenia, but he has adopted Germany as his home country winning IBF World Middle Title and WBA Inter-Continental Middleweight champion.
The country of Ireland has a long history of boxing which dates back many hundreds of years. Outside of the professional sport, Ireland is synonymous with the bare-knuckle boxing which is very much a part of the Nations indigenous gipsy community.
And from that traveller community have been birthed many National and Olympic champions, who made the crossover from the streets to the boxing ring.
The fighting Irish built their name on the world stage in the early years of the Irish migration to the United States of America. Where their tough no-nonsense approach to life translated well into the boxing ring.
Irish Boxing Champions
Several of the first gloved world boxing champions were of Irish stock. And the Irish would continue their impressive run in the sport producing multiple world champions across several weight divisions.
- James L Sullivan who heald the world lineal heavyweight title
- James J Corbett who also won the lineal world heavyweight crown.
- As well as one of the widely recognised as a pound for pound great “Nonpareil” Jack Dempsey who held the world lineal middleweight title.
- WBO Middleweight and Super Middleweight champion Steve Collins.
- The Clones Cyclone Barry McGuigan who very much brought together a divided country, being born in the Republic but fighting for the British titles in boxing. Winning the WBA World Featherweight Championship in the process.
- Wayne McCullough who held the WBC super-bantamweight and bantamweight world championships. WBO featherweight and lineal featherweight titles.
In bygone years Ukraine is not one of those countries that would have jumped out as a great boxing nation. All of that changed when two brothers grabbed the faltering world heavyweight divisions by the neck and forced them to hand over many of their belts.
The arrival of the Klitschko brothers signalled a seed change in a heavyweight boxing world that has been all but dominated by US and UK based champions for decades. Soon after the brothers stamped their names on the sport, a whole slew of talent from the region arrived soon after. Signalling the beginning of the new Eastern European phase of world domination in boxing.
Ukraine Boxing Champions
Today the country has an extremely active boxing scene with one of the very best in the world and future Hall of Famer Vasyl Lomachenko taking centre stage. With many top amateurs coming through the future does certainly look bright for the former Soviet Nation.
- Vasyl Lomachenko currently holds the both the WBA Super World Light Title and WBO World Lightweight Titles.
- Vitali Klitschko former WBC and IBO world heavyweight champion.
- Former WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
- Undisputed world cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk who is aiming for heavyweight gold.
- Former WBC and IBF World Light Heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
The land of the rising sun Japan is recognised far and wide as the home to many of the worlds Martial Arts. But it’s not widely cited when people discuss the sport of boxing. But Japan is right up there in terms of world champions it has produced throughout the years.
One of the overriding reasons for Japanese boxers not being so widely known is that they tend to defend their titles on home soil. And as the mass market outside of the country may not have access to their fights, many titleholders may simply fall under the radar. But don’t let that fool you as the country has been producing world-beating talent for many decades.
Japanese Boxing Champions
As the Japanese are not generally known for being very big people. As a result, most of the countries champions do tend to compete in the lower weight divisions where they have had most of their success. Managing over the years to give a total of 84 world champions to the world of boxing including;
- Takashi Miura was the world super featherweight titleholder.
- Kōki Kameda held the world bantamweight title.
- Masahiko Harada was also known as Fighting Harada was world champion at flyweight and bantamweight.
- Kōki Kameda WBC and lineal flyweight and WBA (Regular) bantamweight title, plus the WBA super-flyweight title.
- Keep an eye out for rising star Naoya Inoue World Boxing Association Super & International Boxing Federation World Bantam titleholder.
Boxing in the Philippines is recognised as one of the six major sports of the nation alongside that of basketball. Throughout its history, some 42 world boxing champions have been produced in the country. While they currently hold the record for the most boxers in the World Boxing Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame of any Asian nation.
While there is a strong lineage in terms of its boxing history. The country has seen an increased number of new world champions coming through its ranks. Which many very much attest to the efforts of one man in Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao has gone on to lead the way in terms of success on the world stage and many others have since followed. And today the countries boxing scene could not be much stronger.
Philippino Boxing Champions
- Manny Pacquiao is without a doubt the most famous boxer to come out of the Philippines. Pacman has amassed the WBA Super World Feather, World Welter and Super World Welter Title. WBC World Light, International Super Feather, Diamond Welter and World Super Welter Title. IBA World Super Feather, IBO World Super Light, WBO International Welter, WBO International Welter and IBF World Feather Title.
- Brian Vilora who has captured the WBC World Light Fly Title. WBA Super World Fly and World Flyweight Titles. WBO World Fly Title and IBF World Light Fly Titles.
- Nonito Donaire who won the WBO and WBC bantamweight world championships.
- Pancho Villa world flyweight championship.
- Ceferino Garcia NYSAC and World Welterweight Title champion.
No Ivan Drago was not a real boxer and in real life, he was not 7 feet tall. But there are plenty of world-class boxers coming out of Russia over the past decade. In much the same way as Cuba, the former Soviet Union did not allow its boxers to turn professional. So, as a result, many of their great fighters never quite got the accolades they deserved.
All that has changed and now that Russians are allowed to travel and compete freely around the world, they along with their close neighbours in Ukraine are showing what the former Eastern block countries are made of.
Russian boxing continues to improve and as more and more amateurs make their way through and into the professional ranks. There is sure to be more talent on display in the years to come.
Russian Boxing Champions
- Alexander Povetkin won the WBA World Heavy, WBC International Heavy, WBC Silver Heavy, WBA Continental Heavy and WBO International Heavyweight Titles
- Sergey Kovalev has held the WBA Super World Light Heavy, IBF World Light Heavy, WBO World Light Heavy, WBC Diamond Light Heavy, IBA World Light Heavy championships.
- Artur Beterbiev IBF World Light Heavy Title and IBF North American Light Heavyweight titles. The WBO NABO Light Heavy and WBO International Light Heavy Title. As well as the WBC World Light Heavyweight title.
- Kostya Tszyu born in Russia and moved to Australia held the WBC World Super Light, WBA Super World Super Light and IBF World Super Lightweight Titles.
- Murat Gassiev WBA Super World Cruiser and IBF World Cruiser champion.
- Dmitry Bivol the World Boxing Association World Light Heavy Title champion.
Throughout the last several decades of the sport, the island nation of Cuba has produced some of the very best boxers the world has known. But due to the political environment and limitations on their fighters being able to compete at a professional level. Many of their best talents never got to showcase their undeniable skills as full professionals.
For many years Cuba was left out in the cold and only ever able to show the world its homegrown talent at the Olympic games. It was here that the country’s boxers would shine with two of their fighters Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon being tied for the most gold medals in boxing at three apiece. With the current total of medals in boxing standing at 73, second only to the United States of America.
The fact that the Communist system under which the fighters competed did not allow professional boxing is a tragedy. And no doubt many of their boxers had the potential to dominate at the professional level.
Cuban Boxing Champions
While many historians consider Jose Napoles to be one of Mexico’s greatest fighters, he was in fact born in Cuba, where he spent his early career. And along with him are some of the biggest names in Cuban boxing including;
- Guillermo Rigondeaux WBA Super World Super Bantam and WBO World Super Bantam Title. The WBC International Silver Super Bantam Title, as well as the IBO World Super Bantam Title in just 19 professional fights.
- Teofilo Stevenson
- Jose Napoles who was the WBC World Welter Title and WBA World Welter Titleholder for six years.
- Kid Chocolate the Junior Lightweight and Featherweight world champion. 136 – 10 – 6 boxing legend.
- Kid Gavilan was the world welterweight champion.
- Félix Savón although never having turned professional is still considered one of the greatest amateur boxers to have ever lived. With some believing, he could have beaten Mike Tyson had he gotten the opportunity.
3: Great Britain
When it comes to boxing, Great Britain or the United Kingdom has a long and rich history. Modern boxing as we know it today has its roots firmly planted there and as a result, it has produced many of the great fighters from the twentieth century.
While the country has had its ups and downs in terms of consistency. The 1980s into the 1990s saw some of the most iconic fighters and fights in the country’s history. Giving UK boxing fans some of the most memorable moments ever seen in the sport.
This was the period in which I grew up and the fighters from this period were the ones that helped shape my love for the sport. Staying up late with my father to watch boxing matches on the other side of the world, good memories.
British Boxing Champions
Britain has produced some of the most fearsome and entertaining boxers of modern times. Many of which that have gone on to challenge the hegemony of US boxing including;
- Prince Naseem Hamed IBF World Feather, WBO World Feather, WBC World Feather and IBO World Feather Titles World champion.
- Former WBC World Heavy, WBA World Heavy, IBF World Heavy and IBO World heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
- WBA Super World Heavy, IBF World Heavy, WBO World Heavy, IBO World Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
- Joe Calzaghe IBF World Super Middle, WBO World Super Middle Title. WBC World Super Middle and WBA Super World Super Middleweight Champion.
Additionally, two of the most famous fighters whose personal vendetta captured a nation was that of middleweights;
- World WBO World Middle, WBC World Super Middle, WBO World Super Middle champion The Dark Destroyer Nigel Benn
- And his sworn enemy WBO World Middle, WBO World Super Middle Title and WBC World Super Middle Champion. Simply The Best Chris Eubank, who’s loathing for one another was something to behold.
The country of Mexico has an undeniably rich history in the sport of boxing. Seen by many as a way out of poverty, Mexican fighters have become known as some of the toughest fighters in the sport.
This is mainly down to the particular style of boxing which has flourished in the country and gone on to give us some of the greatest champions the sport has known. The pressure style the Mexican fighters bring to the ring is known as Mexican style.
A constant marching forward style, that looks for a more offensive form of boxing than what you might see being used by American fighters. Where an American fighter would look to outpoint their opponent and avoid punishment. Mexican fighters very much took and punch to land a punch, leading to the Mexican style moniker.
Mexican Boxing Champions
Mexico is home to some of the greatest boxers the world has known. and down through the decades the Latin American nation has proved itself time and time again in being a breeding ground for some of the best talent in the world.
Its list of champions from past and present is long and sprinkled with many household names familiar to fans of the sport, including;
- Juan Manuel Marquez WBO International Welter, World Super Light, World Welterweight, WBA Super World Light, WBO World Light and IBO World Light World champion.
- WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF world flyweight titleholder Ricardo Lopez.
- Julio Cesar Chavez WBC light welterweight, lineal welterweight titles, super featherweight titles. WBA lightweight, The Ring and lineal lightweight world titles.
- Erik Morales who was the WBC World Super Light, World Super Bantam Title, World Feather Title, Super Feather Title, International Light Title and International Welter Title. As well as the WBO World Super Bantam and Super World Super Lightweight World champion.
- Saul Canelo Alvarez who is an active fighter who holds or has held the WBC World Super Welter, World Middle, Diamond Middle, World Middle Titles. IBF World Middle and IBO World Middleweight championships. And the WBA World Super Welter and Super World Middle Title. As well as the WBO World Super Welter and World Light Heavy Title.
The lineage of modern-day boxing is fundamentally linked to the United States of America. Without a doubt, the US has nurtured many of the greatest boxers the world has ever known. And while modern boxing may have its roots in the old country, it has truly found its home in the United States.
With a total of over 431 (as of 2017) world champions and rising, as well as the most numerous medals in the amateur Olympic boxing. The United States is without a doubt at the very pinnacle of the sport. With so many amateur world-class amateurs, it is no wonder the countries professional ranks have grown to become world-beaters.
To this day the most prestigious titles and fights take place within the countries borders. As if provides the biggest market and paydays for boxers who excel in the sport. Even now it is widely accepted that a boxer has not quite made it until they have won or defended a title on US soil.
American Boxing Champions
Down through its history, the USA has had so many great world champions who have captured the hearts and minds of world boxing fans. Names such as;
- Sugar Ray Robinson was the world welterweight and middleweight champion and was dubbed by many pundits as the pound for pound, the best boxer to ever do it.
- WBC, WBO Welterweight and WBA World Light Middleweight, WBC, WBO super Super middleweight title, WBC light heavyweight title Champion Sugar Ray Leonard.
- The 49 – 0 NBA, The Ring and lineal heavyweight undefeated Rocky Marciano.
- For many the greatest of all time, WBC, WBA World Heavy champion Muhammad Ali.
- Undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Iron Mike Tyson.
- Roy Jones Jnr who held the WBC World Light Heavy, WBA Super World Light Heavy, IBA World Light Heavy, IBF World Light Heavy, IBO World Light Heavy, WBF World Light Heavy, WBO NABO Light Heavyweight titles. Plus the IBO World Cruiser, UBO Inter Continental Cruiser, WBF World Cruiser and WBU Cruiser world titles.
- The man with the perfect unbeaten record WBC, WBO World Welter, WBA Super World Welter, WBC Diamond Super Welter Champion Floyd Mayweather Junior at 50 – 0.
There can no doubt in the status of the United States as the greatest boxing nation the world has known. And if you do doubt me, go ask my dog (RIP) who as a young kid growing up in the west of Ireland I named after my favourite fighter Iron Mike Tyson.
For millennia boxing has been consistently one of the most popular sports the world has known. While not everyone’s cup of tea and no doubt with a popularity that wains then bounces back like the seasons. The sport off boxing is not going anywhere soon.
Having its roots in Great Britain, the modern sport of boxing has spread around the entire globe and captured the hearts and minds of combat sports fans. And while to a degree in recent times its popularity may have been in decline in the western world.
There is seemingly always another explosion just around the corner as the next generation of world champions makes its way to the top. So boxing is going nowhere for now and will continue to make inroads into far-flung nations that previously have never as yet produced any world level talent.
Where once countries faltered, others step up to the plate with their latest crop of talent to pick up the torch for the sport. Boxing is a sport for everyone and where you find people with an urge to compete and test themselves, you will find boxing.
Boxing has always flourished in countries or situations where poverty was rife. And as more and more people in the developing worlds take up the sport. I’m sure it won’t be too long before we start seeing the next wave of boxing talent breaking through.