Friday, June 02, 2023  |



Gray Matter: Gennady Golovkin and muddleweight records

Photo by German Villasenor
Fighters Network

This is the first in a series of intermittent opinion pieces that I intend to write whenever the moment moves me.

Some will say the approach is self-serving, but I intend to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. My truth. Some of you will agree with me, which happens more often than not. Some of you will tell me that I’m talking rubbish, which also happens from time to time. I welcome dispute – providing it makes sense.

One thing is for sure, however, the title “Gray Matter”, which I stole from a friend of mine, is absolutely epic . . .

Ok, here we go.

Over the last couple of years, whenever unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has been approaching fight night, it has become customary to talk about the record for title defenses at 160 pounds.

Golovkin, who is rated No. 1 at middleweight by The Ring, currently holds WBA and WBC belts. The cerebral power-puncher was recently stripped of the IBF version for refusing to take on mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko who will face Danny Jacobs for the vacant belt on October 27.

Belts to one side, Golovkin, who fights a rematch with Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas, is the man at middleweight and that’s as factual as Tuesday following Monday. He is the longest reigning world champion in any division and this publication’s choice as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I agree wholeheartedly.

But how many title defenses has he made? It may come as a surprise that what should be a simple statistic actually requires some investigation and you have the WBA to thank for that.

Keep up with me here . . .

In August 2010, Golovkin knocked out Milton Nunez in 58 seconds to claim the interim version of the WBA title. Shortly thereafter, the Kazakhstani knockout artist was upgraded to WBA “regular” champion and knocked over Nilson Julio Tapia in three rounds. That’s where a lot of fans believe Golovkin’s official reign as a recognized middleweight champion began. They count 20 defenses.

Attention, this is the Reality Police – pull over.

By the time Golovkin knocked out Tapia in December 2010, Felix Sturm had been upgraded to WBA “super” champion to considerable criticism. Initially the WBA only created these ridiculous super champions when titles were unified, but Sturm only held one belt. How did the WBA get around that? They created a “new” rule where a champion could be upgraded to “super” if they had made five successful defenses or more (Sturm had made seven since outpointing Javier Castillejo in April 2006).

It is pretty much accepted as fact that Sturm had more interest in skydiving without a parachute than facing Golovkin during his reign. The WBA’s decision to have a “regular champion” and a “super champion” therefore appeased everyone. The organization could claim sanctioning fees from two world champions, Sturm didn’t have to eat hospital food and a frustrated Golovkin could still call himself world champ.

The problem is his initial title defenses “cannot” be regarded as legitimate. If you do recognize them, then you’re validating the WBA’s decision to have two champions in each division. As I said earlier on social media, the day I do that will be a cold day in hell. The Ring refuses to recognize the WBA “regular” title and I endorse that decision 100-percent.

Sturm would eventually lose to Australian Daniel Geale in September 2012. What did the WBA do almost immediately? They stripped Geale for not agreeing to face Golovkin. That seemed a bit unfair considering Sturm had avoided his own ass-whipping for a period of years, whereas Geale, a brand new champion who had just achieved his life’s work, was given a period of weeks.

Regardless, Golovkin was now the only WBA middleweight champion in the world and that, for me at least, is where his title reign begins. His first defense with his new status would be against Gabriel Rosado in January 2013. That means, including the recent hammering of Vanes Martirosyan, that Golovkin has made 15 successful defenses of the middleweight championship.

Here is where Golovkin stands in the lineup of “legitimate” middleweight title defenses:

Bernard Hopkins – 19 (“No Contest” against Robert Allen in August 1998 not included)
Gennady Golovkin – 15
Carlos Monzon – 14
Marvelous Marvin Hagler – 12

Now if you’re a Golovkin fan, then I understand that you want to stomp your feet in protest over this. There’s an asterix beside the great champion’s number because he was perpetually avoided and could have had more legitimate defenses. The problem is, it was up to the WBA to address that and force Sturm to make a mandatory defense. They didn’t and Golovkin, in historical terms, has suffered because of that.

For years WBA president Gilberto Mendoza has said that he intends to phase out “regular” titles. The boxing world is still waiting. From the outset, its creation has diluted and devalued the term champion. It is not recognized by the other organizations in terms of unification matchups and, being honest, it just makes the garbled world of professional boxing even more confusing for the people who really matter – the fans.


Tom Gray is Associate Editor for THE RING. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing


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