Lineal Championship Policy
Lineal Championship vacancies, as recognised by LinealBoxingChampion.com (LBC) are filled by the winner of a fight between the #1 and #2 contenders, or in rare instances, a fight between the #1 and #3 contenders.
Various methods have been used throughout history to identify the two most deserving challengers, who will fight for a division's vacant Lineal title. The Ring Magazine's ratings have frequently been referred to, and more recently, the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board's (TBRB) ratings. Assuming the leading contenders are involved, elimination tournaments have also been used to whittle down who the top 2 in a division are. However, in the current boxing landscape, there is no absolute set of rankings, and elimination tournaments featuring the best fighters are still rare.
Whether the top 2 contenders have any of the major sanctioning body titles, is largely irrelevant. The ratings produced by the sanctioning bodies seldom resemble those compiled by knowledgeable, independent observers. For example, when Charles Martin fought Vyacheslav Glazkov for the vacant IBF title, and Joseph Parker (WBO No.1) fought Andy Ruiz (WBO No.3) for the vacant WBO title - both in 2016, none of these men were rated in the top 5 by the TBRB. Neither The Ring or the TBRB had Martin in their top 10.
At the time of writing, May 2019, Fres Oquendo - who hasn't fought for over four years, in a fight which he lost - is the #3 contender in the WBA's Heavyweight ratings. Oquendo hasn't featured in The Ring Magazine's Annual Ratings, since 2004.
To limit bias and ensure LinealBoxingChampion.com identifies the most deserving two contenders, the ratings from five prominent, independent boxing websites (not sanctioning bodies), are assessed: Boxing News, The Ring, Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB), Boxing Monthly and ESPN.
“Stripping” a champion for inactivity is inconsistent with prize fighting history. The boxing champions of the bareknuckle 18th and 19th centuries were not stripped for inactivity. The pioneering champions of the gloved era were not stripped for inactivity. World titles should be won in the ring, they are earnt. LBC adheres to prize fighting championship history. Champions will not be “stripped.”
A Lineal Champion can only lose his championship status if he retires, is defeated in a championship fight, or moves to another weight division.
Contenders for vacant lineal titles
In order to identify the top two contenders in each division, ratings from five different, leading, independent boxing websites are assessed:
Boxing News. Founded in 1909, Boxing News can be found online and in print - its weekly magazine, is the oldest boxing magazine still in publication.
The Ring. Throughout much of the gloved era The Ring Magazine has regularly published the most highly regarded ratings in professional boxing. Their up-to-date ratings are on their website.
Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. In October 2012 the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board formed, and soon received praise for the balanced, impartial ratings consistently updated on its site.
Boxing Monthly. London, UK based magazine (also with up-to-date, online rankings), founded in 1989.
ESPN. American based global television network. ESPN.com’s boxing section, with considerable input from longtime boxing journalist, Dan Rafael, produce weekly divisional rankings.
Two boxers may be eligible to fight each other for their division’s vacant Lineal Title if they meet the following criteria:
Between them, the two boxers must hold at least three of the #1 positions, in the ratings, on the websites listed above.
Each boxer must be ranked in the top 3 in at least three of the ratings, on the websites listed above.
Each boxer must be ranked in the top 2 in at least two of the ratings, on the websites listed above.
When the criteria outlined above can not be achieved, it is likely that the boxing fraternity and fans are significantly divided – the only way to resolve this, is for the notable boxers in the division to fight each other.
Recent examples of ambiguity among the websites listed above:
In 2018, the TBRB crowned number 1 rated Mikey Garcia champion for beating their number 2 rated Junior Welterweight, Sergey Lipinets. BoxRec had Lipinets only at #8 in their ratings. The Ring had Lipinets down at #7. In truth, at the time Garica/Lipinets, the top Junior Welterweights simply had not fought enough fights amongst each other to have established a clear #1 and #2.
Jorge Linares Vs Anthony Crolla crowned a new Ring champ at 135lbs in 2016. BoxRec had Crolla at #3 in their ratings, and TBRB had him down at #5 in theirs.
The significant differences in opinions that existed at the time of Linares/Crolla, and Garcia/Lipnets, means LinealBoxingChampion.com does not identify them as Lineal title fights.
It should be noted, that the five websites named above frequently do agree regarding the upper tiers of their ratings. Under these circumstances, when the leading contenders fight each other, a new Lineal Champion will be crowned. Why settle for an Alphabet belt titlist when you can have a genuine World Champion?
#1 Vs #3 match-ups
When are they acceptable?
If the #1 and #2 contenders are siblings, therefore refuse to fight each other.
In 2009, #1 Heavyweight, Wladimir Klitschko, won the vacant Lineal Championship, by beating the #3 contender, Ruslan Chagaev – the #2 in the division was Wladimir’s brother, Vitali Klitschko (Ring Magazine ratings).
If the general consensus among the leading independent rankings, is that the #2 and #3 contenders are evenly matched, and their positions could easily be swapped.
There was little to separate Mikkel Kessler and Jeff Lacy in 2006, when Jeff challenged #1, Joe Calzaghe, for the vacant Lineal Super Middleweight Title. The Ring had Lacy at #3 in their 168lbs ratings. Boxing Monthly had Lacy at #2.
When are they unacceptable?
If there is a clear consensus among the boxing’s independent ratings, as to who the top two in a division are.
When #1 Heavyweight, Vitali Klitschko, fought #3, Corrie Sanders in 2004, it was not for the vacant Lineal Title because Chris Byrd (rated at #2 by The Ring) was the division’s clear #2 Heavyweight, and also had officially beaten Vitali in April, 2000.
In 2018, Callum Smith Vs George Groves was, considered a #1 Vs #3 match-up, and for The Ring belt. Groves/Smith was not for the Lineal Title however, as Gilberto Ramirez was the clear #2 at Super Middleweight, according to Boxing News, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec, TBRB and The Ring. The TBRB had Smith rated at #7.
#1 Vs #3 match-ups with LinealBoxingChampion.com
All contenders who fight for a vacant Lineal Title (as recognised by LinealBoxingChampion), must be ranked in the top 2 in at least two of the five leading independent ranking systems (and within the top 3 of three of the rankings), therefore any such boxer will have a strong claim to being the #2 in the world. In rare instances, it is possible to have three boxers who meet our criteria, technically creating a top 3 on our website - with very little separating them. A #1 Vs #3 match-up in these circumstances would be acceptable, and in reality, would be similar to a scenario such as Calzaghe/Lacy.
A formal retirement from the champion will result in the Lineal Championship becoming vacant, allowing the top 2 contenders an opportunity to fight to for the vacant Championship. However, if the champion returns, and in his absence the top two contenders did not fight to fill the vacancy, the returning champion may be eligible to fight the #1 contender for the vacant title.
In 1910, James Jeffries – who had retired as undefeated champion in May 1905 – returned to the ring to face Jack Johnson. In Jeffries’ absence a new champion had been crowned when Marvin Hart defeated Jack Root in July 1905. Hart lost to Tommy Burns, who lost to Johnson, meaning Johnson was the defending Lineal Champion when he fought Jeffries.
Conversely, during Muhammad Ali’s brief retirement, 1979 – 1980, the top two contenders did not fight, so upon his return in October 1980, Muhammad Ali was eligible to fight #1 rated heavyweight, Larry Holmes, for the vacant Lineal Championship.
In the extremely unlikely event that a champion refuses to retire, but also refuses to defend his title for a period of longer than 3 years 3 months, it could be considered that the champion has abandoned his title. To prevent a situation whereby the title is frozen for potentially decades, the leading contenders may be eligible to fight for the abandoned crown.
The 3 years 3 months time-frame is used in order to be respectful of past champions. Aside from Tony Zale’s reign in the 1940s, whose reign was affected by World War 2, it represents the longest period of inactivity (Jess Willard’s reign) a Lineal Champion has had in over 100 years of gloved boxing.
A shorter time-frame is not used, because many Hall of Fame champions have had periods of inactivity of 1-3 years, and as history shows, they returned to defend their titles.
A boxer who tests positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs - for the fight in which he wins the Lineal Championship - leading to the official verdict being nullified, will not be recognised as Lineal Champion.
Policy updated: 26/05/19