By Keith Idec
If Gennady Golovkin beats Vanes Martirosyan on Saturday night, he’ll tie Bernard Hopkins’ middleweight record by making a 20th consecutive defense of one of his 160-pound titles.
The potential tie notwithstanding, Golovkin thinks his reign is more impressive than Hopkins’ 10-year run as a middleweight champion. The unbeaten Golovkin said during a conference call Monday that his record is “much stronger” than Hopkins’ resume when the Philadelphia native was a middleweight champ.
“I feel like a star, like a star because, just if you check Bernard’s opponents probably you understand that my record is much bigger, is much stronger, bigger,” Golovkin said. “This is a good situation for me and for my career and for my fans, of course. That’s it.”
The 36-year-old Golovkin’s assessment of how his record compares to Hopkins’ middleweight resume surely will create heated debates among boxing fans and historians. Golovkin’s critics have picked apart his dominant run because they contend he hasn’t fought a particularly high level of opposition overall.
The Kazakhstan native knocked out 23 straight opponents prior to going the distance in his last two title defenses. Those fights resulted in Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) defeating Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs) by unanimous decision in a closely contested bout 13 months ago at Madison Square Garden and fighting to a controversial draw with Canelo Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) on September 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Alvarez and Jacobs are widely viewed as the two top opponents of Golovkin’s 12-year pro career. He won the WBA’s interim middleweight title by knocking out Colombia’s Milton Nunez in the first round of their August 2010 bout in Panama City, Panama.
The retired Hopkins, meanwhile, made 20 straight defenses of the IBF middleweight championship he won by stopping Ecuador’s Segundo Mercado in the seventh round of their April 1995 fight in Landover, Maryland. His highest-profile wins during a 10-year reign were technical-knockout victories over former welterweight champions Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya.
Hopkins lost the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO 160-pound titles to Jermain Taylor, who topped Hopkins by split decision in July 2005 in Las Vegas. The then-undefeated Taylor also defeated Hopkins by unanimous decision in their immediate rematch 4½ months later in Las Vegas.
“I think it’s great for his history, for boxing history,” Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer, said of his fighter making a 20th straight title defense. “If you look at his record, he hasn’t had any rematches in there, so everybody that he’s fought has been a new opponent. The great Bernard Hopkins fought twice against Antwun Echols and three times against Robert Allen.
“So we’re fighting new guys every time. I think by tying and hopefully, if he decides to stay at middleweight or decides to stick around, breaking the record in the future, it’s great for boxing history. It’s good for his story and [will be] looked back [on] with fondness.”
After losing twice to Taylor, Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) went on to become boxing’s undisputed light heavyweight champion and astoundingly fought until he was 51 years old. Golovkin is considered a small middleweight, but he has discussed moving up to the super middleweight division for the right fight numerous times.
His handlers are looking forward to Golovkin beating Martirosyan and then breaking Hopkins’ record later this year.
“I think it’s bigger for everyone on the team, like Abel Sanchez, myself,” said Tom Loeffler, Golovkin’s promoter. “We understand the historic perspective of what Gennady has accomplished in his career and could potentially accomplish on Saturday and, if he’s successful, potentially in another title defense.
“But Gennady, like he said, just wanted to fight. He told me to get a fight. He didn’t care who, he didn’t care where. Just, ‘I wanna fight on Cinco de Mayo.’ And that was my job. He’s just focused on his training. He’s focused on winning on Saturday, and anything else that comes after is what he feels the fans and the media will write about his career.”
The Golovkin-Martirosyan match will headline HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” broadcast Saturday night from StubHub Center in Carson, California (11 p.m. ET/PT). Martirosyan (36-3-1, 21 KOs), of Glendale, California, replaced the suspended Canelo Alvarez as Golovkin’s opponent on just 2½ weeks’ notice.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.