When people think about martial arts they tend to imagine traditional martial arts with a belt ranking system that reflects a martial artist’s skill level and technical knowledge, boxing is one of the oldest martial arts, so how does it handle belt levels and reflect skills and technical knowledge?
There are no belt levels in boxing since it is a modern combat sport that relies on weight classes and fight records to demonstrate the skill and technical prowess of a boxer. Boxers can be evaluated by looking at their amateur or professional status and their fight record.
The rest of this article will expand upon why boxing doesn’t use belt levels. It will also explain how boxing grades boxers and tracks their skill progress so you can gain a better understanding of the sport as a whole.
Why Are There No Belts To Show Progress in Boxing?
There are no belts to show progress in boxing because the sport tracks accomplishments through fight records and not mastery of technique. The best indication of progress for a boxer is a better fight record and moving from amateur to professional status.
Although both of these attributes make a fine boxer, a fighter’s reputation comes down to how many matches they have won in their career in their weight categories– not a belt.
Boxers who are hobbyists can track their progress by watching videos of their techniques or simply asking their coach or training partners about their progress.
If you want to know more about boxing at the beginner level and how hard it is to pick up check out Is Boxing Hard To Learn?
Why Boxing’s Philosophy Is Different
Boxing is not like the traditional martial arts out there. Although it involves using mind and body techniques learned over time, the end goal is to defeat your opponent in a combat sports setting. This is not the case with traditional martial arts.
Gichin Funakoshi– the father of modern karate– stated that the philosophy of karate is having a clear mind free from selfish thoughts. He is famously quoted for teaching his students to be “inwardly humble and outwardly gentle” through karate.
The different colors of the belts represent the journey to that state of mind. For example,
- White belts stand for the pure innocence typical of the novice learner.
- Yellow belts represent rays of sunlight that bring a seedling to blossom.
- Blue belts represent the fluidity and adaptability that are symbolic of water.
Boxing does not have a philosophical and spiritual base, however, since it is a combat sport these philosophies don’t necessarily apply. The martial art of boxing is centered wholly around building a body, skills, and mindset to win a boxing match.
How Are Boxers Categorized if There Are No Belts?
Boxers are categorized by weight and professional or amateur status. There are no belts to signify progress or skill. For boxers that fight, fight records indicated skill and progress in general terms. Hobbyists will have to rely upon feedback from their boxing gym.
In boxing, weight is a significant factor when matching competitors. Weight and physical build can significantly influence a match’s outcome. Therefore, competitors are categorized according to weight to eliminate the handicap that comes with variations in competitor stature.
There are currently 17 weight classes ranging from Minimum Weight with an upper weight limit of 48 kg (105.82 lbs) to Heavy Weight with a total weight upper limit.
Since all fights that go onto a fight record occur within certain weight classes, it makes fight records the best indication of overall skill for a boxer.
However, fight records also get broken up into other categories like whether or not a boxer is an amateur or a professional. Professional boxers are far more skilled than amateur fighters as a general rule. So you can expect professional boxers to be further along in skills than an amateur and far closer to an equivalent “black belt” than an amateur fighter.
How Do You Track Your Boxing Progress if There Is No Belt System?
While boxing might not have a belt system to track ranks, boxing rankings do exist within boxing organizations by weight class. These are based upon fight records and whom each fighter has fought in their division. This is the simplest way to evaluate a fighter’s skill level.
It is common for fighters to move up or down a weight division. A boxer can be ranked differently for each weight division that they have competed in, and if they shift to a different weight class they will be unranked until they have a fight record within that weight division.
Boxing skills and proficiencies can be tracked through fight records and professional and amateur status. In fact, at the higher levels, you can just look at a ranking and tell basically how good they are with a concrete number that ranks their results within the division.
It is a little bit tougher for hobbyists to determine what their progress is if they are not seeking out fights, which is the most common situation for a boxer. These fighters will need to ask their training partners and coaches about their progress and maybe even watch tapes of them doing drills or sparring to see their actual progress.
Ultimately, time spent in the sport will give people an approximation of a “belt rank equivalent” that can give some indication of skill level. Somebody boxing for one year (white belt level) is most likely technically inferior to somebody who has boxed for 10 years (black belt level).
For more check out Are There Belt Levels in MMA?