Ah, the boxing hierarchy. Here, in reverse order I will go through the categories that boxing fans tend to group fighters. These categories are based on generalizations that most fans make as well as what I have observed over the years.
These guys are at the bottom of the barrel. Usually, they won't have many (if any) wins on their records. Yes, there are in fact fighters like these. These boxers are most often seen matched up with rising stars for the first 5 or so fights of the rising star’s career. Other than that, the casual boxing fan will never hear or mention any of them.
This class of boxer tends to have records with around 30-40% win rates. For the most part, these guys only fight at local shows. They do it mostly for the spirit of competition.
Journeymen tend to have 500 records or better. They can be seen at some of the above average sized venues. Most often they will be one of the first bouts on the undercard of a major event. These boxers do it mostly for the money. Fighting is what feeds their families.
(No not the guys from the Contender series.) Contenders are sometimes called "gate keepers". This comes from the fact that although they are not among the highest echelons of the boxing hierarchy, beating one of these fighters gives you a shot at the big time. They are essentially who you have to get through to get a shot at the “real” champ. Guys that come to mind are Arturo Gatti and Luis Collazo. You beat one of them and you gain respect. The boxing community begins to take you seriously. Most of the time, a “gate keeper” will be an ex-champion or will be one of the weaker champions in the division.
Champions are the boxers who actually have one of the "alphabet soup" titles (i.e. WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO). This is still quite far from the top of the sport however.
This is probably a good time to segue into some very important boxing vocabulary.
Champion - A boxer who is just a champ has only one of the 4 titles (or 4 "pieces" of the "true" belt.
Super Champion - A super champion has 3 out of the 4 belts. These guys have really cleaned out their division.
Undisputed Champion - This is without question the man to beat in the division. He is considered undisputed because he holds the belt from each of the major sanctioning bodies.
Elite Level Fighters
These are the guys listed in the top ten of Ring Magazine's Pound for Pound rankings. (Pound for Pound is often written as "P4P" for short.)
These are the fighters who are talked about through the ages. They are the ones who have fought and beat other elite fighters on the pound for pound list. Think Bernard Hopkins, who beat guys like Tito Trinidad, Oscar de la Hoya, and Winky Wright (all guys who at one point in their career were on the pound for pound list.)