In the whirlwind of organized boxing, there is no single universally recognized ruling body or, usually, world champion. Though most sports have a type of world organization that oversees the competition globally, boxing has never quite reached this phase.
The first known boxing organization was founded in London by former champion “Gentleman” John Jackson, called the Pugilistic Club. Dating back to 1814, it was responsible for drawing up the London Prize Ring Rules of 1838 (and later revising them in 1853) which governed the conduct of prizefighting for most of that historical period. The beginning of the 20th century marked a few attempts at organizing boxing further. Governing bodies in both the US and in Europe formed, all with their own sets rules and regulations.
One of the most notable was the International Boxing Union with French boxing journalist Victor Breyer first pitching the idea of conceiving a world governing body for boxing. However, due to lack of interest from other organizations in the US at that time, he was only able to consolidate his organization within French and Swiss boxing. Thus, failing in the attempt to create one main worldwide governing body in boxing.
In January 1921 William A. Gavin founded the National Boxing Association as a national body of American commissions. In this period, the New York State Athletic Commission also existed as a state agency that had similar activities as the NBA. Divided controlled and organizational rivalries lead to both sometimes recognizing different boxers as world champions at the same time. Which of course created the first confusion for boxing fans as to who was the real world champion at each weight.
Through increased membership of foreign bodies, the NBA evolved into what is today is known as the World Boxing Association (WBA), adopting the current name in 1962. One year later, in 1963, mainly with Mexican support, another organization formed called the World Boxing Council (WBC). Both remain one of the four main recognized sanctioning bodies today.
Throughout the years there have been discussions about potentially building up to one primary governing body for all of boxing, but with little success. In September 1976, a few American state commissioners decided to form the USBA International as a US-based organization after failed attempts to bring the WBA back to the US. They would subsequently rename this organization into the International Boxing Federation (IBF). In 1988 the World Boxing Organization (WBO) was formed and quickly rose to power to rival the other three major governing bodies.
There have been many other attempts at creating rival boxing governing body. Organizations such as the World Boxing Union (WBU), the International Boxing Organization (IBO), the International Boxing Association (IBA) and the International Boxing Union (IBU), have all made attempts to become legitimate bodies within the sport. However, their titles remain unrecognized by the broader boxing community, and their champions are not considered legitimate world champions.
The WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO together comprise the current four major governing bodies in boxing, each recognizing only the other three as the legitimate boxing governing bodies.