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Roman Gonzalez and the title-reign kings of boxing

Roman Gonzalez. Photo by Naoki Fukuda
06
Mar

When Roman Gonzalez steps inside the ring with Juan Francisco Estrada next Saturday, he will be engaging in his 19th world title fight.

The legendary Nicaraguan boxer-puncher has won world titles in four divisions and he is a lock for the Hall of Fame.

However, there are many fighters who have taken part in more world title bouts than Gonzalez. We will now list those champions and highlight the longest reigns and most consecutive world title defenses in each division. The world titles at stake could be Ring Magazine, WBA (full), WBC, WBO, IBF or a combination of these.

Julio Cesar Chavez, World title bouts: 37, Record in title fights: 31-4-2 (21 KOs) – The Mexican icon is the gold standard that his countrymen are measured against. Chavez won titles in three weight classes – 130, 135 and 140 pounds – stretching 12 years, from 1984 to 1996.

Bernard Hopkins, 36 , 26-6-2 (13 KOs) – The immortal “B-Hop” was pretty much untouchable at middleweight for 10 years. He won every 160-pound belt available before heading to light heavyweight where he won a plethora of title belts in that division.

Omar Narvaez, 32, 28-3-1 (12 KOs) – The Argentine Olympian, who reigned longer than any flyweight in history, vacated his 112-pound belt just one defense shy of Thai legend Pongsaklek Wonjongkam’s divisional record. He then enjoyed more success at 115 pounds, where he made an additional 11 title defenses before unraveling against the brilliant Naoya Inoue.

Oscar De La Hoya, 29, 24-5 (17 KOs) — After winning gold at the 1992 Olympics, “The Golden Boy” turned pro at 130 pounds, where he won his first world title. He went on to be one of boxing’s most popular and bankable stars as well as the sport’s first six-weight world champion. He beat 24 world titleholders along the way.

Virgil Hill, 29, 24-5 (7 KOs) – The 1984 Olympic silver medalist had two light heavyweight title reigns of 10 defenses before closing out his hall-of-fame career by twice winning the WBA cruiserweight title.

Wladimir Klitschko. Photo by Joern Pollex Bongarts/ Getty Images

Wladimir Klitschko, 29, 25-4 (19 KOs) – The respected former heavyweight champion surpassed Louis for most heavyweight title fights when he faced (and lost to) Tyson Fury in November 2015. “Dr. Steelhammer” was also in striking distance of two other heavyweight records belonging to Louis – longest reign and most consecutive defenses.

Marco Antonio Barrera, 29, 25-4 (14 KOs) – The terrifically talented Mexican, who could box and bang with equal measure, won world titles at junior featherweight, featherweight and junior lightweight.

Manny Pacquiao, 28, 22-4-2 (12 KOs) – The fighting pride of the Philippines is boxing’s only eight-weight world champion. He has held titles at 112, 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154 over a four-decade stretch.

Abe Attell, 28, 21-3-4 (12 KOs) – The former featherweight world champion, who ruled in the early 1900s, was heavily associated with the mob and was infamously involved in the 1919 world series betting scandal, leading many to question the authenticity of many of his fights; however at least 27 or 28 were billed as “world championship bouts” at the time. [Editor’s note: The Boxing Register, the official record book of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, credits Attell with 14 successful title defenses and notes that “his claim to the championship was disputed” at times during his 11-year reign.]

Joe Louis, 27, 26-1 (22) – “The Brown Bomber,” is in the greatest heavyweight ever conversation. Louis holds the record for the most consecutive title defenses, 25, and the longest uninterrupted title reign, 11 years and 7 months, in one weight class.

Dariusz Michalczewski, 27, 25-2 (20 KOs) – The hard-charging Pole was a two-weight world champion, although almost all of his success was at 175 pounds. After going 48-0, with 38 knockouts, he lost to the late Julio Gonzalez when his rugged pressure-fighting style finally caught up with him.

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Floyd Mayweather Jr., 26, 26-0 (10 KOs) – The highest paid boxer in history won 10 world titles (the WBC 147- and 154-pound titles twice) in five divisions – junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight – and beat 22 world titleholders along the way.

Ricardo Lopez, 26, 25-0-1 (19 KOs) – Half of the long-reigning WBC strawweight champion’s fights were world title fights. The masterful Mexican technician, who retired unbeaten in 52 bouts, even stepped up to junior flyweight late in his career to become a two-weight titleholder.

Pongsaklek Wongjongkam, 26, 22-2-2 (8 KOs) – One of the greatest flyweights in history, the Thai southpaw enjoyed a lengthy title reign before losing his belt. As an aging underdog, he proved his mettle by unseating the much younger Koki Kameda to regain his old title, on the road, in Japan.

Roy Jones Jr., 26, 22-4 (14 KOs) – Many believe that the four-weight former champion is one of the best fighters ever. The dynamic boxer-puncher beat Hopkins, James Toney, Reggie Johnson, John Ruiz and Antonio Tarver in title fights.

Miguel Cotto, 26, 20-6 (16 KOs) – The only Puerto Rican to win world titles in four weight classes. He started out at junior welterweight before migrating with considerable success to welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight. Cotto was one of the biggest box-office draws during the mid-to-late 2000s into the 2010s.

Henry Armstrong, 25, 22-3 (17 KOs) – The popular and relentless slugger achieved the unthinkable, winning titles at featherweight, lightweight and welterweight in the days when there were only eight weight classes. Also held Ceferino Garcia to a draw – which many believed he deserved to win – when the pair contested a version of the middleweight title (only California recognized the bout as a title fight).

Photo from The Ring archive

Muhammad Ali, 25, 22-3 (14 KOs) – “The Greatest” enjoyed two lengthy heavyweight title reigns that helped him post the numbers needed to get on the list. Ali, arguably the best big man ever, beat a who’s who of top contenders from the golden age of the heavyweight division.

Larry Holmes, 26, 21-5 (15 KOs) – Many unfairly believe that Holmes merely bridged the heavyweight division gap between the more popular reigns of Ali and Mike Tyson, but he was a great and dominant champion in his own right, who fought behind one of the best jabs ever.

George Dixon, 25, 19-4-2 (11 KOs) – Dixon was the first black world champion in any weight class. He held world titles at bantamweight in the 1890s and reigned supreme at featherweight later in the decade. The Canadian was regarded by Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer as the greatest bantamweight ever.

Terry Norris, 25, 19-6 (14 KOs) – The supremely gifted Texan beat more than a dozen top-notch fighters of the 1990s during three title reigns at 154 pounds. He was only let down by his fierce in-the-ring temper and shaky chin.

Evander Holyfield, 25, 16-7-2 (9 KOs) – The only man ever to unify the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions. Fought a who’s who from his era, including Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Larry Holmes, George Foreman and Lennox Lewis.

Narrowly missing the cut are a host of other standouts, including 24-title-bout vets Joe Calzaghe, 24-0 (11), Azumah Nelson, 18-4-2 (12), Hilario Zapata, 18-5-1 (4), Chris Eubank, 17-5-2 (5) and Emile Griffith 16-8 (5).

Fighters who had 23 title bouts: Manuel Ortiz, who went 21-2 (11), Wilfredo Gomez, 20-3 (18), Ratanapol Sor Voraphin, 20-3 (16), Pernell Whitaker, 19-3-1 (4), Arthur Abraham, 19-4 (9), Erik Morales 18-5 (11) and Felix Sturm, 16-5-2 (5).

The 22 club: Sven Ottke, 22-0 (5), Eusebio Pedroza, 19-2-1 (11), Alexis Arguello, 19-3 (17), Ivan Calderon, 18-3-1 (2), Roberto Duran, 16-6 (13), Sugar Ray Robinson 16-6 (10), Shane Mosley, 15-7 (12) and Daniel Zaragoza 14-5-3 (5).

The 21 club: Felix Trinidad, 20-1 (16), Myung Woo Yuh, 20-1 (10), Antonio Cervantes 18-3 (11), Fernando Montiel 17-4 (13), Wilfredo Vazquez Sr., 16-4-1 (9), Tony Canzoneri, 11-9-1 (2) and Manuel Medina 10-11 (2).

The 20 club: Khaosai Galaxy, 20-0 (17), Donnie Nietes 18-0-2 (7), Jung Koo Chang, 16-4 (7) and Jorge Arce, 14-6 (9).

Active fighters

19: Kazuto Ioka 17-2 (10), Nonito Donaire 15-4 (10), Marco Huck 13-5-1 (6).
18: Gennadiy Golovkin 16-1-1 (14),*  Roman Gonzalez 16-2 (10), Leo Santa Cruz 16-2 (7).
17: Canelo Alvarez 15-1-1 (7), Sergey Kovalev 13-4 (10), Anselmo Moreno 13-4 (3).
15: Terence Crawford 15-0 (12).
14: Wanheng Menayothin 13-1 (5), Vasiliy Lomachenko 12-2 (9).
13: Naoya Inoue 13-0 (11),

* Gennadiy Golovkin held a WBA title from August 2010 when he beat Milton Nunez for the interim version and was upgraded to regular beltholder. He was not recognised as full WBA titleholder until Daniel Geale, who defeated then-WBA “super” champion Felix Sturm, was stripped of the title in November 2012 (Explained here.)

Most successful consecutive title defenses (top three in each division)

Heavyweight – Joe Louis (25), Larry Holmes (20), Wladimir Klitschko (18).
Cruiserweight – Marco Huck and Johnny Nelson (13), Juan Carlos Gomez (10).
Light heavyweight – Dariusz Michalczewski (23), Bob Foster (14), Roy Jones Jr. (12).
Super middleweight – Joe Calzaghe and Sven Ottke (21), Chris Eubank (14).
Middleweight – Bernard Hopkins (20), Carlos Monzon (14), Marvin Hagler and Felix Sturm (12).
Junior middleweight – Gianfranco Rosi (11), Terry Norris and Julio Cesar Vazquez (10).
Welterweight – Henry Armstrong (19), Felix Trinidad (15), Pipino Cuevas (11).
Junior welterweight – Julio Cesar Chavez (12), Antonio Cervantes (10), Aaron Pryor (10).
Lightweight – Artur Grigorian (17), Robert Duran (12), Joe Brown (11).
Junior lightweight – Brian Mitchell (12), Takashi Uchiyama (11), Acelino Freitas, Azumah Nelson, Samuel Serrano, Flash Elorde and Alfredo Escalera (10).
Featherweight – Abe Attell (20), Eusebio Pedroza (19), Chris John (18).
Junior featherweight – Wilfredo Gomez (17), Vuyani Bungu (13); Wilfredo Vazquez, Erik Morales and Oscar Larios (9).
Bantamweight – Orlando Canizales (16), Manuel Ortiz (15), Veeraphol Saprahom (14).
Junior bantamweight – Khaosai Galaxy (19), Johnny Tapia (13), Omar Narvaez (11).
Flyweight – Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (17), Omar Narvaez (16), Miguel Canto (14).
Junior flyweight – Myung Woo Yuh (17), Jung-Koo Chang (15), Yoko Gushiken (13).
Strawweight – Ricardo Lopez (22), Ratanapol Sor Vorapin and Wanheng Menayothin (12).

Longest consecutive title reigns

Heavyweight – Joe Louis – June 22, 1937-March 1, 1949 (11 years 8 months).
Cruiserweight – Johnny Nelson – March 27, 1999-Sept. 22, 2006 (7 years 6 months).
Light heavyweight – Archie Moore – Dec. 17, 1952-May 12, 1962 (9 years 2 months).
Super middleweight – Joe Calzaghe – Oct. 11, 1997-Sept. 26, 2008 (10 years 11 months).
Middleweight – Bernard Hopkins – April 29, 1995-July 16, 2005 (10 years 3 months).
Junior middleweight – Gianfranco Rosi – July 15, 1989 –Sept. 17, 1994 (5 years 2 months).
Welterweight – Felix Trinidad – June 19, 1993-March 3, 2000 (6 years 9 months).
Junior welterweight – Julio Cesar Chavez – May 13, 1989 –Jan. 29, 1994 (4 years 8 months).
Lightweight – Artur Grigorian – April 13, 1996-Jan. 3, 2004 (7 years 9 months).
Junior lightweight – Flash Elorde – March 16, 1960-June 15, 1967 (7 years 3 months).
Featherweight – Johnny Kilbane – Feb. 22, 1912 – June 2, 1923 (11 years 3 months).
Junior featherweight – Wilfredo Gomez – May 21, 1977-April 1983 (5 years 11 months).
Bantamweight – Orlando Canizales – July 9, 1988-January 1994 (6 years 6 months).
Junior bantamweight – Khaosai Galaxy – Nov. 21, 1984-January 1992 (7 years 1 month).
Flyweight – Omar Narvaez – July 13, 2002-May 15, 2010 (7 years 10 months).
Junior flyweight – Myung Woo Yuh – Dec. 8, 1985 –Dec. 17, 1991 (6 years).
Strawweight – Ricardo Lopez – Oct. 25, 1990-Oct. 1, 1999 (almost 9 years).

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Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright

 

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