Chris John & Yuriorkis Gamboa - Both current WBA Featherweight Champs?

By Coach Tim Walker - Cuban standout Yuriorkis Gamboa (15-0-0 kos 13) enters the ring as a high favorite against challenger Whyber Garcia (22-6-0 kos 15). That is no surprise given Gamboa’s crashing-energetic style, his world class Cuban amateur pedigree and the fact that Garcia has been knocked out 4 times in his 6 losses. So why write a story about this fight? As I began researching this upcoming title fight I realized that it is for the WBA World Featherweight title. Really?

Immediately I thought, “Chris John has been the WBA Featherweight Champion since 2003. Has he been stripped or defeated and I missed it?” This started the research wheels to roling..

It seems he hasn’t been stripped and is currently the WBA Super World Featherweight title holder. I consider myself knowledgable and thought I had a handle on this but apparently I am not nearly as secure in my understanding of the purpose of having a World and a Super World title.. I thought the Super World title, which doesn’t bother me necessarily, is intended to recognize when one fighter is in possession of 2 or more of the 4 recognized major belts (WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO) but Chris John has only one title, the WBA, and, I guess so does Gamboa. In fact both fighters won WBA on the interim level, a totally different sanctioned title, and were subsequently elevated, without apparent reason, to full WBA World Featherweight champs and apparently now John has been elevated once more to Super World champ. Really? How is it even possible for Gamboa to win an interim title when the current title holder, John, is still actively fighting, not on suspension, not semi-retired or out because of injury?

To be clear Cristobal Cruz holds the IBF, Steven Luevano has the WBO, and Elio Rojas is the WBC featherweight champ. Wait, that means Chris John is the current WBA Super World Featherweight champion (with no other titles) AND Gamboa is the current WBA World Featherweight champion (again, with no other titles). By rule doesn’t that make both fighters the current WBA Featherweight champion? If this is the case, and it is the case, what the heck is going on here?

I’m not here to decide how a sanctioning body should or shouldn’t operate its business but I think it at least necessary they employ the rules that they have established. Is it remotely necessary to have super world titles, world titles, interim titles, etc? I'm not opposed to titles and believe they have a place but seriously! If you count the Super World, World and Interim World as similar titles then it is possible to have 3 world champions per division all at the same time. That's not clarity that's trivialization without necessity.

Excluding the WBA of course maybe it is time for new world titles. How about the “We Want Another Sanctioning Fee World Title” or the “My Big Expensive House World Title” or how about “Country Club Membership Tertiary, Interim, World, Super World, Mega-Super World, Galaxy, Universe and Ultra-Universe Titles” as well? As ridiculous as it sounds, it seems if there is a way to make a title out of it, and subsequently get a sanctioning fee out of it, then sanctioning bodies are willing to create it. I have even heard rumblings of a proposed catch-weight title for fighters who feel the need to fight at weights between the 17 established weight classes. Geez!

Sanctioning bodies, a little clarity please!

This article is not intended to bash or belittle the accomplishments of Yuriorkis Gamboa, Chris John or any world champion rather to point out that we need a change in boxing. What we need is clarity amongst our sport. At some point one of the sanctioning bodies is going to have to step up to the plate and do what’s best for the sport not just the bottom line. Maybe it will take a sanctioning body such as the IBO, WBU or WBF to get things started. You never know, with a few acts of common sense towards the needs of the sport and the desires of the fans one of those organizations could become the next great thing for boxing. We’ll see if one of them takes that bold step or if they all just continue with business as usual.

I did write to the WBA for clarity on the Chris John and Yuriorkis Gamboa title situation. I have not gotten a response from them at the time I submitted this article. Upon them responding, I will contribute a follow-up article to express their reasons for having this seemingly dual championship.

For questions or comments please contact Coach Tim Walker at or check out my blog at

Article posted on 06.10.2009

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