By Jake Donovan
The last time Bernard Hopkins fought at Madison Square Garden in New York City, it resulted in the middleweight division crowning an undisputed, fully unified champion for the first time in more than a decade. His 12th round knockout of then-unbeaten superstar Felix Trinidad served as the defining moment of an underappreciated career, also leaving him tied for the most successful defenses in middleweight history.
Hopkins would break the record in his very next fight and with 20 defenses in all, still holds a mark that was thought to never be broken.
Knocking on the doorstep is Gennady Golovkin, an unbeaten knockout artist from Kazakhstan who has emerged as one of the biggest boxing stars in the world today. Golovkin (33-0, 30KOs is sitting on 14 defenses, precisely where Hopkins was at by the time he was done dismantling Trinidad some 14 years ago.
Standing in his way of a 15th defense is a middleweight whom Hopkins promotes through Golden Boy Promotions, recently crowned titlist David Lemieux. All were on hand Tuesday afternoon in New York City to promote the upcoming middleweight title unification bout, which takes place October 17 at Madison Square Garden, airing live on HBO Pay-Per-View.
While the winner won't gain universal recognition as the lineal middleweight champion of the world, the event itself left Hopkins nostalgic as he met with reporters beforehand.
"This is really surreal," Hopkins acknowledged when speaking during Tuesday's kickoff presser at MSG. "Unfortunately we don't have these type of events where we can say one guy is going to represent that division.
"Now we have that. It means a lot for me to be here, as someone who left his DNA here."
Hopkins' historic title reign ended in 2005 on a pair of disputed losses to then-unbeaten Jermain Taylor. He then moved up to light heavyweight to carve out what he often refers to as his "second Hall of Fame career," enjoying two separate reigns as light heavyweight champ, the latter ending in a one-sided 12-round shutout to Sergey Kovalev last November.
Still, the now 50-year old living legend—who plans to have at least one more fight before finally calling it a career—always holds the middleweight division near and dear to his heart.
Historically, the weight class is often glorified as boasting the prototypical prizefighter—power in resemblance of a small heavyweight, but with the speed of a welterweight—although the run in recent years hasn't exactly carried the sport on its back.
With Golovkin-Lemieux as well as the November 21 World middleweight championship between Miguel Cotto and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez—and with the winners mandated to face off next year—the division is once again on full display.
"I'm a big fan of Gennady Golovkin, he knows that," Hopkins readily admitted, though not before hyping up his own fighter in the same vein. "Lemieux—our guy—has been doing his part in the middleweight dicison.
"I can proudly say the middleweight division has been left in great hands, and I'm proud of that."
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com.
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