The heavyweight boxing picture is rarely this clear.
No man has ever held all four of the belts at the same time, but the heavyweight titles are now tantalisingly close to aligning. We could be just two fights away from boxing history.
Ahead of the eagerly anticipated heavyweight unification clash between Joshua and Parker, here’s everything you need to know about the belts that are at stake.
What belts are at stake?
Three heavyweight world titles will be on the line when Joshua and Parker do battle on March 31.
The WBA (Super), IBF and WBO belts will all be claimed by the winner.
There’s also another belt in play – the IBO (International Boxing Organisation) belt, currently held by Joshua.
However, it’s considered a fringe title by most, and not as respected as the other four governing bodies, which refuse to recognise it as a legitimate title.
Why are there so many belts?
Good question. The primary reason is because, unlike most sports, there is no single governing body which decides the rules of boxing, markets and promotes the sport and looks after its long-term future.
Instead there are four governing bodies. Two were formed in the 1960s. The WBA (World Boxing Association) was formed in 1962 in the United States but is now based in Panama. A year later the WBC (World Boxing Council) was formed, in Mexico.
In subsequent years, two more governing bodies came into existence. The IBF (International Boxing Federation) was created in 1983, after Bob Lee failed in an attempt to become the WBA president. Five years later the WBO (World Boxing Organisation) was formed, as part of a divide from the WBA. It is based in Puerto Rico.
The four bodies rarely agree to work together because they all make money from charging sanction fees – which allow fights to take place for their titles. That makes holding more than one belt exceptionally difficult in the sport.
The IBO and WBU (World Boxing Union) belts are meanwhile considered fringe titles.
When did Joshua and Parker win their belts?
Joshua won the IBF heavyweight title when he knocked out Charles Martin in two rounds at The O2 Arena, in April 2016.
He defended his title against Dominic Breazeale and Éric Molina, before adding the WBA (Super) and IBO crowns to his collection when he dethroned Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium.
Parker has been the WBO champion since December 2016, when he defeated the American Andy Ruiz on a mixed decision.
He has defended his belt twice. Once against Răzvan Cojanu, and once against Hughie Fury.
Who has the other title?
Deontay Wilder holds the one belt that will not be on the line in Cardiff.
The 32-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has been the WBC heavyweight champion since 2015, when he defeated Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision.
It was the only time in his undefeated 39 fight career that he has been taken the distance, and victory saw him become the first American world heavyweight champion in nine years.
And the winner of the Joshua vs Parker clash will almost certainly go on to fight Wilder – providing he wins his next contest against the Cuban veteran Luis Ortiz.
Has anybody ever held all four belts at one time?
Britain’s Lennox Lewis went close, only to be denied by legal wrangling from the WBO.
Heavyweight boxing history is well and truly on the line.
What about Tyson Fury?
Fury captured the WBA (Super), WBO and IBO titles when he defeated Klitschko on points in November 2015. Fury’s victory is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever performances from a British boxer on foreign soil.
He was quickly stripped of the IBF title for failing to grant a fight against their mandatory challenger, Vyacheslav Glazkov, because of an arranged rematch with Klitschko.
He then vacated the WBA and WBO titles – now held by Wilder and Parker respectively – following a medical investigation into a failed drugs test as well as his mental health issues.
Fury also became The Ring Magazine’s lineal heavyweight champion when he defeated Klitschko. He was stripped of this title earlier this year, following more than two years of inactivity.
Who has The Ring Magazine belt now?
Nobody. The Ring title is awarded by the prestigious American publication to the fighter that it recognises as the ‘lineal’ champion, but the belt is now vacant.
“The Ring Magazine would like to make it clear that this decision had not been taken lightly,” the publication said in a statement to explain their decision. “The Ring championship belt is the closest representation to a lineal champion in the sport today, and Tyson Fury was extremely proud to be part of our heavyweight history.”
The belt will only be awarded when the No. 1 and 2 ranked heavyweights in The Ring rankings fight one another.
“Joshua and Parker are rated No. 1 and No. 3 by The Ring respectively. There have been occasions when a vacant Ring championship has been contested between No. 1- and No. 3-rated contenders. However, after careful consideration, we do not feel Joshua-Parker qualifies.
“At this time, The Ring ratings panel unanimously believe that Deontay Wilder is the second-best heavyweight in the world on merit.”
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